Amazon has struck out thus far in its highly-lucrative attempts to sign a lead booth analyst for their inaugural year as the exclusive broadcasters of “Thursday Night Football.” Now they're reportedly turning their attention to arguably ESPN's biggest name in football, Kirk Herbstreit, hoping he will be the one to finally take the money and run.
But as Herbstreit's long-time partner on ESPN's "College Gameday" Lee Corso would say, not so fast my friend.
According to Adam Marchand of the NY Post, Amazon is expected to ramp up discussions with Herbstreit's representatives "shortly" as they try and land a broadcast partner for anticipated play-by-play announcer Al Michaels. This comes after Amazon reportedly failed to sign Troy Aikman, Sean McVay and John Lynch for the analyst role, with their price tag being up to $100 million.
Aikman wound up leaving FOX for ESPN on a reported five-year, $90 million deal and this news feels as much about that as anything else.
Herbstreit reportedly makes $6 million a year for his role as ESPN's leading college football analyst. That's $12 million less than what Aikman will reportedly make from ESPN. While college analysts make less than NFL ones based on advertising revenue, it's easy to imagine Herbstreit and his agent looking at what Aikman makes with desirous eyes, especially when you consider how critical Herbstreit is to all elements of ESPN's college coverage.
Another reason this feels like a negotiation ploy as much as anything is the time commitment it would take for Herbstreit to call college and NFL games in the same season. I actually asked Herbstreit about this very scenario in 2020 when ESPN was looking to fill its Monday night booth. While he said at that time he was interested in calling more NFL games, he also mentioned how challenging calling multiple games in one week, both physically and logistically.
In the days leading up to a game, there are production meetings, interviews with coaches and players, and research that goes into every analyst's broadcast. In order for Herbstreit to do two jobs, he would basically be away from his family Tuesday night through Sunday morning or Saturday night at the best. Obviously, that's not impossible, but it's not easy either. Throw in the fact that ESPN also reportedly would want Herbstreit to call some Monday night games and you have a logistical nightmare from late August through January.
This isn't me trying to discredit what's being reported and this isn't based on anything other than me reading between the lines. But when you look at the totality of the evidence, the idea of Herbstreit calling two sports seems ambitious even for someone as talented as him. Again, it can happen, I just personally don't see it, though I could see Herbstreit getting a raise because of this.