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Volume 24 No. 214
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ESPN's Matt Hasselbeck To Call Pro Bowl In What's Being Considered An "MNF" Audition

ESPN's Matt Hasselbeck is "getting the first crack" at replacing Jon Gruden in the "MNF" booth, as he will "handle analysis duties with play-by-play announcer Sean McDonough" for the Pro Bowl on Jan. 28, according to Mark Selig of the WASHINGTON POST. Despite "MNF" "losing prestige" in recent years, the color commentator position is "still a coveted role" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/13). YAHOO SPORTS' Frank Schwab wrote ESPN would not put Hasselbeck in the booth for its final NFL broadcast of the season if he "wasn’t a clear candidate to replace Gruden." Calling the game does not mean Hasselbeck will "get the full-time job, but he’s going to have a unique opportunity that no other candidate will get" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/12). In Dallas, Barry Horn noted Peyton Manning would be the "splashiest hire but he has shown little inclination to be tied to a booth." Hasselbeck, who is already a part of ESPN's "NFL Countdown" ensemble, would be a "solid if not quite sexy pick" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/13). In N.Y., Justin Terranova wrote of Hasselbeck's audition, "Finally, a reason to watch the Pro Bowl" (N.Y. POST, 1/13). In New Jesey, Mike Rosenstein noted ESPN "doesn't plan to announce a full-time replacement for Gruden until the spring." The net's Steve Young last week took his name out of consideration for the position (NJ.com, 1/12).

THREE'S A CROWD? In L.A., Tom Hoffarth wrote if ESPN wants a three-person booth on "MNF," one personality "openly campaigning for himself to be added to the crew is Stephen A. Smith, who could be the closest version to a Howard Cosell-type figure that might actually spark renewed interest in the franchise, unlike the outside-the-box hirings in the past like Dennis Miller or Tony Kornheiser" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 1/14).