The Monday Night Football ManningCast has quickly changed the way I’ve watched sporting events.
Having the Manning brothers chop it up in the game’s alternate broadcast, giving instant analysis (and disappointment from Peyton) with some A+ guests has been lightning in a bottle just two weeks into the season.
There are stories on stories on stories. The brothers show the public the tiny intricacies of each play with plenty of jokes along the way. They aren’t bound to a traditional play-by-play voice, so they can go off on tangents and talk a little bit of crap along the way too.
ESPN has done a nice job with some of these alternate live sportscasts, namely during the College Football national championship. Turn on ABC and you’ll get Rece and Kirk. Turn on ESPN and you’ll get a bunch of college coaches with live reaction. Turn on ESPN 2 and you’ll see the Skycam view of the game. Turn on ESPNews and you’ll see Bill Walton in an Uncle Sam costume.
Something for everyone.
But the Manning brothers are a whole different level.
I’m like Dwight Shrute with his megadesk on this broadcast. I’m here for it, and I hope it continues all year.
Aside from some DraftKings and fantasy implications, most Monday Night Football Games were background noise in our household.
Now, it’s must-watch TV.
And I’m not the only one who feels this way.
Wow. I feel stunned, as the social media chatter apparently translated to TV numbers.
The second "ManningCast" on ESPN2 last night around "Monday Night Football" averaged 1.86 million viewers. That is +132% from the debut effort in Week 1 (800,000 viewers).
— Austin Karp (@AustinKarp) September 21, 2021
Which got me thinking…
Could we create Arizona sports versions of the ManningCast for local broadcasts?
We’ll probably see some networks try to create their own spin on the broadcast, but it won’t be to the level of ManningCast. The obvious chemistry – they are brothers after all – and ability to walk a tightrope between in-depth analysis and humor will be imitated, but never duplicated.
But that didn’t stop me from going down a deep dive to see which pairs could be must-watch if Arizona teams wanted to try their hand at the ManningCast format.
Each of these selections have two former players or coaches who could provide insight and entertainment to make for some fun broadcasts with their own flavor.
Also, since networks are always looking for the next great broadcaster, I provided active players, coaches and other personnel who would fit in that role beautifully whenever they decide to move on from the sport. Some of them may not currently be with an Arizona team, but they have been linked to Arizona at one time. They are “the next generation.”
One final rule: I didn’t take anyone who is currently on a consistent local in-game broadcast. That means no Ron Wolfley for the Cardinals. No Eddie Johnson for the Suns. No Jordan Simone for ASU football. No Kyle Dodd for ASU hoops. No Luis Gonzalez for the Diamondbacks. No Tyson Nash for the Yotes.
They are great at what they do, but it felt like a little too much of a cop-out since they are already behind the mic and familiar voices in the state.
Pre-game and post-game hosts and analysts are fair game, though, since this is a different assignment for them.
Let’s get to it:
Arizona Cardinals – Anquan Boldin and Darnell Dockett
These two Florida State alums and Arizona Cardinal greats would BRING IT every Sunday. Can you imagine Dockett’s reaction and analysis while Chandler Jones racks up five sacks in Week 1? What about Anquan Boldin’s thoughts on lining up for a quarterback like Kyler Murray? Where did the origin of Darnell Dockett’s nicknames, Nine-0 and “Fart Box” come from? (Yes, that’s a thing.)
The stories these two have – whether it’s Q’s early years with the Cardinals or Dockett’s police evasion before the 2008 NFC Championship game – would keep Bird Gang members glued to any game.
Both of these guys can also speak on topics far beyond the field to give viewers an inside look at the life and challenges facing NFL players.
The Next Generation – Bruce Arians and DJ Humphries
We witnessed Arians as a broadcaster for a season before he took over as Tampa Bay’s head coach. When a microphone gets in front of B.A., fun things happen. Need a reminder?
Us reporters knew we were getting quote gold at the time, but I still think we took it for granted a little bit. The media availabilities were always entertaining and we could not share the quotes fast enough.
Speaking of entertaining and insightful, D.J. Humphries has that similar level of authenticity when he speaks with media. How about pairing him back up with his coach who had an interesting way to motivate him?
Humphries is well beyond the unflattering nickname B.A. gave him and he’s known as one of the best offensive tackles in the game. These two would not hold back on what they see in a game or on each other if they were teamed up once they both retired.
