ESPN's Monday Night Football team has been a topic of much discussion for years now. Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden made for a great pairing from 2009 through 2015, but once both were gone from the network in 2017, ESPN has struggled to replace them. Each MNF booth since 2017 has been heavily criticized for one reason or another.
After a failed attempt to lure Tony Romo away from CBS, ESPN decided the trio of Steve Levy, Brian Griese, and Louis Riddick was best positioned to take on their marquee NFL broadcast in 2020. They've been fine. Not great, but there's no Booger Mobile or a rookie broadcaster in over his head like Jason Witten was. It's an adequate viewing experience.
It also felt like this was ESPN's short-term plan for the next season or two; their pursuit of Romo indicated a desire for big names, and while the Levy/Griese/Riddick trio is talented, it doesn't bring the same brand recognition as a broadcaster like Romo. But it seems that the network might already have to reshuffle and alter its plans, because Riddick has his eyes on a different industry entirely.
Adam Schefter and Chris Mortenson report that their colleague is interviewing for the general manager position with the Houston Texans and Detroit Lions.
This would, of course, leave an empty spot in the MNF booth for a color commentator, and it is not at all surprising. Riddick has not been coy about his desire to work in an NFL front office as the head man over the last few years. He officially interviewed with the New York Giants back in 2017 before Dave Gettleman landed the gig and Riddick's name has emerged in connection with just about every available GM job since.
Riddick worked with the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Football Team as a personnel man before joining ESPN. He has the resume and the acumen, so it would not be a surprise to see him get hired by a franchise. It would leave ESPN searching for a replacement, too.
The network has plenty of options, but there is no obvious choice. Dan Orlovsky's stock has risen significantly over the last year and he's been solid as a spot commentator on the occasional Sunday afternoon broadcast. But the lights of MNF are very bright and ESPN might be hesitant to go with a younger, inexperienced candidate after the failed Booger McFarland/Witten booth. Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler have both surprisingly changed their tune in 2020 about potentially making the jump from college broadcasts to the pros, but they're ESPN's A-Team for college football. They likely won't be jumping at the chance to move those two, even if they nailed it in their first Monday Night Football call together.
There are also always former athletes who could come in. ESPN offered Romo a lot of money, so one can reasonably assume the network would be willing to fork over some big bucks to get a known name on the call. Both of the Manning brothers are long shots, though, and Drew Brees already has a deal with NBC should he retire after this season. There is once again no clear-cut candidate if ESPN wanted to pursue a retired player to bring some brand recognition.
This could all be for naught. Riddick is not guaranteed a GM job by any means. But the writing is on the wall, and after the last three years of speculation, it feels inevitable he will leave the Worldwide Leader. If and when he does, ESPN will once again be searching for the elusive, perfect Monday Night Football booth.