THIBODAUX, La. — When it came down to it, Peyton Manning’s loyalty outweighed a chance to be the 2019 centerpiece of ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.”
Two sources close to Manning told Yahoo Sports the coveted former quarterback passed on a lucrative “Monday Night Football” opportunity in April largely due to a 2019 schedule that included a pair of games featuring Eli Manning’s New York Giants, as well as a handful of other games that included former Manning teammates or friends. For two straight offseasons, Manning has fielded meetings and calls from high-ranking executives from ESPN, Disney and other major networks — but passed on offers to make him a franchise centerpiece. And that apparently won't change as long as Eli Manning's games are part of the equation, according to sources.
“If he ever decides [Monday Night Football] is something he wants to do, it’s going to be after Eli has finished his career and he gets a little bit further from his era of playing and maybe some of his teammates have moved on, too,” one source said. “It would have been a tough position for him this season, with the Giants [and Broncos] being on the schedule. There is a lot of loyalty there for him and I don’t think he’d ever want to be in a position where he’d be conflicted about his analysis. It just wouldn’t have been a comfortable situation this year.”
To date, Manning hasn’t gone into granular detail about why he has declined a television broadcasting booth that appears to be both a natural progression and lucrative avenue in his post-career life. But during the Manning Passing Academy last week in Louisiana, he was a little more expansive about his feelings when observing his brother and teammates from an outside perspective.
“It’s great to have someone that you’re so close to, that you feel invested in, to watch [Eli] play and compete,” Manning said. “I know when Eli stops playing, it will be different, because when you have a brother, you feel a part of it. I pull hard for Eli. I keep up with the coaches, guys like Adam Gase, who I played for, [and] players, like Emmanuel Sanders and Von Miller, that I played with. Anybody that you have a connection to, you feel that connection when you watch him play in person or on TV. So I’ve been real proud of Eli and I’m looking forward to watching him play this year.”
That won’t stop the TV networks from being persistent, of course. And there continues to be a strong undercurrent in NFL circles that Manning will ultimately be destined for a powerful front office job -- if and when he decides he wants it. But for now, he’s apparently content to continue pursuing a litany of business opportunities while also keeping one foot in the league whenever he can. That includes making another round of tours to teams in the preseason, similar to the tour he made last summer.
“I’ve said yes to some things since I stopped playing, like this kind of NFL [100th season] project,” Manning said. “But I’ve said no to some things right now. I’ve talked to a number of the TV people. I’ve talked to them, I’ve listened, and I just said at the time, it’s just not the right time for me. Next year, maybe it will be. And next year, the ship sails sometimes and they may say, ‘We’ve already moved on.’ That’s the way it is.
“As far as the NFL [jobs], how do you know?” Manning continued. “I saw where Tony Romo said that he always knew that he wanted to be a broadcaster. Well, I always knew I wanted to be a football player. That’s all I knew. I was all-in on that job. I didn’t think about anything else while I was playing. And I think that’s a good way to be. I think you’ve got to be all-in on what you’re doing. Then when you stop playing, I mean, I have been almost busier than when I was playing.”
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