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ESPN Facing Several Decisions on ‘Sunday NFL Countdown’ Crew

Sean McVay told NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport that he’ll return to the Los Angeles Rams for 2022, but ESPN reportedly wants him as an analyst if he decides to leave coaching.

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ESPN’s Sunday Night Countdown could have a very different look next season, depending on the contractual situations of several .

In his Sports Clicker newsletter (subscribe here), the New York Post’s Andrew Marchand reports that Randy Moss, Matt Hasselbeck, and Samantha Ponder are nearing the end of their contracts.

This could provide opportunities for the names that are reportedly being pursued for analyst positions during the postseason. Those rumblings figure to gain heat now that the 2021 NFL season is officially finished.

Sean Payton might be better suited for a studio analyst role if he intends to return to coaching after a year off. And though Sean McVay told NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport that he’ll return to the Los Angeles Rams for the 2022 season (his contract runs through 2023), Marchand reports that ESPN definitely wants him as an analyst if he decides to leave coaching after winning Super Bowl LVI. (Pete Carroll was the third name mentioned by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler in a report last month.)

Both Alex Smith and Robert Griffin III earned praise from critics and fans for their work this past season, and could be up for spots on Sunday NFL Countdown.

Marchand reports that Booger McFarland and Brian Griese also have expiring contracts, which could affect additional shows including NFL Primetime and Monday Night Football, along with ESPN/ABC’s college football coverage.

ESPN could also move some talent from NFL Live, which was revitalized with its new regular crew of Laura Rutledge, Marcus Spearks, Dan Orlovsky, and Mina Kimes. But as Marchand points out, that carries considerable risk. If, for example, the network moved Rutledge to replace Ponder on Sunday, that would diminish a successful daily program which has more appeal with viewers.

One name that could add some sizzle to Sunday NFL Countdown is Ryan Clark, whose profile continues to rise at ESPN and warrants a larger role. In a December interview with The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch, Clark said he wants to be on a Sunday studio show, which he considers the highest-profile job in his profession.

Clark signed an extension with ESPN a year ago and surely doesn’t want to see a popular personality who appears across network programming (Get Up, SportsCenter, First Take, in addition to NFL Live) go elsewhere. Now, the opportunity appears to be available to give him the Sunday studio role he covets.

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Warriors Fans Throw Objects At Charles Barkley On Inside the NBA Set

“Barkley yelled back at the crowd but never actually left the set.”

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TNT/Larry Brown Sports

Charles Barkley is no stranger to being the object of fans’ ire. The cities of San Antonio and Cleveland have a history of being the butt of the Round Mound of Rebound’s jokes. Thursday night in San Francisco, fans of the Warriors took things to a different level, throwing objects at Barkley on the Inside the NBA set.

The TNT studio show was broadcasting live from outside the Chase Center. The crowd chanted “Chuck, you suck!” at Barkley before the game. After Golden State clinched a birth in the NBA Finals, things got physical.

Fans threw things at the set, including a rolled-up t-shirt, which hit Charles Barkley in the back of the head. That resulted in Barkley leaving his seat and bowing up to the audience.

“Come on Chuck!” Ernie Johnson pleaded as Kenny Smith repeatedly said “Sit down Chuck.”

Barkley yelled back at the crowd but never actually left the set.

Now that the Western Conference Finals are over, TNT’s NBA schedule has concluded. That doesn’t mean Charles Barkley won’t return to San Francisco for the NBA Finals, but it is highly unlikely given the reception he has received there.

Barkley spent most of the postseason telling Golden State fans they were annoying and need to shut up and saying the city of San Francisco has “dirty ass streets”.

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Jon Miller To Call MLB Sunday Leadoff Game On Peacock

“According to a press release, Jason Benetti has a scheduling conflict.”

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Rich Eisen Show

Legendary play-by-play man Jon Miller will be returning to the national broadcast booth on Sunday. He will call the San Francisco Giants vs. Cincinnati Reds game for Peacock. He’ll be joined in the booth by Barry Larkin and Shawn Estes.

According to a press release, Jason Benetti has a scheduling conflict. Benetti, the regular play-by-play voice of Peacock’s MLB Sunday Leadoff, is also the television voice of the Chicago White Sox. NBC Sports Chicago has prioritized this weekend’s series between the White Sox and Cubs, making Benetti unavailable to the national broadcast.

Miller has been calling Giants games since 1997 and previously shared the Sunday Night Baseball booth on ESPN with hall of famer Joe Morgan.

The broadcast, called MLB Sunday Leadoff, will begin at 11 a.m. with pregame coverage hosted by Ahmed Fareed. The game broadcast begins at 11:30 a.m.

The game will take place in an exclusive two-hour broadcast window prior to the start of the rest of the league’s day of games.

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Amazon Eyeing Pat McAfee For Thursday Night Football Megacast

“No deal is done yet. A source tells McCarthy that it hinges on McAfee’s very busy schedule, but a Megacast is appealing to the former punter.’

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First it was the Mannings. Now it’s McAfee. Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports reports that Pat McAfee could be at the center of an alternate broadcast of Thursday Night Football on Amazon in the 2022 season.

No deal is done yet. A source tells McCarthy that it hinges on McAfee’s very busy schedule, but a Megacast is appealing to the former punter.

Rumors of Amazon’s interest in McAfee began to bubble up last month. While he never directly addressed them, he did make mention on his show that he was “up to something” and insinuated that Amazon wasn’t the only company he was talking to.

McAfee has said on his show in the past that he wants to be part of an NFL broadcast. However, he is firm in that it would not be in the broadcast booth.

“I can’t call games. Not yet,” McAfee said on a show in February. “Have to be done with this show to call games. Because that’s like a 3-day, 4-day thing.” 

In addition to his daily show, McAfee is also committed to the WWE. He is on the road for Smackdown every Friday.

There is no word on exactly what a Pat McAfee-centered broadcast would look like. When reports first came out regarding discussions with McAfee, Ryan Glasspiegel of The New York Post reported that moving The Pat McAfee Show to Amazon was on the table. If that happens, it would make sense to use his entire crew on the Thursday Night Football presentation.

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