As ESPN searches for an analyst to replace Jon Gruden on Monday Night Football, the network seems to have found one candidate worth taking a closer look at.
ESPN announced Friday that studio analyst and former NFL quarterback Matt Hasselbeck will call the Pro Bowl alongside Sean McDonough later this month. Though the network is not explicitly calling the assignment a tryout for MNF, it’s tough to view it any other way, especially considering ESPN executive Stphanie Druley’s decision to bring up MNF in a statement about the Pro Bowl.
“Matt has experience calling games and will be a great fit alongside Sean McDonough for this Pro Bowl assignment. He is a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback with connections to many players and coaches throughout the league, and he was already scheduled to cover the game as part of our ESPN studio team.
“The process for determining our new Monday Night Football booth is already underway. We are looking at both internal and external candidates and expect to have a decision made this spring. This is one of the most high-profile and attractive positions in all of sports broadcasting so we want to take our time to ensure we make the best decision.”
Hasselbeck would make for an interesting choice for Monday Night Football, offering a lower-key alternative to Peyton Manning, Tim Tebow, or other big names who have been floated for the job. The biggest obstacle for Hasselbeck will be his inexperience in the booth, but calling the Pro Bowl will give him some reps, while also granting ESPN executives an opportunity to evaluate him. Tony Romo’s success on CBS this season is just the latest evidence that experience can be less valuable for a broadcaster than insight and personality.
Of course, even if Hasselbeck thrives on the call during the Pro Bowl, he’s no shoo-in for the MNF job. ESPN can go numerous different directions with Gruden’s replacement and will likely, as Druley said, consider a variety of candidates both internal and external. The network has struggled before to find the right broadcast team for its NFL package and would presumably like to get this decision right on the first try.
Hasselbeck has worked at ESPN since retiring from football in 2016, mostly appearing on Sunday NFL Countdown.
The Pro Bowl will air January 28 at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN and ABC.