With Dan Dierdorf's departure from "Monday Night Football," one of the most prominent broadcasting jobs is vacant.
It may not be filled.
ABC may return to a two-man booth on "MNF" for the first time in 13 years, back when Al Michaels teamed with Frank Gifford.
"Most booths in the NFL are two-man," said Jim Nantz, the "NFL Today" host. "It's not that unusual. We've come to be accustomed to the three-man booth in prime time, but it's the exception and not the rule."
Michaels and Gifford each were established veterans when they were paired. Boomer Esiason just completed his rookie stint after replacing Gifford, to mixed reviews.
"Maybe ABC came to the conclusion that this three-man booth wasn't working and another one would be a risk, and Al Michaels and Boomer Esiason would be a better two-man," said Neal Pilson, the former president of CBS Sports.
"I think Boomer is coachable and can improve, but they need to work with him," Pilson added. "He needs to be more insightful. There wasn't much humor or entertainment this year."
If Esiason doesn't show progress, his faults would be magnified with Michaels as his only partner.
Fred Fried, Esiason's agent, said the ex-quarterback has fielded inquiries from several teams about returning to the field. But Esiason wants to stay upstairs.
If ABC does go with a third man in the booth, it will likely cost the network about $1 million per season.
The leading candidates:
-- Paul Maguire is the ideal -- and safe -- choice. He has been an analyst for two Super Bowls with NBC, he adds humor and is insightful. Maguire Currently works Sunday night games and has already had success bringing along one blond former QB, Phil Simms.
-- Sterling Sharpe has been grabbing most of the headlines, but he has been a studio analyst for three years and pairing him with Esiason would put far too much inexperience in the booth. It would be a major risk for NFL's biggest showcase.
-- Joe Theismann is knowledgeable, but he and Esiason would battle for airtime -- much as Boomer and Dierdorf did.
-- Tom Jackson is more of a football guy and is the favorite to replace Gifford as the co-host of the pregame show. He offers a blend of humor and football savvy.
CONTRACT DISPUTE: Jerry Glanville jumped from his job as an NFL analyst at Fox to a spot with the revamped CBS pregame show on Wednesday. That was a complete shock to Fox, which believes it has an agreement for a four-year contract.
Glanville said neither he nor Fox signed the deal, which he called a "suicide contract." According to the outspoken former NFL coach, the deal had an option after each season.
"After this season, they had until June 1 to decide whether they wanted to bring me back. Next year it was July 31 and the final year it was in August. That's not a contract -- it's suicide. By June 1, there are no jobs out there if they decide to let me go."
Glanville's former agent, Ed Hookstratten, negotiated the deal with Fox and has said that he has a written agreement between the two parties.
"Neither one of us signed it," Glanville said. "If he's got a document with my signature, I promise you the FBI will be called in -- because it's a forgery."
Glanville will team with Nantz, Craig James and Randy Cross -- once CBS finds a replacement for Cross as its No. 2 analyst.
TUBE BITS: The seventh annual ESPY Awards are Monday at 7:30 p.m. EST on ESPN. Samuel L. Jackson is host. ... NASCAR's Daytona 500, the highest-rated auto racing event the past three years, is on CBS Sunday at noon. ... ESPN2 will televise Toronto's final game at the Maple Leaf Gardens, the NHL's oldest arena, Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ... ABC will air the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Saturday. The men's competition with begin at 4 p.m. while the women's, featuring Michelle Kwan, starts at 9 p.m. ... The 1999 Women's World Cup draw for will be shown at halftime of the FIFA World All-Stars and U.S. Women's National Team game Sunday at 8 p.m. ... Ken Venturi, the longest-serving TV analyst in sports history, will receive the PGA Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism on April 7.
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