Recent reports linked ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit to Amazon’s fledgling Thursday Night Football booth, and now a report from Peter King says that is indeed what’s going to happen.
That’s according to NBC’s Peter King, who broke the news today in his FMIA column at Pro Football Talk:
I heard last night that Amazon—spurned by Troy Aikman, Sean McVay and John Lynch—has settled on ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit to be the analyst on its Thursday night package of NFL games starting this fall. (He’s likely to continue his current ESPN/ABC duties as well.) Andrew Marchand of the New York Post was first to connect the Amazon-Herbstreit dots on Feb. 27.
So, this is fascinating! Herbstreit has called NFL games for ESPN before alongside partner Chris Fowler, and until news came that ESPN was adding Troy Aikman was leaving Fox for Monday Night Football there was talk that ESPN might even consider moving Fowler and Herbstreit to MNF.
Amazon is clearly going for name value here, because Herbstreit is synonymous with the college game. That’s not to say he can’t be a very good NFL analyst; he’s clearly been passionate about the pro side, and has gone on the record expressing his desire to call NFL games in the recent past, as well, describing the idea of calling college and pro games at the same time as his ideal scenario:
“I’ve always looked at it like, if you asked that me a year ago, I’d would say college. I would definitely do college. And after that experience, I’d say I would love to entertain both. I would love the challenge. I don’t know if anyone’s ever done that where they do a big college game and then do a game in the NFL. It would have to be a Monday game, obviously. If it were a Sunday game I wouldn’t be able to do college and pro. Ideally, in a perfect world, I would love the challenge of trying to do both. But I’m now much more open to the idea of doing the NFL.”
Amazon taking over the Thursday Night Football package seems to have presented the perfect opportunity for Herbstreit to give this a shot with minimal complaint from his current/longtime superiors at ESPN. Rather than jumping to a competitor like Fox Sports, Amazon has just the one NFL game and no college conflicts. It’s also a Thursday game, which while being a tight window should allow Herbstreit to make the dual schedule work.
ESPN and ABC are adding more NFL games as part of their new rights agreement, but serving as the auxiliary NFL analyst for ESPN isn’t as attractive as being the lead for an exclusive weekly NFL game. (The ManningCast means being even further overshadowed in the ESPN NFL hierarchy, too.)
This move gives Herbstreit a wide-ranging and very visible platform, calling one of the biggest college games every week while also being the focal point of Amazon’s NFL coverage, which at the very least is a massive potential growth opportunity given the tech giant’s continued enthusiasm for the NFL.
We’ll have to wait and see who Amazon will pair with him in the TNF booth; they’ve targeted Al Michaels for a long time now, and for Michaels working with Herbstreit would at least mean working with another broadcast veteran, albeit not one with decades of NFL experience. If that’s the final booth, it would certainly be a pairing to be taken seriously, which is clearly what Amazon is hoping for from this project.