Peyton Manning is officially retiring from playing football, but that doesn’t mean the Hall of Famer is going to be gone from the game next season. Many in the industry think Manning will turn his attention to television—not just pitching pizzas and insurance, but actual football analysis—and he will have the pick of any job he wants, at any network. If his retirement speech and the way he answered questions is any indication, Manning will undoubtedly be prepared for whatever media gigs come next.
Even if he decides to take a year off from the spotlight and spend a year with his family, Manning could surely walk into any TV board room a year from now, flash his trademark Manningface and have anyone’s job he wants.
So here’s what we know: Manning is a student of the game, is always prepared and is an excellent talker. Plus, he genuinely cares about football.
And here’s what we don’t know: Manning could be great in the booth, or he could be a disaster if he’s unable to get his points across fast enough between plays. He may be more suited to studio work where he can be protected with the pre-planned nature of conversations, or he could be Joe Montana, who was one of the greatest players in NFL history, but could never get comfortable in the studio.
It’s much different having to talk about yourself than having to be critical of other players in the game. But assuming Manning is as good as the networks all expect him to be, let’s look at the likelihood of some potential television landing spots.
5832. Al Jazeera
Manning could lead their investigative team! No?
324. DIY Network
Now let’s think about this for a second before we knock it. Who wouldn’t want to see Peyton flipping houses for cash or building a deck out of reclaimed wood? Maybe he could host a show in his hometown of New Orleans, fixing up old riverboats and bringing them back to life.
Picture Manning as an ad-sales executive in the 1950s (he already has both the haircut and penchant for advertising catch phrases) or, perhaps, a criminal attorney who is a “criminal” attorney. A down on his luck chemistry teacher who turns to a life of crime? Oooh, a zombie. No, no, someone who kills zombies.
Can you even kill a zombie? I bet Peyton Manning can.
6. SEC Network
Okay, enough joking. The truth is, Manning is tailor made for covering the NFL, but if he wants to spend a few years honing his skills with a large, dedicated audience but not one quite as large—though surely more dedicated—as the NFL, joining the SEC Network would make a ton of sense.
Manning would immediately become the top name at the network and he would only really need to work three months out of the year if he was doing Saturday studio work or calling games in the booth. And yet, as much of an SEC legend as he may have been at Tennessee, his career is certainly more linked to the NFL. Going to the SEC Network would be an enormous coup, but may be considered a step down from other options.
Of all the NFL options, Fox seems like the worst fit for Manning. There’s a certain swagger about Fox’s coverage that Manning just doesn’t have. He may be a better fit on one of those AMC shows before he’d fit in with Fox’s studio show. Maybe Manning could work in a Fox booth, but it makes little sense for him to step into anything but the top booth for a network if that’s the route he goes, and Troy Aikman isn’t going anywhere.
4. NFL Network
NFL Network has the smallest audience of all the NFL networks, and would probably mean much more work than if Manning signs with one of the big three, at least if the studio is what interests Manning.
The league’s television division does have a ton of needs in the studio, but there’s little chance Manning would be interested in being just one of the regular crew there—the guy isn’t retiring from football to go work a day job. And even if he supplanted Kurt Warner as the top talking quarterback on Sundays to play off the likes of Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders, is that what he retired to be?
And still, the possibility is there, even if NFL Network seems more the place for lower-profile players to hone their television chops, or a soft landing spot for those who are bounced from other network gigs to make room for, well, for guys like Manning.