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) September 14, 2021
Diamondbacks – Mark Grace & Orlando Hudson
“Storytime with Gracie” is one of the best thing Bally Sports AZ has put together in recent years. The D-backs pre and postgame analyst is very good at breaking down the game, but he’s at his best when telling stories from his playing days. Whether it’s a Manning or a guest, these broadcasts are full of story opportunities and Grace is not short on that ammo.
O-Dog’s personality shown through on some Diamondback teams that were chocked full of personality. He hasn’t slowed down in that regard. One of the most fun portions of spring training is hearing Hudson – who works with the team in player development – go back and forth with others on the coaching staff. Pairing these two up would make a game fly by.
The Next Generation – Archie Bradley, Andrew Chafin & Jake Lamb
These three were so fun together. Bradley and Lamb lived together while with the Diamondbacks and are not shy about the brotherly jabs they would trade during interviews. Chafin could broadcast from his RV or help build the set himself. The three could go over grooming tips while breaking down the game.
Phoenix Suns – Charles Barkley and Jared Dudley
Was anyone really going to say another name other than Charles Barkley? Chuck brings the laughs every broadcast on TNT’s studio show and can go the perfect amount of off-track to keep things fun. Plus, he’s already jumped on the ManningCast and fit right in.
“There’s no place for no slow, 6’10” guys in the NFL.”
Charles Barkley on what positions Larry Bird and other NBA legends would play in the NFL 😂 pic.twitter.com/rtvGxmMSKT
— ESPN (@espn) September 14, 2021
Dudley is a fan favorite from his time in Phoenix and a must-listen when he is back in town or calls into a local radio station. He also brings some athletic hands to the mix. He wouldn’t be trampled by the aura of Barkley’s personality, either. These two could mix it up and have some fun.
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) July 10, 2021
The Next Generation – Deandre Ayton and Jae Crowder
With the current Suns roster, you really could not miss with any of these players. Book, CP3, Mikal: This group is not short on personality at all.
We went with Ayton and Crowder because Deandre tells it like it is. When he plays subpar, he acknowledges it. When he knows he’s going to be the No. 1 pick in the draft, he lets you know. He’s also goofy and walks that line of having fun on the court and ramping up when he needs to.
Crowder brings a similar flavor on the court and in front of the microphone. As a veteran enforcer and antagonizer, can you imagine the stories he has of battles in the paint against some of the NBA’s best?
I want stories about the salsa move, the LeBron meme and every standoff the public didn’t see.
Jae Crowder got tossed for this salsa move in front of LeBron 👀🕺 pic.twitter.com/Em1ol1YKJ6
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) June 4, 2021
Phoenix Mercury – Jennifer Gillom & Michele Timms
Michele Timms is one of the OG Phoenix Mercury members and was one of the most recognizable players early on in the franchise’s tenure. Since her playing days, she coached in her native Australia and for the Chinese national women’s basketball team. She currently runs the Michele Timms Basketball Academy in Australia.
Gillom has played in the WNBA, played for Team USA, coached for Team USA, coached the Minnesota Lynx and coached at Xavier College Prep in Phoenix, among many other accomplishments. She has had her fingerprints on the basketball scene in the state, across the country and internationally as well and would provide some great perspective to a broadcast.
Paired up with Timms, her former teammate for the Mercury, Gillom wouldn’t need to drag her along like she did in this video with Jason Kidd.
Next Generation: Diana Taurasi & Skylar Diggins-Smith
Could. You. Imagine?
Two of the best soundbites out there. Unfiltered. Stories left and right. It would be incredible.
They call DT “The G.O.A.T.” for a reason, but it’s not just on the court. She’s an elite interview and has been for quite some time. Sometimes it’s FCC appropriate. Sometimes it’s not.
Diggins-Smith’s introductory press conference is still one of my favorite media availabilities I’ve been a part of. She talked about the expectations of winning, trying to beat Taurasi to the gym for their first workout and returning to the court after becoming a mother. She covered so many topics in just 10 minutes. She’s funny, thoughtful and tapped in on where the league is now and in the future.
Skylar Diggins-Smith was asked if she was stressed about the high expectations of playing with the Mercury. pic.twitter.com/pxgq9VgQGq
— Jordan Hamm (@JordyHamm) March 8, 2020
While we’re on the topic, no one is vying for DT and Seattle Storm star Sue Bird to retire anytime soon. But when they do, networks should be lining up for them to have their own at-home broadcasts calling any hoops available. Pros, college, men’s, women’s, dunk contests, beer pong, whatever. Get some vino in them and watch the greatness unfold.
