While much of this year’s NFL announcing carousel has revolved around top booths present and future, there’s also some interesting movement around the lower booths. One of those is at ESPN; they brought in Joe Buck and Troy Aikman as their new Monday Night Football team, but they have more games and more doubleheaders (and even overlapping ABC-ESPN games) now, so they need a more extensive secondary crew than what we’ve seen in the past. And Andrew Marchand reported Wednesday at The New York Post that this second crew will involve last year’s Monday Night Football pairing of play-by-play voice Steve Levy and analyst Louis Riddick, but with new analyst Dan Orlovsky sliding in for the departed Brian Griese (who left ESPN to become the 49ers’ quarterbacks coach in March). That’s despite Fox making a play for Orlovsky as both a game voice and a studio talent. Here’s more on that from Marchand’s piece:
The NFL TV free-agency carousel has yet another move as Dan Orlovsky will join Steve Levy and Louis Riddick Jr. on ESPN’s No. 2 NFL TV booth, The Post has learned.
ESPN declined comment.
The position is significant. While ESPN has signed Joe Buck and Troy Aikman as its No. 1 team, Levy and Riddick will call a handful of games this year and then around five per season beginning in 2023. Levy and Riddick also received contract extensions, cementing them on NFL games.
Orlovsky was pursued by Fox Sports, according to sources, where he would have fronted a five-day-a-week NFL show and done some games on Sundays, though he was not a candidate for the top jobs, according to sources.
Orlovsky sticking around at ESPN and gaining a role on NFL games is interesting. He’s been a regular presence on their various studio programming for the last few years, from debate shows Get Up and First Take through the more serious NFL Live. And he’s brought forward a variety of takes, from dubious remarks on Justin Fields’ work ethic to actual film breakdowns on NFL Live. And he’s received some reported outside interest, from NFL teams as well as Fox. Now, we’ll continue to see him on that ESPN studio programming, and we’ll also see him calling NFL games. He has called college games for ESPN before, but the NFL is a step up, especially with this package shifting to around five games a year beginning in 2023.
The Fox pursuit here is also significant. It’s not clear where exactly Fox would have put “a five-day-a-week NFL show” in their FS1 lineup, as there aren’t any obvious openings at the moment. Perhaps they might have shortened Speak For Yourself, but that’s not clear. A NFL-specific show would also be a return to the early days of FS1 sport-specific programming, which included daily shows on both soccer and (American) football. (It’s notable that their daily NASCAR RaceHub, a carryover from when that channel was still Speed, not only has survived, but remains some of their best-rated programming.) We don’t know if the daily NFL show idea was only about landing Orlovsky, or if they’ll go ahead with it with other new or current personnel after his decision to remain with ESPN, but that will be worth keeping an eye on.