New York Post sports media columnist Andrew Marchand reported Wednesday night that Troy Aikman is leaving FOX to sign a five–year deal with ESPN and Monday Night Football. Sources confirmed to SI that Aikman is indeed making the switch.
This is a huge coup for ESPN, which has been trying for many years to 1) stabilize its MNF booth and 2) find a booth that works.
We don’t know at this time who Aikman’s play-by-play partner will be. But if ESPN wants to complete its transformation of the MNF booth, Al Michaels’s contract with NBC has expired and the network is expected to move on from Michaels and make Mike Tirico the lead voice of Sunday Night Football.
Currently, Steve Levy, Brian Griese and Louis Riddick make up ESPN’s MNF booth. While ESPN scored a massive win by landing Aikman, the most intriguing development now is that FOX is left without a No. 1 analyst to work alongside Joe Buck.
Marchand and I actually speculated on all of this during last week’s SI Media Podcast and now here we are. Buck and Aikman worked together for 20 years and developed a genuine friendship off the air. Many regarded them as the top crew in the game. Now Buck is left without a partner and the pickings for a replacement seem to be slim.
Greg Olsen is currently FOX’s No. 2 analyst, but doesn’t seem quite ready to ascend to the top spot since he’s only been on the job for one season. Former Saints coach Sean Payton has reportedly been on FOX’s radar, but it’s unlikely he’d be put on the No. 1 team. Would FOX move its lead college football analyst, Joel Klatt, over to the NFL? Doubtful. They also wouldn’t move one of their pregame show guys, such as Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long or Michael Strahan, to fill the void left by Aikman.
What complicates matters even more for FOX is that they have the Super Bowl in 2023 and again in 2025. Whoever takes over for Aikman won’t get a grace period. While it’s highly risky, if I’m FOX, I do anything and everything I can to get newly retired Tom Brady into broadcasting.
Sure, Brady has never called a game in his career, but he is the greatest quarterback of all time. In addition, he has shown since leaving New England that he has an outstanding personality. FOX needs to go big in order to replace Aikman. There’s no one bigger than Tom Brady.