Monday Night Football. It has been going on for years and has had many different characters, color analysts and leading men. The current team they have had has been Sean McDonough and Jon Gruden, but let's be clear, the star of the team is Gruden. His analysis and his energy attract viewers and anger them at the same time. Each and every offseason, the rumors about Gruden coming back to coaching circulate. Like any other offseason, the rumors started towards the end of the regular season. The seasonal "Jon Gruden to the University of Tennessee" rumors that make no sense started again, but there was one rumor that picked up steam like a locomotive. There began to be rumblings about Gruden potentially returning to the Oakland Raiders. Just like usual, there were many that did not pay attention to it, but when Jack Del Rio was fired by the Raiders to end the season, we all know what was going to happen. Gruden, who once coached the Raiders, has agreed to come back and coach them once again, agreeing to a ten-year, $100 million deal. With Gruden gone, the folks at ESPN have a critical decision. Who do they bring in to pair with McDonough now?
(Disclaimer: All choices are from current ESPN staff)
Well, one guy they could take out of the analyst chair is Ryan Clark. The former Washington Redskin and Pittsburgh Steeler played many a season in the NFL and has vast knowledge of the NFL. To hear him break down things and add a little bit of his playing experience to it is something that many would love to hear. Of course, some of the terminology he uses could be over the head of the average person that watches Monday Night Football. While he could be a good option, one thing that he does not really bring is that element of excitement and that little bit of unpredictability. Clark does not have much experience calling games and at this point, there is no indication that he wants to do so. Couple that with him not having that it factor in the booth with a guy that is by the book like McDonough and that pairing could be something that could backfire on ESPN if they tried it. Although he is knowledgeable, he does have some places where he needs to grow.
Another solution sits in the studio as an analyst as well. Rex Ryan has been coaching in the NFL for years, so to say that he has seen some things in the NFL is an understatement. Along with Ryan having extensive knowledge and experience coaching the game, he also has a bit of a personality. Sure, some of his personality can come across as over the top at times, but he does have people wanting to see what he is going to say next. Rex could get all the people that love him and hate him to tune in. That attention to their product would be something that is good for ESPN, but it is also something that could backfire on them too. Knowing that Ryan has no filter, there could be some slippage on the air. A wrong phrase said here or there could get ESPN in some hot water and could force them to suspend or reprimand Ryan. He may be a live personality, but he would surely have to tone it down just a little and monitor what he could say on air in the midst of excitement.
Both are good options to think on, but there is one other option that needs to be considered and his name is Tedy Bruschi. The former New England Patriots linebacker has been an analyst at ESPN for some time now. He can be calm and measured when he needs to be, but he can also show some excitement and some personality as well. The perfect balance of both is perfect for a sidekick to McDonough and it would translate well to many that enjoy Monday Night Football. Bruschi has personality and temperament along with the knowledge of the game, but he does not have the experience in being an analyst. He and Ryan Clark have that same issue in that department and both he and Clark could do the training to help themselves get better for that potential shot at Monday Night Football. While Clark is very talented, I cannot see the excitement part of it coming of his voice like I could with Bruschi.
The search is on for a partner for McDonough and eventually they will find it. It may not be any of these three at all but then again, it could be too. These three may not have all the qualifications, but they would have us all tuning in even more to watch the games with their knowledge and personalities. Hopefully ESPN sees these three as real candidates and not just names in their Rolodex.