Since Peyton Manning retired after the Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl in 2016, he has stuck mostly to commercials, choosing to stay away from the TV booth at NFL games, the one place everyone thinks he’d be an instant success.
Now, with Jon Gruden leaving ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” to return to coaching and Fox getting Thursday night games, there are two openings for a game analyst. And, given that there’s presently only one Peyton Manning, the demand for him is intense, the New York Post reports. Landing a former quarterback would seem to be a chic pick, too, given how well Tony Romo did in his first season with CBS.
Both ESPN and Fox are strongly pursuing him, Andrew Marchand reports, but Manning “has been reluctant,” even when Fox showed interest in him a year ago. Fox hired Jay Cutler last spring, but he dropped the gig in August, preferring to sign with the Miami Dolphins and play for another season. Although NBC often used its Sunday night team of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth on Thursdays, Fox quickly said it would go in a different direction, preferring not to use its top team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. Its plan is to choose an analyst first, then hire a play-by-play person (with Gus Johnson a possibility). ESPN, Marchand reports, may revamp its “MNF” broadcast. It seemed tired when Sean McDonough replaced Mike Tirico, who left for NBC and never really clicked with Gruden.
For Manning, TV would be a good interim step toward his ultimate goal of gaining an ownership stake in a team, enhancing his net worth. ESPN, an unnamed source told Marchand, is willing to “back up the truck” to pay Manning after paying Gruden $6.5 million a year. As for becoming an owner, he joked to SI.com’s Peter King last fall, “I keep looking for that $2.5 billion in my pocket.”
At that time, he said he was deliberately keeping a low profile and had “zero interest” in running for office. He would rather car pool his twins, who are in first grade, and do commercials. Lots and lots of commercials. “I apologize,” he joked, “to all the people out there who are tired of seeing me on commercials.”
Most observers believe he’ll follow John Elway, the former Broncos quarterback who as general manager signed him in Denver. “It certainly could be a possibility,” Manning told King. “I know John didn’t take his job with the Broncos until he was 50 years old. He had stopped playing for 12 years at that point. … I’m 41 years old and it’s my second season out, so people like to make that comparison, but it is such an individual thing.
“I believe in staying close to the game. I went to the combine last year and met with some GMs and some owners to pick their brains on different sides of things. I sat in with a team during the NFL draft this year. I stayed off camera, but I was able to sit in and watch. Oftentimes if I am speaking at a certain event, I will stop by that NFL team or college team and go talk some football.
“But I know what that job entails, and that is an all-in job. That is a do-not-put-your-phone-down-ever job. It’s a 24-7-365 days a year job. Because I know what that commitment is and what that job entails, it is just not the right place for me right now. I really am enjoying what I’m doing. As far as what will happen in the next few years I can’t really say, but like I said, I will always be close to the game.”
Calling Thursday night games would allow him to be home and, besides, if he’s ever going to try broadcasting, now is the time, with two networks ready to bid up his price.
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