In a shock to no one, Mike Tirico is officially leaving ESPN for NBC Sports. But why bounce from such a highly coveted “Monday Night Football” play-by-play job?
Well, there were several reasons, and not all of them begin with a dollar sign, have commas in the middle, and end in a bunch of zeroes. Of course, those don’t hurt.
Clearly, Tirico got a nice, fat contract offer from NBC — but Disney has deep pockets too. So what truly tipped the scales? Tirico is very high on the Olympics, and one person with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap that Tirico is equally excited about the opportunity to call Super Bowls.
There’s just one problem with the latter goal — that job is already taken, and as talented as Tirico is, Al Michaels is a living legend.
While ESPN has been labeled The Worldwide Leader in Sports, the truth is, the network’s pro football package is a bit lacking. “Monday Night Football” is great, but “Sunday Night Football,” the non-primetime games, and even the new-ish “Thursday Night Football” all belong to the broadcasters.
As the biggest series on television, NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” is the shiniest gem of them all. This coming season, NBC grabbed half of the open-for-bids “Thursday Night Football” package, splitting with incumbent CBS over the next few years. Plus, the biggest telecast every single year remains the Super Bowl, and ESPN/ABC simply watches from home as NBC, CBS and Fox rotate rights. (ABC hasn’t broadcast the Big Game since 2006.)
While nothing is official yet, there’s an assumption among insiders that Tirico will call NBC’s “Thursday Night Football” games immediately, and not encroach on Michaels’ No. 1 slot — at least, not yet.
For what it’s worth at this point in the story, NBC Sports had no comment on the future, and reps for Tirico and Michaels did not immediately returns TheWrap’s request for comment.
Should Michaels retire then, Tirico could join a booth that still includes the 57-year-old Cris Collinsworth — a top-notch color analyst. And that Super Bowl opportunity would be back around by 2021 — this time, with Tirico, who is not yet 50 years old, talking the whole time.
Until then, Tirico will have his crack at three Olympic Games: 2016, 2018, 2020. And he may get involved in some sort of hosting capacity for the “SNF” show. Of course, the job of top dog in both those endeavors isn’t quite open right now either — those seats belong to the 63-year-old Bob Costas.
Costas’ rep didn’t get right back to us either, but we left all pink eye jokes out of this story anyway. OK, so just the one reference.
The Olympics are so massive that no matter what, Tirico shouldn’t feel stifled. And publicly, he’s quite excited for this next chapter. During the call, he told reporters that the Olympics were at the “top of the list” of reasons why he took the gig.
And, of course, there are other reasons too — ones that have nothing to do with sports.
“I think I’ll be off the road more,” Tirico said. “To be absolutely candid, that is part of what factors into a decision here. In addition to the incredible assignments, is the opportunity to cut back a little bit in terms of the number of nights on the road.”