ESPN's dreams of an Al Michaels - Peyton Manning booth have been dashed by NBC according to Andrew Marchard of the New York Post. It sounds like NBC Sports didn't even entertain serious trade talks with the Worldwide Leader about the 75 year old broadcaster.
So what does ESPN do now? Assuming no Al means no Peyton, Philip Rivers could be in play, though he is still a marquee free agent quarterback. There are other options, but darn it, none of them are as flashy and prestigious and Al Michaels and Peyton Manning.
Trading for Al Michaels would have been BIG and IMPORTANT. Same for signing Tony Romo or Peyton Manning. Kirk Herbstreit and Dan Orlovsky are capable, but internal candidates just don't generate headlines in the New York tabloids like major talent acquisitions. And that has to be why ESPN even leaked their desire to trade for Michaels in the first place. It sounded like they wanted to really do something big. Make a big splashy move.
Though it doesn't sound like they even had initial talks at the time it was announced. It's like when some young athlete says he wants to date Rihanna. It was the media version of vision boarding. ESPN was hoping that if they put it out into the universe, maybe the universe would hear. Instead, Pete Bevacqua heard and told them to forget about it.
Whoever ESPN ends up with will be fine because the football will be fine and people love watching football. Even if there wasn't an important press conference for whoever is in the booth.