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Report: ESPN 'Plotting' Blockbuster Monday Night Football Trade

Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels speaking onstage.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - AUGUST 13: Play-by-play announcer Al Michaels and analyst Cris Collinsworth speak onstage during NBC's 'Sunday Night Football' panel discussion at the NBCUniversal portion of the 2015 Summer TCA Tour at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on August 13, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

ESPN has really struggled to find an ace broadcast team for Monday Night Football, one of the flagship properties on the NFL schedule. According to a new bombshell report, the Worldwide Leader is prepared to try and make a giant splash, and pair NBC's Al Michaels and legendary quarterback Peyton Manning.

Peyton Manning has long been connected to the job. To this point, he hasn't shown a real desire to step into the booth, but it isn't hard to imagine him being excellent at it. He already has a relationship with ESPN, which helps matters. He currently hosts Peyton's Places, an ESPN+ documentary series, and has done his own editions of Kobe Bryant's show Detail on the platform. Monday Night Football is obviously a much bigger commitment, but would thrust Manning into one of the bigger roles in sports broadcasting.

Al Michaels is the tougher part of the idea, and would require a very rare trade between networks. It would also require Michaels to sign off on the idea, after 14 years at the helm of Sunday Night Football, which has emerged as the biggest game slot of the week with he and Cris Collinsworth on the call. It may be a total non-starter if either NBC or Michaels isn't interested.

Andrew Marchand of the New York Postreports that ESPN is going to try, though. He says that talks are yet to begin, and that Michaels was already in the plans as the network tried to pry Tony Romo away from CBS, an effort that was ultimately unsuccessful. It has been reported that Disney/ABC/ESPN are hoping to add NFL games and get into the Super Bowl rotation in the near future, and that the network "believes a Michaels-Manning pairing would have the same sizzle as Michaels-Romo."

It is hard to know how NBC would feel about this. On paper, it doesn't make a ton of sense for the network to let its top play-by-play guy to walk to the competition, but it already hired Mike Tirico to be his successor.

Michaels is expected to step down after the 2022 Super Bowl, but that is not official, and if he wants a more secure future in calling NFL games, it could make some sense. From Marchand:

Tirico is expected to take over for Michaels full-time after the LA Super Bowl at the latest, but could be adding more games as early as this season.

In 2022, Michaels could retire, but he has shown no real inclination of wanting to do that and, in reality, the one-game-per-week NFL season only extends from August through early February. Ultimately, Michaels may not want to be dealt from NBC, as its Sunday games are the top-rated program on TV, a Super Bowl is on the horizon and he has been with this crew for the past 14 seasons.

It may be a moonshot, but the Monday Night Football booth has been a major issue since Jon Gruden returned to the Raiders sideline. The Joe Tessitore, Booger McFarland, and Jason Witten experiment in 2018 did not go well at all, and while things got a bit less hectic with Witten's return to the Cowboys, the booth was still very unpopular in 2019.

It would be hard to make a bigger splash than pairing Michaels, one of the all-time great broadcasters, with Peyton Manning, a charismatic all-time great quarterback with an incredible knowledge of the sport.

Incredibly, this wouldn't even be the first time Al Michaels was involved in an ESPN broadcaster trade. He was famously sent to NBC originally, with Disney getting the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit—a 1920s precursor to Mickey Mouse—in return.

[New York Post]