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TV Executives Try To Make Sense Of How ESPN Landed Cowboys vs Tom Brady in Playoffs

“McCarthy asked a series of unnamed TV executives to share their best theories.”

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Michael McCarthy is not sure how one of the most coveted games on the NFL’s Super Wild Card Weekend schedule landed on ESPN. He is using his column at Front Office Sports to make sense of the league putting the Dallas Cowboys’ visit to Tampa Bay ended up on Monday night.

McCarthy asked a series of unnamed TV executives to share their best theories. After all, last year, ESPN landed the Rams and Cardinals in the same spot. Certainly, the league’s most popular team versus its biggest celebrity will draw considerably more eyeballs.

One of the more interesting theories is that the NFL is using this as a “make good” to ESPN. The network essentially lost its last Monday Night Football game of the regular season following Damar Hamlin’s collapse on the field in Cincinnati. One rival TV executive suggests that the NFL is giving the network its top playoff audience to “make up” for that.

For the record, that game was the most watched in the history of Monday Night Football on ESPN, but the network did not tout the ratings or include them in its year end average.

Another executive suggested that ESPN is capable of delivering a different level of star power, one that this game warrants. Between Joe Buck and Troy Aikman calling Monday Night Football and Peyton and Eli Manning anchoring their alternate broadcast, the Disney networks could provide a big game feel that competitors could not.

Disney’s improving relationship with the NFL and the fact that the network pays one of the highest rates for its television package were also mentioned as potential factors. McCarthy himself theorizes that the game is the only one on the schedule capable of being a sort of grand finale to the weekend’s action.

“Even better, the prime-time blockbuster is the only NFL playoff game on the calendar Monday, after a doubleheader Saturday and a tripleheader on Sunday,” he writes. “That means the entire country (including the extended NFL family of players, coaches, and executives) will be tuning in.”

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Sports TV News

Peter King: Sean McVay Wants to be a Star, ‘Not Just Some Guy on TV’

“I do think he had some regret over not taking a two- or three-year hiatus last year and taking one of the big TV jobs. Amazon? Maybe FOX? But if he really wanted to jump after winning the Super Bowl, he would have.”

Jordan Bondurant

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L.A. Rams head coach Sean McVay will remain at his post for the 2023-24 season. The team tweeted that news Friday afternoon, seeming to, at least for now, put the rumors of McVay leaving coaching for a TV job to rest.

ProFootballTalk’s Peter King wrote in Football Morning in America on Monday that McVay understands the kind of position on television he’s looking for may not necessarily be there for him.

“I don’t think that was the only thing about TV that appealed to him, but I don’t think McVay was interested in being Just a Guy on TV,” King wrote. “I do think he had some regret over not taking a two- or three-year hiatus last year and taking one of the big TV jobs. Amazon? Maybe FOX? But if he really wanted to jump after winning the Super Bowl, he would have.”

King noted that McVay has been told to “Do what makes you happy” by folks with the Rams. He also said he believes coaching is what Makes McVay happy. Especially with a chance to shake up his coaching staff and being involved in trying to bring the team back from a 5-12 season in their follow-up campaign to winning the Super Bowl.

“He wants to be challenged, and this staff wasn’t doing it,” King said. “Offensive coordinator Liam Coen may not have been what McVay wanted in an OC—a coach who would challenge him and bring new ideas to him—and that could be why he’s going back to the University of Kentucky as a coordinator.”

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Sports TV News

Lisa Salters Makes Monday Night Football History Completing 11th Season on Sideline

“Salters has been with ESPN for almost 23 years. She started as a general assignment reporter before moving to sideline reporting in 2006.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Monday night’s Cowboys/Bucs wild card playoff game set a new milestone for ESPN sideline reporter Lisa Salters.

The network tweeted that Salters completed her 11th season in that role. That makes her the longest tenured reporter in Monday Night Football history.

Salters has been with ESPN for almost 23 years. She started as a general assignment reporter before moving to sideline reporting in 2006.

“When I first got the call to do Monday Night Football, I would have never thought that 10 years later I would still be doing it,” Salters said last year in a video reminiscing on ten years on Monday Night Football. “I was at home and I got a phone call from my boss Vince Doria and he said, ‘Hey, I was wondering if you would be interested in being a sideline reporter for Monday Night Football‘, and I couldn’t believe what he just asked me.”

Salters is also featured on network coverage of the NBA, something she’s been doing since 2005.

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Sports TV News

No Conspiracy Behind ESPN Monday Night Playoff Game Selection

“The decision to continue with 4/5 games in the Monday night window came down to convenience.”

Jordan Bondurant

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ESPN has only carried NFL playoff games on Monday night for two seasons but has been a part of wild card weekends dating back to the 2014-15 campaign.

With the exception of one season, a 4-seed versus 5-seed matchup has always been covered by the Monday Night Football broadcast team in that stretch of nine seasons. That continued with Cowboys/Bucs this year.

In 2021-22, with the NFL expanding the playoff field to seven teams, the first Monday night playoff game was played. The Rams cruised past the Cardinals 34-11.

Last week, the decision was the source of much speculation. TV executives shared a number of theories about why ESPN landed the game that had the most star power in the Super Wild Card round of the playoffs.

Andrew Marchand of the New York Post wrote that no speculation was necessary. The decision to continue with 4/5 games in the Monday night window came down to convenience. The new format, the games that have a likelihood of altering seeding for the divisional rounds have already been played.

The 4/5 games this weekend proved to be pretty entertaining. The Jaguars rallied from down 27 to beat the Chargers. Al Michaels and Tony Dungy were ripped on social media for how they called a particularly exhilarating game for NBC. So it turns out Joe Buck and Troy Aikman would’ve called either one of the weekend’s best games.

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