To say ESPN cast a wide net in their search for the perfect Monday Night Football booth this past offseason would be an understatement.
The four-letter network apparently had interest in former Dallas Cowboys' quarterback Tony Romo, who has become a star working on CBS' No. 1 team. Their chances of landing him were squashed when CBS inked Romo to a deal that will reportedly pay him $17 million to keep him paired with Jim Nantz.
Additionally, ESPN flirted with the idea of pairing broadcasting icon Al Michaels with five-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning, before NBC made clear they had no intention of relinquishing Michaels and Manning decided he wasn't interested in committing to the booth for this year.
And now this - Andrew Marchand of The New York Post says that ESPN "had a conversation" with current Los Angeles Rams' head coach Sean McVay about potentially joining the booth. As you saw if you watched the first episode of HBO's "Hard Knocks" Tuesday, McVay didn't leave his current post, which should hardly come as a surprise. Still, it's an interesting strategy.
McVay's current contract with the Rams runs through 2023. It's unlikely ESPN would have approached someone that's never broadcasted with an offer similar to the one that Romo signed, but could they have found a way to comfortably top his current salary with the Rams? Probably. At 34 and just three years into his head coaching career, McVay probably wasn't the right person to target with such an offer, but you never know until you ask.
If ESPN had targeted the right head coach - one later in his career that doesn't have any certainty at the quarterback position - perhaps they could have lured one into the Monday Night Football booth. Being an announcer is hardly a stress-free job, but it pales in comparison to being an NFL head coach, especially if you can get a raise in the process. Of course, any head coach, McVay included, may just listen to what ESPN has to say so they can go back to their current employer and ask for more money.
Ultimately, ESPN appears poised to move forward with the booth of Steve Levy, Brian Griese and Louis Riddick in 2020. There's some that believe that trio lacks the star power to be a long-term solution on Monday Night Football, but sometimes you can back into having a really good booth when you don't try too hard to force someone that is considered a star into the mix.
As part of their Monday Night Football Week 1 doubleheader, the aforementioned trio will call the second game of the evening, when the Denver Broncos host the Tennessee Titans at 10:10 p.m. ET. The iconic college football duo of Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit will call the first game, when the New York Giants host the Pittsburgh Steelers at 7:15 p.m. ET. If there isn't a college football season, ESPN reportedly is considering having Fowler and Herbstreit call any Saturday night games that the network may be able to acquire if the timeslot becomes free this fall on the football viewing calendar.
ESPN has struggled to replace play-by-play man Mike Tirico, who left Monday Night Football after the 2015 season to join NBC. For as much success as they have had calling college games, Sean McDonough and Joe Tessitore didn't work out in the play-by-play role on Monday Night Football. Since Jon Gruden left to return to coaching after the 2017 season, Booger McFarland and/or Jason Witten failed to generate many new fans as color commentators for Monday Night Football.