Would a Bill Belichick-Nick Saban 'ManningCast' Be Any Good?

New England Patriots Press Conference
New England Patriots Press Conference / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages

The two biggest names in football coaching will not be on the sidelines in 2024. One is doing so voluntarily. The other, not so much. But both could end up in the same studio at some point, if Peyton Manning has his way.

On Wednesday, Andrew Marchand of The Athletic reported Manning is recruiting Bill Belichick to partner with Omaha Productions for this upcoming season now that the longtime New England Patriots head coach officially missed out on all open NFL head coaching jobs. The pipe dream, Marchand explains, is to team Belichick up with fresh ESPN employee Nick Saban for a Belichick x Saban "ManningCast" setup.

Peyton Manning is pursuing Bill Belichick in an effort to sign the longtime New England Patriots head coach with Omaha Productions, Manning’s entertainment company, officials briefed on the plans told The Athletic.

If Manning were to sign Belichick, the idea of teaming with ESPN to create a Belichick and Nick Saban “Manningcast” is expected to be broached, according to officials briefed on the plans. Saban, considered by many the greatest college football coach of all time, joined ESPN’s “College GameDay” after retiring from Alabama. (ESPN/Omaha could call it the “GOAT Cast.”)

Belichick has yet to meet with ESPN, but ESPN is interested in Belichick. Omaha Productions and ESPN work closely together on “Monday Night Football” alt-casts, the Manning-hosted documentary “Peyton’s Places,” and satellite shows.

If this were to happen, first order of business would obviously be coming up with a catchy name. The GOAT Cast isn't that bad and is certainly better than the BeliSaban Cast ideas I was tossing around in The Big Lead Slack chat. But it doesn't roll quite like "ManningCast," which is a good enough name that it has become shorthand for any alternate sports broadcast that air simultaneously with live games.

But we are getting out over our skis. There are plenty of obstacles that remain between this being an idea this being reality, the biggest of which is a simple question-- would it be any good?

Football nerds everywhere would bellow a resounding YES to that question and not think about it any further, which is fair. But dumping money into such a production (and paying Belichick what would presumably be a large sum) means it would need to appeal to more than just the people who would absolutely, no questions asked tune in at every opportunity. ESPN already knows those people will watch whatever they put on their screen. It's about drawing in the more general public, the ones who know what the ManningCast is but never really got into it. Belichick and Saban are household names. Can they garner an audience of roughly one million viewers, which is where the ManningCast roughly evened out at last season?

It's not as clear-cut as you might think. The two head coaches have been naturals in their spot television appearances over the last few years and Saban in particular has clearly been preparing for his moment in the studio for a while. But it's one thing to cut to Saban or to cut to Belichick and ask them to break down something specific for a 1:45 spot. It's quite another to put the two of them into a room, turn on the camera, and let them cook for three hours and change. And while the pair have shown flashes of charisma when they care to, they also both garnered a well-earned reputation for being rather... curmudgeonly. Things may not flow so smoothly without a third party acting as host to make sure the train keeps moving forward, and adding a host at all is breaking away from why people liked the ManningCast in the first place.

Honestly, though, I wouldn't be too concerned about that if I were an ESPN suit. The primary worry is that Saban and Belichick would get too into the weeds, even for the big nerds out there. At the start of the ManningCast Peyton and Eli struggled a bit to find things to focus on that existed in the middle of the Venn diagram of concepts they liked to talk about and concepts the audience wanted to hear about, while also keeping up with the live broadcast happening in front of them. Now the production team has three years of experience and can coach Belichick and Saban along but there's only so much to be done once the red light goes on.

Imagine the two coaches completely ignoring large chunks of the game to break down an offensive lineman's stance. Or debating the pros and cons of Cover 2 vs. Cover 3 when the opposing quarterback is a dual threat? Or to reminisce about some specific moment 15 years ago that nobody except them remembers as the game in front of them is coming down to the wire. There's always an audience to hear two great football minds ramble but that audience is smaller than you would expect and such rambling simply does not make for good television in the classic sense. Especially when there is an actual game going on.

It is tough to make an alternate cast appealing to a broad audience and tougher still to get two inexperienced broadcasters to mesh and flow well enough that it makes for a smooth viewing experience. But the Mannings themselves were in that spot and facing these exact questions not too long ago. I don't know if Belichick and Saban could get on their level quickly enough to justify the whole expenditure, but I do know that I would love to see them try.