ESPN has signed both Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to a multi-year contract to call Monday Night Football starting in 2022, the network announced Wednesday.
Buck and Aikman replace Steve Levy, Louis Riddick and Brian Griese, the trio that called MNF the past two seasons.
ESPN has gone through several different booths since Jon Gruden and Mike Tirico left the network in 2016, including runs with Jason Witten, Joe Tessitore, Sean McDermott and Booger McFarland. While each of those combinations produced disappointing results, ESPN has now onboarded the top broadcast duo in the industry.
Buck is the best game-caller in football, and arguably the most valuable talent in sports media. Which means Stephen A. Smith is no longer the top guy at his own network…
ESPN will not ask Buck to call MLB games like Fox did. Instead, Buck will contribute and create content for ESPN+.
Meanwhile in the analyst role, Aikman is as good as, if not better than, CBS’s Tony Romo and NBC’s Cris Collinsworth. Aikman ultimately chose ESPN over re-signing with Fox or taking an offer from Amazon.
The Buck-Aikman signing clears the way for Amazon to hire Kirk Herbstreit and likely Al Michaels to call Thursday Night Football.
Tirico will move to Michaels’ former spot on NBC alongside Collinsworth, leaving Fox Sports to fill out the rest of the 2022 NFL lineup.
Fox will likely replace Buck with Kevin Burkhardt, another strong game-caller. Fox could then keep Burkhardt paired with Greg Olsen, whom the network likes, or try to sign a big name like Sean Payton.
“When you have the opportunity to bring in the iconic, longest-running NFL broadcasting duo, you take it, especially at a time when we are on the cusp of a new era in our expanding relationship with the NFL,” said Jimmy Pitaro, chairman of ESPN.
“The NFL continues to ascend, and we now have more games than ever before, providing additional opportunities for Joe, Troy and our deep roster of commentators.”
Pitaro has done a bad job running ESPN, but he nailed this move. Credit to ESPN for getting this deal done.