Example No. 279 why Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi’s friendship is so great: Game 2 of the 2018 WNBA semifinals edition pic.twitter.com/Bk1aY4FR1H
— Alexa Philippou (@alexaphilippou) April 8, 2020
Arizona Coyotes – Shane Doan & Bissonnette
Captain Coyote and Biz Nasty getting into hijinks? What else could you ask for?
Having the most beloved Yote on the broadcast is a no-brainer. Having the most entertaining third-liner in franchise history is an equally easy decision. At least in this partnership, the two would be equals and Biz wouldn’t be the caddy in this situation. But seriously, these two have a great rapport and don’t mind making or being the butt of jokes at any point in the broadcast. This was an easy one to chalk up when making this list.
Shane Doan, Paul Bissonnette add hockey flair to Waste Management Phoenix Open Pro-Am pic.twitter.com/a29lk46po9
— azcentral (@azcentral) February 1, 2020
Next Generation – Jakob Chychrun & Howler
Ok, so this one is tough. There have been A LOT of trades and new faces for the Coyotes this offseason. We went with Chychrun because he usually gives a thoughtful yet straight-forward interview. But in the video below, he shows some of his personality, and it’s mesmerizing. We’d absolutely watch some acrobatics and analysis during a Yotes game. Throw Howler in for good measure to add to the fun.
"Ok, so I've never cheered before, so what?" 🤷♂️
— NHL (@NHL) August 4, 2019
Arizona Basketball – Channing Frye and Richard Jefferson
This was the easiest duo to come up with. Two of the best to come out of Arizona high school basketball and the University of Arizona, plus they’re NBA champions. They’re best friends (or acquaintances depending on who you ask), and they love talking crap to each other.
This is a missed opportunity on so many fronts if this doesn’t happen at least once.
If you’re not familiar with their dynamic, just take a look:
We need all of this for a two-hour broadcast.
The Next Generation: Sam Thomas & Rem Bakamus
Thomas is All Pac-12 and the Pac-12 Scholar Athlete of the Year. She’s an insightful interview who has a flair for the dramatic and clearly is a good teammate. (She needs to shoot more, according to her teammates). Listening to her break down a game would be a ton of fun.
Aari McDonald, Trinity Baptiste and Sam Thomas reflect on Arizona's win over UW and Sam's six 3s.
Aari: "The message was just to have fun. This is our last home game here."
Sam: "My teammates always tell me to shoot more, so I felt like on Senior Night I might as well listen." pic.twitter.com/qTBpq4C3wX
— Ryan Kelapire (@RKelapire) February 14, 2021
If you aren’t familiar with Bakamus, he is the director of player development for Tommy Lloyd. Bakamus played for Lloyd at Gonzaga and won a national title as a grad assistant at Baylor this past year. While the guard only played 97 minutes in his four years at Gonzaga, he has a very particular set of skills that could make for some great segments. I’ll let the nation’s hardest-working reporter explain:
Arizona State Basketball – Eddie House & Jeff Ayres
A few of the best to ever come out of the Sun Devil program. Eddie House is the program’s all-time leader in scoring and steals. Look at the ASU record books and Eddie’s name is at or near the top in nearly every category. Now as a broadcaster, he also is bringing great perspective every time he is on the air.
Eddie House was spitting FACTS on FACTS about Russ man
Appreciate greatness. pic.twitter.com/GJiyXpnzoZ
— ⚡️ (@TheWestbrookEra) April 24, 2021
Ayres (formerly Pendergraph) was one of the most accomplished bigs for the Sun Devils, helping anchor the paint for a roster that featured James Harden and Derek Glasser. He won an NBA title and has played some international ball too. He was a key member of “the South Side,” the San Antonio Spurs’ deep bench and loved poking fun at himself and his teammates.
Jeff Ayers was one of the guys LeBron got excited about during the game. I asked Ayers if he has any history with James. “Just beating him in the Finals,” Ayers said with a smirk. (Ayers was with the Spurs from 2013-15)
— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) July 15, 2018
The Next Generation – Charli Turner Thorne & Zylan Cheatham
CTT is one of the best basketball minds out there and is an institution at ASU, entering her 25th season as the Devils’ leader. This video perfectly encapsulates who she is. After all she’s accomplished building ASU into a top team in the conference and a regular to the WNCAA tournament, she still doesn’t take herself too seriously. You always feel like you learn something after an interview with her. I doubt she’s hanging up the whistle anytime soon, but she would be tremendous and fun breaking down a game.
