Ever since Peyton Manning retired following the 2015 season, we’d been hoping for Manning to jump into the broadcast booth. His remarkable mix of analytical takes and hysterical mannerisms would make for a fantastic listening experience over NFL games. For five years, we were left empty-handed. Just two years after Eli Manning retired, ESPN decided to let the Manning brothers loose on the rest of the NFL broadcasting world… and it was glorious!
Last night, ESPN2 let the fans view the Monday Night Football game from the perspective of both Peyton and Eli Manning. While Peyton took the lead (he was given a whole studio, whiteboard, and free range to analyze however he wanted), Eli came in with his version of color commentary, adding little tidbits and stories here and there to really spice up the broadcast. It was fun to see the two interact with one another in a brotherly type of way, mocking one another at points, mocking the teams playing, and bringing on guests from around the sports world just to chat.
The Manning broadcast, otherwise known as the MNF Megacast, gave viewers several different ways to watch the game. Personally, I tried three different ways: the normal ESPN broadcast, just the MNF Megacast, and my personal favorite, the normal ESPN broadcast turned all the way down with the Manning broadcast audio playing in the background.
Although I love seeing Peyton and Eli on my laptop and/or television screen, there were times throughout the beginning of the broadcast where Peyton and Eli were talking and the game wasn’t on the screen. That’s fine at moments, but as a fan, I’d like to see every second of every play, and on the MNF Megacast there were several times where the beginning of each snap was missed, and it felt like we were jumping in at the tail end of each down. As the broadcast wore on, the team got better at making sure every play was seen. However, the MNF Megacast just couldn’t match the energy I feel when watching a normal broadcast. So, therefore, watching the normal broadcast with the Mannings’ commentary on in the background felt like the way to go, and that was perfect! It felt like I was watching the game in a living room with Peyton, Eli, and whoever they brought on to talk to as well. It was like Peyton and Eli were the play-by-play and color commentators, but they weren’t told exactly what to do and would just go on tangents at times. It felt so natural.
I love the idea of the MNF Megacast being hosted by one of the most likable players in NFL history… and his brother. However, it was clear from the first broadcast that there were dozens of ways it could be improved. That’s the beauty of it. It was fantastic, and it could be even better. I just hope that ESPN doesn’t look at the success of the Megacast and think, “Oh, we don’t need to change it one bit.” That’s how it can become stale. At the same time, I don’t think ESPN needs to change its formula too much. In essence, ESPN needs to let fans see every bit of the game that they would from a normal broadcast while letting the Mannings continue to be themselves.
I look forward to seeing this broadcast continue to improve, and hey, who knows? We could be looking at the future of NFL commentary right now.