Not long ago, speculation over the next duo or trio to fill ESPN's Monday Night Football booth was the rising tide that lifted all sports-media-adjacent boats. The saga was covered breathlessly, with informed and less-than-informed prognostication taking place on this very site and countless others. Having personally participated in both, it's fun to look back at a simpler, freer time.
But the momentum slowly came to a near halt. That can happen when big names like Peyton Manning and Drew Brees opt for other opportunities. And when fun names like Pat McAfee aren't extended the offer. We've had a pretty clear idea of who the booth would be, especially after Dan Orlovsky's role on NFL Live was confirmed.
Jim Miller got to have all the fun this afternoon by revealing the official lineup of Steve Levy, Brian Griese, and Louis Riddick. Something about the somewhat surprising source, the overshadowing from other, bigger sports things happening right now, and the predictability of feeling like we're just dotting the I's and crossing the T's — well, feels appropriate for the moment.
This is not the Plan A booth or the one a marketing firm would have designed and pushed to drive engagement and buzz. It is not reliant on a particular element being must-see television or having the star wattage to get viewers on their cult of personality. It is, however, more than enough to fix a problem that's plagued MNF almost as much as the bad slate of games in recent years: the real or imagined narrative that announcers were actually hurting the bottom line.
Levy, previously No. 3 on the college football roster, is a pro's pro. His radio broadcasts have been particularly solid since moving to cover the sport back in 2016. Multiple sources have said he's been extremely close to getting some of the more high-profile gigs at ESPN but has repeatedly missed out, including the last time the MNF microphone was open for Joe Tessitore.
Griese has rapport with Levy having worked together. He is not Peyton or Drew or Tony Romo. He is competent, and a former quarterback who can break down the position and what it entails in tremendous detail, which has become a prerequisite. Riddick has the best chance of becoming the home run hitter here. He is a unique voice with a broad background who shined and worked his way to the top. This is a long time coming for him and he'll surely attack the opportunity with trademark intensity.
Plan B, C, or otherwise, this all represents a prudent course for ESPN. While the ceiling may not be as high as other permutations, the floor is higher. If they want a splashier name down the road, those conversations can be revisited. But putting the show in competent, proven hands was a must and all the boxes are checked in that department.
There's a hell of a lot to say for stability at this moment and time and the proverbial boat is on significantly less choppy and dangerous waters than it was a few months ago.