Report: ESPN leaning toward new in-house 'Monday Night Football' booth, still pursuing Drew Brees

ESPN’s dreams of signing Tony Romo or Peyton Manning for the “Monday Night Football” broadcast booth fizzled.

Now, the network is reportedly leaning toward an in-house crew to call its NFL showcase while keeping its eyes on another star quarterback for the future. According to the New York Post’s Andrew Marchand, Steve Levy, Louis Riddick and Dan Orlovsky are the top candidates for the job.

The network has not settled on the trio, nor decided on whether it would go with a three-man booth or a two-man booth with Levy at play-by-play and Riddick and/or Orlovsky at color commentary, according to the report. “Monday Night Football” has toggled between two- and three-man booths since its 1970 debut.

Drew Brees to eventually take over?

Meanwhile, the network continues to pursue Drew Brees even after the New Orleans Saints quarterback signed a two-year, $50 million deal to continue playing football. Brees would provide the star power the network is desperately seeking after Romo agreed to stay with CBS for a record 10-year, $180 million deal and Manning reportedly declined to join the broadcast.

ESPN reportedly has a stop-gap booth in mind as it continues to pursue Drew Brees. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images)
ESPN reportedly has a stop-gap booth in mind as it continues to pursue Drew Brees. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

Reported Brees offer not in Romo’s neighborhood

ESPN is offering Brees around $6.5 million per year to join the broadcast after his playing career is done, according to the report. That salary would line up roughly with what ESPN paid Jon Gruden before he returned to the NFL sidelines with the now-Las Vegas Raiders. The network was reportedly prepared to offer Romo $14 million annually before CBS locked up his services.

Brees, 41, will play at least one more season of football, assuming next season goes on as planned amid the COVID-19 pandemic. ESPN would be pursuing him for the 2021 season or beyond.

What about Booger?

Meanwhile, the network has made no official statement on the status of Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland, who helmed the “Monday Night Football” booth last season. McFarland has been a steady target of fan and media criticism for his work in the booth.

ESPN hasn’t ruled out using its top college football team of Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit for the broadcast, according to the report. But Levy, Riddick and/or Orlovsky are reportedly the preferred candidates.

Levy is an ESPN mainstay, having worked at the network since 1993 in various roles, including MLB and NHL play-by-play and as a “SportsCenter” anchor.

Riddick played six seasons as a safety in the NFL and worked as an NFL scout and executive from 2001-13 before joining ESPN as an analyst. Orlovsky played eight seasons as an NFL quarterback, primarily as a backup. He joined ESPN as an analyst in 2017.

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