After a nearly monthlong hiatus, Peyton and Eli Manning return to ESPN2 tonight for their final Monday Night Football megacast of the regular season.
The Mannings will call Browns-Steelers, which could be Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s final game at Heinz Field. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Sunday that Roethlisberger told teammates he expected this to be his last season playing for Pittsburgh.
Fittingly, the Mannings’ first guest of the night will be Hall of Fame head coach and current CBS analyst Bill Cowher, who coached Roethlisberger to his first of two Super Bowl wins (the second came under current head coach Mike Tomlin).
The headliner of the night will be Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, whose team clinched the top playoff position with a dominant win against the Minnesota Vikings Sunday night (that game also clinched a playoff berth for the Eagles). Don’t expect either Manning press Rodgers much on his recent COVID-19 controversy, where he intentionally misled fans about his vaccination status.
Other guests are NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and rapper Snoop Dogg, who happens to be a die-hard Steelers fan and is among those who think it’s time for Pittsburgh to find a new quarterback.
“Everybody can’t be Brady, man,” Snoop Dogg said of the 39-year-old Roethlisberger on NBC’s Sunday Night Football Final on Peacock in November.
The Mannings committed to calling 10 games on ESPN2 this season, and Monday night’s Browns-Steelers matchup is their ninth. They’ll be back for the playoffs for ESPN’s first round wild card game on Monday, Jan. 17.
After a successful inaugural season, Amazon is reportedly interested in wooing the Manning brothers away from ESPN to do an alternate telecast for its Thursday Night Football games. Their contract with ESPN is for three years, and would conclude following the 2023 season.
Merrill Reese didn’t travel Sunday with the Eagles, but it wasn’t because of COVID-19
The Eagles traveled to Washington on Sunday, but once again this season, the team’s longtime radio broadcasters didn’t go with them.
Instead, Merrill Reese and Mike Quick called the game on 94.1 WIP remotely off monitors a couple hours north at Lincoln Financial Field. Joining them at the Linc were Eagles’ Spanish language announcers Rickie Ricardo and Oscar Budejen.
Unlike most of this season, the decision to call Sunday’s game remotely had nothing to do with COVID-19 — the broadcasters just hate FedEx Field that much. In addition to the stadium’s crumbling infrastructure (water was leaking into the press box on Sunday), the visiting broadcast booth is behind the end zone, a terrible vantage point to call games.
“Merrill didn’t want to go to FedEx Field, which is a dump,” Ricardo said on WIP Saturday afternoon. “You’re in the corner of the end zone under the overhang, and you can’t tell what’s going on because you’re so low, you can’t see the yard lines. It’s impossible.”
Reese hasn’t been shy about his hatred of FedEx Field. Last season, the longtime announcer wasn’t too thrilled about not traveling with the team for away games, but was ecstatic he could skip out on calling the Eagles’ season opener from Washington.
“I have been complaining about that dump for years,” Reese told former Sixers announcer Marc Zumoff last year. “Daniel Snyder, who is not exactly Mr. Popularity in the nation’s capital, has the visiting broadcast booth low in the corner of the stadium, where the fans come almost up to the windows and can call us names.”
“There’s a big overhang over the booth, so if I look up I can’t see the scoreboard,” Reese added. “And when they go past the 50 I can’t tell if they go five yards or 15 yards.”
The team’s radio announcers have continued to call away games this season remotely at the Linc. The only exceptions were the team’s two games at MetLife Stadium against the Giants and Jets.
The Eagles’ Week 18 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys was flexed to Saturday night at 8:15 p.m. on ESPN and ABC, even though it’s a largely meaningless game thanks to the Birds clinching a playoff spot on Sunday. Here’s the fully revised Week 18 schedule:
The Fox broadcasters for Eagles-Washington Sunday were a tough listen at times, capped off with play-by-play announcer Aaron Goldsmith mistakenly claiming the Washington Football Team has allowed over 11,000 yards the previous two weeks (in Goldsmith’s defense, he was called in on short notice for Adam Amin, who was shifted to Rams-Ravens after Kevin Burkhardt tested positive for COVID-19).
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Sunday had a wraparound front-page ad honoring quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who will likely played his final game at home for the Steelers Monday night. Unfortunately, they also sold a sticker ad to Kacey’s Carpet & Tile, with less than ideal results:
Congrats to former Sixers sideline reporter Serena Winters, who landed a job covering the Cleveland Cavaliers for Bally Sports Cleveland. NBC’s regional sports networks, including NBC Sports Philadelphia, have all but done away with the role of sideline reporter as a cost-cutting move during the pandemic.
Across the league Sunday, there were plenty of great remembrances of Hall of Fame head coach and broadcaster John Madden, who died last week at age 85. Among the best were this clip put together by CBS Sports, where Madden spent his first 14 years as a broadcaster.