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Kirk Herbstreit Reportedly Amazon’s Choice For ‘Thursday Night Football’

Calling Thursday Night Football, then doing College GameDay on Saturday, followed by a college football broadcast for ESPN or ABC is a lot to take on.

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Amazon has reportedly found its analyst for Thursday Night Football. According to NBC Sports’ Peter King, Kirk Herbstreit is the choice for the streaming platform and retailer. King reported the news in his weekly Football Morning in America column.

The decision comes a week after the New York Post‘s Andrew Marchand reported that Herbstreit was under consideration by Amazon after Troy Aikman signed with ESPN, Sean McVay decided to remain Los Angeles Rams coach, and San Francisco 49ers John Lynch declined the opportunity. (Former New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton was also reportedly in the mix, but those discussions apparently didn’t progress.)

According to King, Herbstreit will continue his current role with ESPN/ABC as the network’s top college football game analyst and commentator on Saturday pregame show College GameDay.

Marchand reported that Herbstreit’s contract might allow him to broadcast NFL games with another network while continuing to call college football for ESPN. But that depended on how Disney’s lawyers interpreted his current agreement. Judging from Amazon’s decision, however, Herbstreit’s deal allows for that very option.

As King says in his column, Herbstreit seems like an unusual choice considering most of his broadcasting experience is in college football. But he’s called some NFL games during the past few years and has said he was interested in calling both sports if the opportunity was available.

Herbstreit worked NFL Draft coverage for ESPN in 2018 and last year for ABC. He also called the first game of ESPN’s Monday Night Football doubleheader with regular play-by-play partner Chris Fowler to kick off the 2020 NFL season. And this past season, the duo called the first game of ESPN/ABC’s NFL Week 18 Saturday doubleheader.

The question now becomes who calls play-by-play alongside Herbstreit on Thursday Night Football. Amazon has pursued Al Michaels for the position, but ESPN is also interested in pairing him with Aikman on Monday Night Football. But if ESPN is somehow able to snatch Joe Buck away from Fox, Michaels will presumably go to Amazon.

The belief has been that Michaels prefers to work with an experienced analyst, rather than break in a first-timer like McVay or Payton. Herbstreit has mostly called college football, of course, but has plenty of experience broadcasting football, is a seasoned professional, and should work smoothly with Michaels.

Amazon surely wanted to make a big splash with its TNF broadcast team and Herbstreit is a different enough choice to be intriguing, even if he might not carry the same recognition among NFL fans as Aikman or attract the curiosity that McVay or Payton would have.

But as Marchand has said in some of his analysis of the story, Herbstreit is, above all, a broadcaster. By that measure, he’s arguably the best choice for the position among available analysts. He’s not a coach-turned-broadcaster. There’s no question as to whether or not he can do the job.

And while Herbstreit is a personality, especially with college football commentary, he’s an insightful, informative analyst who explains to the viewer what happened and why very clearly. Additionally, he explains what coaches and players are thinking on many plays based on his conversations with them throughout the week. He’s not afraid to be critical or protect people with whom he has relationships.

Yet Herbstreit’s workload will also be a question going into the upcoming football season. Calling Thursday Night Football, then doing College GameDay on Saturday, followed by a college football broadcast for ESPN or ABC is a lot to take on. Other NFL broadcasters like Aikman have called Thursday night and Sunday games. But Herbstreit would obviously have one less day to make the transition from the NFL to college football, and already has to deal with going from the GameDay location Saturday morning to the game he calls in the evening.

Some believed that his more controversial commentary during the last college football season was a result of him being asked to do too much, calling games then appearing on ESPN’s studio coverage, followed by another game broadcast. Could that be an issue as Herbstreit attempts to juggle both NFL and college football obligations? Perhaps, but he certainly appears eager for the opportunity.

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Whitlock: Ryan Clark Wanted More Than Mina Kimes

“The whole thing was about getting more than Mina Kimes. I wish he had the heart to just say that rather all the other performative stuff.”

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Jason Whitlock

One former ESPNer is alleging one of its talents wanted to make sure his new deal paid him more than a colleague. According to Jason Whitlock on X, Ryan Clark’s recent social media activity was all about securing a contract that was worth more than NFL analyst Mina Kimes’ deal:

For the uninitiated, Ryan Clark posted a lengthy video to his social media pages discussing the uncertainty of his future with ESPN, saying that his last deal with ESPN “wasn’t what he wanted” and that he “felt played.” This time around, he vowed things would be different, saying that he would, “leave no doubt that there was nobody in the world that was like [Clark].” That manifested in a new deal with ESPN, totaling over $2 million per year according to Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports, making him one of the highest-paid analysts at ESPN.

