The NFL schedule is out, and we know which games will be on “Monday Night Football” in 2019.
We don’t know yet, officially, who will be calling those games on ESPN. We do know, according to a report, it will not be Peyton Manning.
The legendary quarterback won’t be joining ESPN’s Monday night broadcast team “barring a miracle,” Michael McCarthy of The Sporting News reported. Manning is the biggest prize for all networks who broadcast NFL games, but to this point, nobody has been able to lure him into the booth.
Peyton Manning didn’t want to join ‘MNF’
When Jason Witten shockingly stepped out of the “MNF” booth and back to the Dallas Cowboys, it opened up one of the biggest jobs in sports journalism. And there was no doubt ESPN would try to get Manning.
Manning has been doing some work with ESPN, on the “Detail” show that features him breaking down film and a new show called “Peyton’s Places” that will debut this summer.
ESPN tried to lure Manning to “MNF” last year before hiring Witten. According to the Sporting News report, ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro and content czar Connor Schell met with Manning in Denver on March 11. Manning was ambivalent about “MNF,” so ESPN never made a formal offer, the Sporting News reported.
ESPN had to try. Manning would have been the biggest hire in the sports broadcasting world in many, many years. Now, the network has to figure out who does fit.
Peyton Manning since retiring from the NFL
Peyton Manning since retiring from the NFL
Former NFL player Peyton Manning presents the Walter Payton NFL man of the year award at the 8th Annual NFL Honors at The Fox Theatre on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019, in Atlanta. (Photo by Paul Abell/Invision for NFL/AP Images)
Peyton Manning arrives at the 2019 Fanatics Super Bowl Party on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019, in Atlanta.. (Photo by Paul R. Giunta/Invision/AP)
Former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and former Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne pose for a photo before an NFL football game between the Colts and the Tennessee Titans, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Indianapolis. Wayne will be inducted into the Colts Ring of Honor during halftime of the game. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt talks with former Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning before an NCAA college football game against Alabama, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
Peyton Manning follows his drive on the twelfth hole during the pro-am for the the Memorial golf tournament Wednesday, May 30, 2018, in Dublin, Ohio. (AP Photo/David Dermer)
Former Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and his 6-year-old son, Marshall, watch the Memphis Grizzlies play the Denver Nuggets during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, in Denver. The Nuggets won 87-78. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
FILE - In this Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, file photo, former University of Tennessee football quarterback Peyton Manning answers questions during a news conference of the National Football Foundation College and Football Hall of Fame, in New York. Manning will be doing some analysis of NFL games during the 2018 season after all. ESPN and Kobe Bryant’s Granity Studios announced on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, that Manning will be part of a football edition of the “Detail” franchise. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay and former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning watch as Manning's name is unveiled during a halftime ceremony at an NFL football game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Former Tennessee and NFL quarterback Peyton Manning and his son Marshall Manning greet fans during the Vol Walk before an NCAA college football game between Tennessee and Georgia, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
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Who will replace Jason Witten?
ESPN could presumably not make any formal “Monday Night Football” announcement. Booger McFarland is already on the team, as part of a three-man “booth” last year (with McFarland in his so-called “Booger mobile,” which has been nixed for 2019).
McCarthy wrote that ESPN putting McFarland in a key role for its draft coverage this week makes McFarland “the heir apparent to Witten.” McCarthy also wrote that if McFarland doesn’t work out in that new role as the main color analyst, the network could easily tab analyst Louis Riddick for the booth. McFarland also mentioned former Jets coach Rex Ryan, who is a studio analyst on ESPN.
If ESPN just quietly sticks with play-by-play man Joe Tessitore and McFarland as a traditional two-man booth, it could work. McFarland was very good in his role last season on Monday nights, often overshadowing Witten. It just wouldn’t be a big splash, like Manning would have been.