In early 2018, both ESPN and Fox were gunning hard for Peyton Manning’s services in the broadcasting booth. Fox, which spent a staggering total of more than $3 billion for Thursday Night Football (TNF), and ESPN, which shells out north of $2 billion per year for Monday Night Football (MNF), both wanted him to be their lead analyst and were willing to “back up the truck” in terms of salary. The two networks were rebuffed with the common belief that Manning continues to focus on an eventual front office role in the NFL.
But perhaps the second time is the charm.
ESPN is reportedly trying to recruit the former Super Bowl-winning quarterback and MVP for Monday Night Football, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Jason Witten recently left the MNF broadcasting booth to return to the Dallas Cowboys after one maligned season on air. Now the Worldwide Leader in Sports is hoping to replace him with Manning, who has done some broadcasting on the ESPN+ show Detail and is quite popular as a Saturday Night Live host and TV pitchman.
Per the outlet, ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro and content chief Connor Schell met with Manning on March 11, though the popular quarterback’s interest remains unknown at this time. ESPN declined Observer’s request for comment.
Kurt Warner has also been rumored to be in contention for the role following Witten’s surprising departure. Joe Tessitore handled play-by-play last season and Booger McFarland also chipped in as an in-game analyst.
“They’re going to have a two-man booth unless somehow Peyton changes his mind,” Jim Miller said on the most recent Sports Illustrated Media Podcast. “They have a relationship with Peyton because of the ESPN+ show right now, and Peyton has thought about this. But if you’re Peyton, what’s the upside?”
Jon Gruden reportedly earned $6.5 million per year during his time on MNF and Manning is said to have declined a contract that would have paid him between $4 million and $7 million last year. Tony Romo is expected to receive a “substantial raise” from the $4 million or so CBS is currently paying him.
Following a two-year ratings skid, this past season’s NFL viewership was up five percent compared to 2017.