Sports

ESPN giving former QB one-game 'tryout' for Gruden's 'MNF' commentator job

When Jon Gruden rejoined the Raiders as their head coach, he left behind one of the most coveted jobs in sports broadcasting.

The color commentator position for “Monday Night Football” has been held by the likes of Howard Cosell, Frank Gifford and John Madden. Gruden had been in the role since the 2009 season after being fired by the Buccaneers.

There are many candidates in the running to fill Gruden’s seat, but the first “tryout” will come at the Pro Bowl, which is broadcast by ESPN.

Matt Hasselbeck has been named the color commentator for the Jan. 28 game.

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He will call the Pro Bowl and the Skills Showdown, which will be filmed during the week leading up the game.

Hasselbeck is certainly used to working Mondays as he is in his second season as an analyst on “Monday Night Countdown.” He also is a panelist on “Sunday NFL Countdown.”

The three-time Pro Bowler grew up not far from ESPN’s Bristol, Connecticut, studios in Norfolk, Massachusetts, and played at Boston College.

Would you like to see Matt Hasselbeck as the analyst on "Monday Night Football"?

This will be Hasselbeck’s first experience in the booth, but he is excited about the opportunity. In a statement to USA Today, he said he “can’t wait to call the Skills Showdown and the Pro Bowl game with Sean [McDonough] and Lisa [Salters].”

An 18-year NFL veteran, Hasselbeck spent most of his career with the Seattle Seahawks. He is the franchise’s all-time leader in passing yards.

It may just be one game, and an exhibition at that, but it’s clear that Hasselbeck is one of the contenders to land the full-time position. If that does happen, he will become the first former NFL player to land in the “MNF” booth since Ron Jaworski from 2007 to 2011.

Other former players such as Mike Golic, Trent Dilfer and Steve Young have also called games, but just one per year. They were part of the No. 2 team for ESPN when the network broadcast a doubleheader in Week 1.

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Speaking of Young, you can rule him out for consideration for the spot alongside McDonough. He says he has little interest in the heavy travel involved with the job.

“If they cut it down to a Monday afternoon arrival and a Tuesday morning departure, I could do it,” Young said on Bay Area sports talk station KNBR-AM. “I’ve got four kids, two in high school, two coming up.

“I’m not complaining,” said Young when talking about his current gig with “Monday Night Countdown.” “It’s a great job. This is a key time [in my children’s lives]. I don’t know how I can disappear for the fall. If I could do it from my backyard, sure, I’d do it.”

Other in-house candidates for ESPN include Randy Moss, Rex Ryan and NFL insider Louis Riddick.

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Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009.
Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009 and previously worked for ESPN, CBS and STATS Inc. A native of Louisiana, Ross now resides in Houston.
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