ESPN wants to trade for Al Michaels in hopes that they can pair him with Peyton Manning on Monday Night Football. If ESPN were to pull this off, it would be considered a tremendous upgrade for an NFL broadcast, but what would be the point?
With Tony Romo signing a huge new deal to stay at CBS, chasing Michaels to land Manning seems like a panic move for ESPN. Michaels turns 76 this football season. While he's the perfect age and income bracket to run for president, he's getting up there in broadcaster years. That's not to say he isn't still currently great at what he does, but ESPN doesn't need him.
If Manning truly wants to call football games, he'll call football games. When he makes up his mind, ESPN can be there waiting with a Romo-sized blank check, but they don't really need him either because ESPN has Monday Night Football. They have one of the two premier, primetime games every single week. While ratings for everything drop, MNF ratings were up this year and ended with a four-year high with Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland calling games. No disrespect to either of those guys, but they don't exactly have the Miracle on Ice on their collective resume.
ESPN does not need Al Michaels because when it comes down to it, fans do not care. Complaints on Twitter are just a small sample size of a vocal minority. The average person tunes in for the game and allows the dulcet tones of announcers wash over them along with the crowd noise. A few more people might tune in to hear Michaels and Manning together in the first week, but then it's just back to watching football, no matter who is in the booth.
Besides, what would ESPN even give up to land Michaels? Would NBC be interested in Carrie Ann Inaba and Emmanuel Acho's expiring contract? Maybe try to throw in High Noon if they haven't heard the news yet? Any price beyond Manning's salary seems like too much for a company looking to fill hundreds of hours of sports and sports-related content each week.
If this were a sports team, ESPN would just be pursuing Michaels to show their fans that they are trying to do... something. This is like every single rumor about the Knicks trying to land the next big free agent. But ESPN is not a team. They are a network whose ratings go up and down with the quality of the games they are broadcasting. No one will be boycotting Monday Night Football because ESPN has missed out on Manning and Romo.