Ever since Jon Gruden returned to the sidelines of the Oakland Raiders in January, ESPN has been searching for his replacement for the “Monday Night Football” booth.
Its first choice, along with the No. 1 candidate for Fox’s new Thursday night package, was Peyton Manning. But the future Hall of Famer said he doesn’t want to be a critic of the game at this point and withdrew his name from consideration.
ESPN then set its sights on another record-setting quarterback in Brett Favre, but the old gunslinger reportedly didn’t fare well in his audition.
Now they’ve reportedly focused on another retired star quarterback: recent Hall of Fame inductee Kurt Warner.
According to USA Today‘s A.J. Perez and Jeff Zillgitt, Warner is getting “serious consideration” from ESPN to slide into the booth next to new play-by-play man Joe Tessitore.
Warner has been an analyst on the NFL Network since 2010 but also has experience calling games. He was a color commentator for the NFL Network for select games last season and also was a commentator for the Iowa Barnstormers of the AFL, which is where Warner started his pro playing career.
Warner was a two-time MVP, a four-time Pro Bowler and won XXXIV with the St. Louis Rams. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017 in his third year of eligibility.
USA Today described the list of candidates to replace Gruden as “long” and reported that it’s “too early to conclude” who the front-runners are at this point.
In addition to Manning, Favre and Warner, ESPN also was interested in in-house analysts Matt Hasselbeck and Steve Young.
Hasselbeck received his audition with the 2018 Pro Bowl in which he called the exhibition alongside former “MNF” play-by-play man Sean McDonough.
Young has called games on “MNF” in the past, including the second game of the doubleheader that opens each NFL season.
But he isn’t willing to change his current schedule due to the time commitment which comes with the position.
“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.”
Among the other reported candidates are former players Randy Moss, Anthony “Booger” McFarland and Joe Thomas; current players Jason Witten and Greg Olsen; former coach Rex Ryan; and former personnel director Louis Riddick.
If Warner does indeed get the position he will become the third former NFL player to land in the “MNF” booth since the broadcast moved to ESPN. The others were Joe Theismann in 2006 and Ron Jaworski from 2007 to 2011.
Warner leaving for ESPN would be another big loss for the NFL Network for its Sunday pregame show. Last season they lost Warner’s former backfield mate, Marshall Faulk, during the fallout of sexual assault allegations launched against a handful of NFL Network analysts.
There are still four months until the first “MNF” broadcast during the preseason, but ESPN would ideally like to name Gruden’s replacement as soon as possible. Last year Tony Romo was named CBS’ No. 1 analyst in early April, and all of the early practice time between Romo and Jim Nantz paid off during the regular season broadcasts.
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