For what it’s worth, Kimes signed a deal in Sept. that pays her $1.7 million annually, meaning that Clark did wind up getting more than Kimes. However, it’s unknown if Kimes’ contract specifically was a sticking point for Clark or if he just simply wanted to be a top-X paid analyst within the company.

Outside of contributing to ESPN’s football coverage on NFL Live, he makes appearances on ESPN’s other shows, like First Take, Get Up, SportsCenter, and more. He is also the host of The CW’s Inside the NFL, a role that Clark admitted was something different. He also previously hosted an MMA show alongside former UFC heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier before it was revealed that “DC” would now host a new show alongside fellow UFC alum Chael Sonnen.

As part of Clark’s video, he mentioned his energy being finite, which may have led to his MMA show and other responsibilities going by the wayside as part of this new deal, but there has been no official word as to whether that’s the case or not.

“What I realized is, you only got so much to give, and all you can give is all the energy that God gives you,” Clark said. “And I did that, but I also learned that you run out. And at some point, you don’t have nothing left. I’d do whatever it took to get what I want, and that I’d work harder and longer now to work less and make more then. And I felt like I put myself in that spot.”

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Ryan Clark Reportedly Returning to ESPN

This past season, Clark appeared on a variety of programming centered around the National Football League, including NFL Live and Monday Night Countdown.

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Ryan Clark
Courtesy: Allen Kee, ESPN Images

ESPN NFL analyst Ryan Clark has reached a verbal agreement to remain at ESPN, extending his time at the network. This past season, Clark appeared on a variety of programming centered around the National Football League, including NFL Live and Monday Night Countdown. News of Clark deciding to remain at ESPN was first reported by Andrew Marchand of The Athletic. Additionally, Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports has reported that the deal will pay him over $2 million per year. ESPN confirmed the news on Monday afternoon, stating that he would continue his role across network programming.

Just days after the Super Bowl, Clark outlined how he wanted to prove his worth and leave no doubt the last time he signed an extension with ESPN three years ago. At the time, he felt he was worth more than what he received and set out to end the conversations about who he was in the sports media business. Although Clark’s contract expired before Super Bowl LVIII, he and the network agreed to extend it through the conclusion of the championship matchup.

During the NFL postseason, ESPN studio programming garnered multi-year peaks in viewership. Editions of NFL Live averaged 486,000 viewers over 14 programs between Jan. 9 and Jan. 26, rendering it the most-watched playoff run of the program in nine seasons. The Postseason NFL Countdown show featuring the Monday Night Countdown cast averaged 4.7 million viewers on ESPN and ABC ahead of the network’s broadcast of the divisional round matchup between the Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens on Saturday, Jan. 20.

Outside of his role at ESPN, Clark recently completed his first year hosting Inside the NFL on The CW. The Emmy award-winning weekly series moved to the network after it was dropped by Paramount+ last April and featured a new cast starring Jay Cutler, Chad Johnson, Chris Long and Channing Crowder. He and Crowder work alongside Fred Taylor on The Pivot podcast, an independent venture outside of ESPN. Clark balanced these roles with his ESPN obligations, which has also included appearances on programming such as Get Up, First Take and SportsCenter.

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ESPN Hires Jorge Castillo to Cover Yankees & Mets

“As someone who grew up consuming everything ESPN, this opportunity is truly a dream come true for me. I’m honored to join such a great baseball crew…”

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Jorge Ramos ESPN Beat Writer

Longtime Los Angeles Times writer Jorge Castillo will switch coasts and cover the New York Mets and Yankees for ESPN. The company announced the news earlier today, sharing that Castillo’s assignments will begin on ESPN.com today.

“As someone who grew up consuming everything ESPN, this opportunity is truly a dream come true for me,” Castillo said. “I’m honored to join such a great baseball crew and excited to work with so many talented people.”

According to ESPN, Castillo will, “contribute news, analysis, storytelling, and live event coverage on the Yankees and Mets, with additional national MLB coverage throughout the season and postseason. He will also contribute on TV and radio.”

Castillo is no stranger to the area, though — he previously covered baseball for the New York Times and the Star-Ledger in New Jersey. Now, he returns to cover the local clubs for the Worldwide Leader.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Jorge to ESPN’s baseball team. He’s covered some of baseball’s biggest franchises in some of its toughest markets, and we expect nothing less from him in New York,” said Rachel Ullrich, ESPN Deputy Editor for ESPN.com. “We can’t wait to add his incredible reporting, thoughtful analysis, and creative storytelling to our talented team.”

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