Monday Night Football tried a Cowboy, a comic, a columnist and a Cosell. To fill the latest vacancy in the broadcast booth, ESPN went with a winning formula — a coach, and a Super Bowl champion at that.
Fresh off getting fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jon Gruden was hired to replace Tony Kornheiser this season.
The snarl-for-snarky swap came after Kornheiser cited a fear of flying in his decision to leave after three years. The same fear beset one of the most popular MNF announcers ever, John Madden, who retired from his TV career last month.
Gruden has spent his entire adult life coaching football and said this job would give him an “opportunity to see things from a different angle.”
“Kind of like it’s halftime of my life,” the 45-year-old Gruden said Monday on a conference call. “Unfortunately, I don’t know many things about other aspects of life.”
Gruden won the 2003 title with the Bucs, and there’s no telling how long he’ll stay away from the field. Neither he nor Norby Williamson, ESPN’s executive vice president of production, would directly answer how long Gruden’s contract lasts, or whether he was free to leave for an NFL post if one is offered.
“Maybe I can hang in and keep this job for a while,” Gruden said, later adding, “I dearly miss coaching.”
Gruden will join Mike Tirico and Ron Jaworski when the show starts its 40th season this fall. Gruden will make his debut with a preseason game Aug. 13, a Super Bowl rematch between the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers.
MNF has used all sorts of personalities over the years, dating to its debut on ABC. Gruden recalled watching in the days when Howard Cosell and Don Meredith shared the booth, and comedian Dennis Miller’s stint led to Kornheiser’s run.
Kornheiser still will appear on ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption.” Williamson emphasized it was Kornheiser’s choice to leave and said MNF did not consider replacing him with a nonfootball type.
Steeler to skip D.C. trip
Pittsburgh — James Harrison plans to pass on another trip to the White House.
Harrison, the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, says he’ll skip the Super Bowl champion’s visit to the White House to meet President Barack Obama on Thursday, just as he did when the Steelers were honored by President George W. Bush in June 2006.
“I don’t feel the need to go, actually,” Harrison told Pittsburgh station WTAE-TV. “I don’t feel like it’s that big a deal to me.”
Whitner to present evidence
Orchard Park, N.Y. — Buffalo Bills defensive back Donte Whitner said he has videotaped evidence showing he did nothing wrong during an altercation with police outside a Cleveland nightclub.
Speaking after a voluntary practice Monday, Whitner added he is confident charges against him could be dropped as early as today.
Eagles aide takes leave
Philadelphia — Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson took a leave of absence while he continues treatment for a cancerous tumor on his spine.
Vick to be confined
Richmond, Va. — Even though Michael Vick is leaving prison this week, he won’t exactly be free.
For two months, the suspended NFL star will be largely confined to his Hampton, Va., home and will wear an electronic monitor that allows federal probation officials to track his movements.
He will be allowed to go to his full-time construction job and likely will be allowed about five hours a week for other court-approved activities.
Super Bowl spots reviewed
New Orleans could get back in the Super Bowl rotation this week.
NFL owners will award the 2013 Super Bowl to either New Orleans, Glendale, Ariz., or South Florida — where their spring meetings will take place in Fort Lauderdale.
And while nothing as definitive as selecting a Super Bowl site is expected, the owners could vote on a proposal to expand the regular season to 17 or 18 games, with a reduction in the preseason that would keep the overall total, minus playoffs, at 20 matches.
Owens joins Bills practice
Orchard Park, N.Y. — No stranger to attention, Terrell Owens drew plenty of it Monday for the start of the Buffalo Bills’ voluntary minicamps. The wide receiver joined his new teammates at practice for the first time since signing with the Bills in March.