Of all the major professional all-star games, the NFL’s Pro Bowl could be the most meaningless. It happens after the regular season rather than at the midpoint, and because football is an inherently dangerous game, the participants (at least the ones who don’t bow out beforehand) play at a fraction of the speed and force they do during games that actually count.
Despite all these reasons not to watch, more than 7 million people do, a large enough audience to mean something. So for one three-time Pro Bowl quarterback, this month’s exhibition in Orlando could be the audition that wins him a job next season.
Matt Hasselbeck, who has worked as an ESPN studio analyst since retiring from the league in 2016, will handle analysis duties with play-by-play announcer Sean McDonough in the booth for the Jan. 28 game. With Jon Gruden leaving the booth to become the Oakland Raiders’ coach, ESPN is still looking for a permanent replacement. Hasselbeck, who replaced Trent Dilfer as Seattle’s QB in 2001 and went on to be an NFL starter for more than a decade, appears to be getting the first crack at showing he can do the same in the booth.
“The process for determining our new ‘Monday Night Football’ booth is already underway,” ESPN’s Stephanie Druley said in a release announcing Hasselbeck’s Pro Bowl gig. “We are looking at both internal and external candidates and expect to have a decision made this spring. This is one of the most high-profile and attractive positions in all of sports broadcasting, so we want to take our time to ensure we make the best decision.”
Despite “Monday Night Football” losing prestige as more NFL games have been nationally televised and most of the marquee matchups have been assigned to Sundays, the color commentator position for the program is still a coveted role. Reporters who cover sports media have speculated who will fill that role since Gruden was rumored to return to coaching, and online gambling site Bovada set odds this week. Before the Pro Bowl announcement, Hasselbeck (8-1) was about as steep of an underdog as the Titans are to beat the Patriots on Saturday.
Here’s Bovada’s complete list, with their odds:
Peyton Manning 12-5
Louis Riddick 4-1
Kurt Warner 4-1
Steve Young 5-1
Randy Moss 7-1
Matt Hasselbeck 8-1
Rex Ryan 9-1
Tim Tebow 9-1
Eli Manning 20-1
Boomer Esiason 20-1
Riddick, Young, Moss, Hasselbeck and Ryan all work for ESPN, while Warner has called games for NFL Network, Fox and Westwood One. Tebow worked for ESPN before becoming a professional baseball player, and he has indicated he would like to continue playing.
Peyton Manning would seem to be the can’t-miss pick if he’s interested in commentary. In his first year at CBS, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo produced widely positive reviews, and Manning is the same type of personable, knowledgeable ex-jock who could add insight. Plus, he has plenty of TV experience: Manning hosted “Saturday Night Live” in 2007 and has appeared in countless commercials with jingles that may or may not have gotten stuck in your head.