ESPN is courting Peyton Manning to join its Monday Night Football team, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro and content chief Connor Schell made a trip to Denver on March 11 to meet with Manning, who has been mentioned before for a broadcast role. But it’s unclear whether Manning is interested in pursuing a career as an analyst at this time. He’s done some player breakdowns for the ESPN+ plus show Detail. He’s also a successful television pitchman, showing off some comedic chops in spots for Nationwide Insurance, Papa John’s and Mastercard.
The network needs to replace Jason Witten, who in February announced that he would return to the Dallas Cowboys after one gaffe-heavy season alongside ESPN play-by-play announcer Joe Tessitore and fellow analyst Booger McFarland. Manning’s name surfaced last year when ESPN was looking to replace Jon Gruden. Kurt Warner also has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Witten. ESPN declined comment.
Despite Witten’s head-smacking blunders — he was mercilessly mocked for sputtering that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers “pulled a rabbit out of his head” — ESPN executives were said to be willing to give him time to adjust to the booth. So they were caught off guard when he announced that he would return to the NFL.
Manning is one of the most popular quarterbacks to play in the league. And his visibility through his commercial work and his status as among the games greats (he has two Super Bowl trophies) have put him among the most coveted recent retirees among the NFL’s media partners.