Ready for some football, Esiason picks ABC booth QB wanted Bengals to give multi-year deal

January 19, 1998|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN SPORTS MEDIA CRITIC

In Boomer Esiason's mind, there are still two or three years of football left in his body, and if Cincinnati Bengals president Mike Brown had agreed, Esiason might be the Bengals' starting quarterback next season.

Instead, Esiason will join Al Michaels and Dan Dierdorf in ABC's broadcast booth for "Monday Night Football," a move the network formally announced yesterday after word of the move leaked out Friday.

Esiason, 36, who had a strong run at the end of the season in his second stint with the Bengals, said that the decision to leave football was "agonizing," but one that had to be made, given the considerable amount of interest he attracted from both ABC and CBS.

"This was the ultimate goal," said Esiason, a former Maryland standout who will replace Frank Gifford, who will be host of a new pre-game show for ABC. "I can't think of anybody who has been in my position to step off the field and step into something like 'Monday Night Football' who would pass it up."

At the same time, Esiason, who led a resurgent Cincinnati attack over the final five weeks of the season when he replaced Jeff Blake as the starter, said he would have returned to football if Brown had given him a sign that the Bengals were interested in him for more than next season.

"I didn't realize how little I meant to Mike Brown," Esiason said on a conference call yesterday. "He kept reminding me that if something like 'Monday Night Football' came up, that I should consider it. He was telling me in his own way that I should take it. He didn't have plans for me past next year."

Meanwhile, ABC approached Esiason with a sense of urgency after it renewed its contract with the NFL last week for up to eight years at $550 million per season.

Esiason, who also played for the New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals in his 14-year career, did studio work for ABC during the playoffs and has worked for CBS on occasion.

Esiason said yesterday that he had been contacted by CBS Sports President Sean McManus since CBS obtained the rights to the AFC last week. Steve Anderson, ABC's senior vice president in charge of production, said the network felt under the gun to get the man it wanted.

"Boomer was going to have to make a decision from a number of good choices and we knew that we did not have a lot of time to play around with that," said Anderson.

Michaels said: "We got someone of recent vintage and he couldn't be of more recent vintage. This is a trio that's going to be together for a long time."

Pub Date: 1/19/98

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