For “Monday Night Football,” ESPN wanted a franchise quarterback.
It had a 10-year, $140 million offer waiting for Tony Romo. He re-signed with CBS for $180 million. It made its yearly run at Peyton Manning. He said no once again.
And it went after Drew Brees for his post-playing rights. He went with NBC.
Now, ESPN is closing in on its new MNF team and it will feature Steve Levy, Brian Griese and Louis Riddick, sources told The Post.
While they are not franchise quarterbacks, they are game managers, which might be good enough for ESPN at this late date.
After the failure of Joe Tessitore, Jason Witten and the Booger Mobile, it is a move that makes some sense even if it is imperfect. With Disney/ABC/ESPN having eyes on a Super Bowl in its next contract, the trio will be in position for some big things.
That said, ABC and company could still try to upgrade in the future with the likes of Jim Nantz, Ian Eagle and Kevin Burkhardt potential free agents for play-by-play duty. Philip Rivers, 38, could retire after playing out his one-year, $25 million deal with the Colts.
For months, it had been known ESPN was looking to Levy as its new play-by-player after its dream scenario of a trade for Al Michaels fell through. Levy was No. 3 on ESPN’s college football depth chart and his best skill is hosting. He has been a bridesmaid for some big jobs, but now finally is about to close one with the season a little more than a month out.
The fact that he and Griese have worked together for a long time is helpful. They also did a Monday Night game last year with Riddick. Another plus.
Griese isn’t as big a name as Romo, Manning and company, but he did play in the league. ESPN needs to be solid — and Griese should bring that.
Riddick will receive a crack at the MNF booth. He has publicly lobbied for the job for years. More importantly, he has put in the work, doing studio and, more recently, college games. He will be prepared.
We would have gone with a two-man booth, because it is simpler. In its last incarnation, ESPN overcomplicated things with a crew that had never called an NFL game. This new group should be better than what ESPN had.
ESPN thought about Dan Orlovsky. Instead he and Marcus Spears are a good combo that could perk up the daily attention on “NFL Live.” On Monday Night, ESPN didn’t want to gamble on Orlovsky, who has had a meteoric rise at the network in just two years.
Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit have been considered, especially if college football were to be canceled. They may get the second Monday night game in Week 1 (Giants vs. Steelers), according to ESPN biographer Jim Miller, who also mentioned hearing about the new trio in a tweet on Friday.
But now, Mondays will be Levy, Riddick and Griese. No franchise quarterback, but viewers may not be focusing on them either.
It is not a classic Monday night booth, but ESPN needed to at least find a team that won’t lose the game. This trio may be able to manage that.
Sterling out: John Sterling, 82, will miss this weekend’s Yankees series as he is still under the weather. The hope is he returns for Tuesday’s game. Sterling told The Post he tested negative for COVID-19.
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