Somewhat surprisingly, ESPN’s Wild Card playoff game next Monday night was announced as Cowboys-Bucs, a far more appealing game than many expected (last year, ESPN aired Cardinals-Rams on Wild Card weekend).
On Monday’s edition of First Take, after announcing the show would be on-site in Tampa next Monday, Ryan Clark and Stephen A. Smith thanked Joe Buck and Troy Aikman for ESPN getting that game, with NFL Network’s Michael Irvin also praising Buck and Aikman.
It's not just external media pundits and onlookers who think the additions of Troy Aikman and Joe Buck played a role in ESPN getting the Cowboys vs. Buccaneers game.
First Take will be in Tampa next week and they personally thanked the duo for the big game landing at ESPN. pic.twitter.com/qR4NDcbAqn
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) January 9, 2023
This isn’t a unique take. A lot of people were making it on social media last night after the network assignments for the Wild Card round was announced. Personally, I think it’s a bit simplistic – the NFL didn’t give ESPN the Dallas-Tampa Bay game just because the company spent a lot of money hiring Buck and Aikman last year. But ESPN, like Amazon, CBS, Fox, and NBC, paid billions of dollars to retain NFL rights, and maybe part of that deal was a better Wild Card game each year.
Anyway, ESPN should be giddy getting this game. I thought it was a lock that Cowboys-Bucs was going to Fox in the 4 PM Sunday window, and that ESPN would get either Chargers-Jaguars or Ravens-Bengals. But the NFL didn’t go that direction, leading to plenty of happy people within ESPN.