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  • Peyton Manning has made it clear that he will not be calling Monday Night Football (“It wasn’t the right time”). Would it have impacted viewership anyway?
By Conor Orr
May 31, 2019

Whether it be as an NFL team owner, a general manager or the president’s next secretary of defense, Peyton Manning has plenty of realistic options for how he can reenter the public life should he so choose.

He told reporters this week that being an announcer for Monday Night Football was not one of them.

While I understand ESPN’s mad scramble to replace the floundering Jason Witten after Witten’s return to Dallas with more relevant star power, it brought up a question that I’ve been asking myself for the better part of two seasons: Would it make a difference, bottom line, if someone of Manning’s stature was in the booth?

ESPN went with the sensible decision to develop the budding relationship between Booger McFarland and Joe Tessitore by officially moving McFarland up into the booth, but not before stopping by Manning gardens to take in the ambiance and genuflect. The former Colts and Broncos quarterback has one thing in common with another MNF presence, Jon Gruden, in that, every few months, he is linked to a new job.

Hysteria aside, would it change the viewing experience? Did Gruden, after his initial charm wore off? Think back over the last 25 years of football and ask yourself whether a former player/coach-turned-color commentator radically changed your viewing experience in a positive way.

For me, there are two: Tony Romo on CBS and Mike Mayock doing Notre Dame football. Romo seems to be the one that has resonated with television executives, now causing them to feverishly dip into the pool of recent NFL retirees in an attempt to recreate Romo’s combination of viral moments and genuine excitement. But in the absence of that, which, if you believe CBS executives, was apparent from the moment he stepped into the booth, why try and create something that is anything but unnoticeable?

Perhaps Manning is that. Just like he’s going to be the answer as a general manager, owner and vice president. But maybe the Monday Night Football franchise, after taking massive swings on the likes of Dennis Miller and Tony Kornheiser, should learn that sometimes good is great. Fine is just fine.

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The day this wonderful piece of music history happened, I was in Kansas City awaiting a Giants-Chiefs matchup that would result in a 31-7 loss for Big Blue. Eli Manning went 18-of-37 for 217 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

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