— Sun Devil WBB (@SunDevilWBB) June 21, 2021
Zylan Cheatham didn’t have a long tenure in Tempe, but he made an impact. Shelling out consistent 20+ rebound nights and hunkering down defensively, he quickly became a fan and media favorite because he brought energy and thoughtfulness to everything he did. Get him broadcasting or on a podcast the second he’s done in the NBA.
“This is like a fairytale ending… Hopefully I set a legacy that keeps going on.”@SunDevilHoops' senior Zylan Cheatham connects with @TheAndyKatz after advancing to Round 1! #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/3JhmCH9L3t
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 21, 2019
Arizona State Football – Terrell Suggs & Brandon Magee
The founder of Ball So Hard University has never been short on notable quotes and on-camera charisma.
Watching this Sun Devil legend react live to a game and reminisce about the glory days in Tempe would be an easy choice for ASU fans. If the game is slow, Sizzle could rate all 24 sacks he notched in 2002 at ASU.
"It's been 10 years? Lord have mercy!"
Terrell Suggs talks about getting back in the end zone. pic.twitter.com/jRpRKYnRJ3
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) November 25, 2018
Magee did it all at ASU: star linebacker, outfielder on the baseball field, go-to soundbite, vocal leader. He’s now in Hollywood as an executive producer, telling his mother’s life story through film. He’s still a ball of energy and you want to run through a wall after a few minutes talking to him. These two together would be a blast.
Next Generation – Chase Lucas & Frank Darby
Chase Lucas has been a great soundbite since he was at Chandler High School and a go-to player for a thought-out, straight-up quote for the last half-decade with ASU. It didn’t matter if he was a freshman or a senior, reporters always gravitated to his scrum interviews. If he wanted to broadcast post-playing career, he totally could.
He’ll let you know when he likes or respects an opponent. He’ll let you know when he doesn’t like another team (a certain team in Tucson), but I don’t know if he hates any opponent as much as he hates the prospect of morning games.
ASU opens it's season at USC with a 9am kickoff (10am AZ time).
— Chierstin Susel (@ChierstinSusel) October 3, 2020
Darby, the current Atlanta Falcon, is energy in a solid state. A super saiyan fueled by toe drags and sweet tea. Even after losses, he would find a positive to hone in on while flashing his signature grin. He would come off of games that were absolute brawls, grind ’em out slogs that I was tired from watching without any hint of fatigue. I would think he could do a full college football Saturday slate and not blink.
Frank Darby forever a mood. pic.twitter.com/Q4zByYKJKH
— House of Sparky (@HouseOfSparky) October 8, 2019
Arizona Football – Lance Briggs & Scooby Wright
A few Arizona linebackers would make for an uncut and intriguing broadcast.
“Two Star Scoob” is not afraid to share his opinion on when things are going well or not so well in Tucson. He played with a reckless abandon in Tucson and would keep things real with every single person watching.
— Scooby Wright III (@TwoStarScoob) September 19, 2021
Briggs was one of the great linebackers in Tucson before playing his entire NFL career in Chicago. He transitioned to a broadcaster after his retirement, where he didn’t mince words when the Bears were struggling. Briggs and Scoob together would be as authentic a broadcast as it comes, and I’m sure there are some great stories from these Wildcat gladiators.
Next Generation – Don Brown and Rob Gronkowski
This could be a bit of an odd couple, but so much fun.
Arizona’s defensive coordinator has not been in Tucson long, but has already been incredible every time he meets with the media. I was first introduced to Don Brown’s soundbite prowess on the University of Michigan’s “All or Nothing” season. It was a fine season, but Coach Brown was the MVP. Every time he was on camera, it was a remarkable interaction with one of his players.
He has not disappointed since coming to Arizona.
“All I’m doing is creating chaos. If they can’t handle the chaos on the practice field … How are they gonna handle playing on Saturday?”
Arizona DC Don Brown is amazing. pic.twitter.com/5DSQ3T8Mmk
— Justin Spears (@JustinESports) August 7, 2021
Pairing him with a guy like Gronk?
Who knows where these broadcasts could go.
"No, I don't. I just run by guys."
—Gronk on if he watches film 😅
📺: MNF w/ Peyton and Eli on ESPN2 pic.twitter.com/Nw7KSFBWi2
— ESPN (@espn) September 21, 2021
This was a very fun rabbit hole to go down as live game broadcasts continue to transform
Have any good suggestions? Let us know on social media who your analysts would be!