After striking out on Peyton Manning for “Monday Night Football,” ESPN has considered big names, like Brett Favre, and not as big, like Booger McFarland, while holding auditions as if it were “American Idol.”
Favre recently came in for one of the auditions, according to sources. Though it was unclear if Favre would even want the job, sources said he was not great during the tryout and has been told he is no longer under consideration. Favre’s agent, Bus Cook, did not return a call. ESPN declined comment.
Favre likely would have been able to demand the same type of salary as Jon Gruden. ESPN was prepared to offer Manning the same $6.5 million salary as Gruden with possibly even a little room for negotiation, according to sources.
The competition remains open as ESPN has lined up Rex Ryan and McFarland for upcoming auditions, sources said. Ryan, a “Sunday NFL Countdown” analyst, called a Monday night double-header game with Beth Mowins to begin last season. McFarland is a college football analyst, who was on the first week of “Get Up!”
ESPN has had All-Pro tight ends Jason Witten and Greg Olsen in for auditions. Both are under contract to play next season, while the network also has considered Kurt Warner, Matt Hasselbeck, Louis Riddick and the recently retired Joe Thomas, among others.
The auditions have been done with Joe Tessitore on play-by-play. The Post reported more than a month ago that Tessitore would replace Sean McDonough on Monday nights; however, ESPN has not made it official yet as its search for his partner or partners continues. Network executives are considering a two- or three-man booth, but wants to make sure the group meshes.
A decision of this magnitude may be the first major personnel move for new ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro. Pitaro is charged with repairing ESPN’s relationship with the NFL, which suffered under John Skipper’s leadership. Skipper resigned at the end of last year, telling the Hollywood Reporter he was being extorted by someone he bought cocaine from.
Despite paying $1.9 billion per season, ESPN has been left with a schedule that even McDonough said consisted of one of the worst games each week. Pitaro will attempt to receive better games to help justify the largest outlay of any network.
This story originally appeared in the New York Post.