sports 5 days ago

Is Tony Romo moving to ESPN's 'Monday Night Football'? 10 million reasons why the modern Madden could leave CBS

Sporting News — (Tom Gatto)

John Madden left "Monday Night Football" for NBC's "Sunday Night Football" after the 2005 season. Disney/ESPN/ABC still hasn't found a successor who can engage and inform as well as he could.

Tony Romo is the closest thing to Madden at the moment, which is why it wasn't a surprise to see a report Sunday by Front Office Sports' Michael McCarthy that the Four-Letter Network is ready to offer Romo a record eight-figure contract to jump from CBS in the spring. For that kind of money, the "MNF" gig would have to be in play. So would a potential Super Bowl assignment should Disney secure rights to a game.

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According to McCarthy's sources, ESPN would increase Romo's annual salary to between $10 million and $14 million. The New York Post's Andrew Marchand reported last week that Romo is making just over $3 million a year on his expiring CBS deal. 

The former Cowboys quarterback is about to become a prized free agent after three seasons as CBS's top NFL game analyst, paired with play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz. Romo has shown an unparalleled ability to read in real time what plays teams are about to run, and his on-air enthusiasm remains high, though not as manic as when he started, and sounds genuine.

Romo's all-around game would allow him to clear a relatively low post-Madden "MNF" analyst bar: Joe Theismann, Tony Kornheiser, Ron Jaworski, Jon Gruden, Jason Witten and Anthony "Booger" McFarland have served in the role since Madden's departure. McFarland occupies it at the moment alongside PBP announcer Joe Tessitore. Those are all serious football/journalism people, but only Gruden's personality in the booth approached Madden's.

The "MNF" production in recent years has been an exercise in distracting viewers from the fact it no longer gets the best prime-time matchups; NBC does for its Sunday night team of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth. Romo would add buzz to the series as a modern Madden. Can he add enough new eyeballs to justify the money, though? It appears ESPN is desperate to find out.