Jon Gruden’s decision to return to the Raiders has created a vacancy at the top job for ESPN: Monday Night Football lead game analyst. And ESPN has acknowledged that it will throw a harpoon in the direction of sports broadcasting’s white whale.
“We like Peyton Manning,” ESPN executive Stephanie Druley tells Richard Deitsch of SI.com. “And we would be foolish not to talk him.”
Talking to him and hiring him are two very different propositions. The first question is whether Manning wants to do it. The biggest question is how much he’d want for it.
If they can’t get Manning, the clubhouse in-house leader seems to be Matthew Hasselbeck, who is replacing Gruden during this weekend’s Pro Bowl.
“We are considering Matt, for sure,” Druley told Deitsch. “I would not consider the Pro Bowl an audition per se. When we hired Matt a few years ago there were other networks that wanted Matt as a game analyst. I expect Matt to be very good this and he will certainly be considered.”
Whether it’s Hasselbeck or someone else currently employed by ESPN, the network has no qualms about plucking someone from the Sunday studio show.
“If the person is sitting on the Countdown set right now who is the best fit for Monday Night Football, we will figure out what happens next,” Druley told Deitsch.
The best play could be to cast the widest possible net, spending the money necessary to make what would be received as an inspired hire, and not simply the winner of an on-campus “pick me” contest.