From the Los Angeles Times
NFL Could Go for Two
Source says the league and ESPN are seriously considering opening the Monday night schedule with a doubleheader.
By Sam Farmer
Times Staff Writer
February 11, 2006
With a change of networks coming, the NFL is poised to do something with "Monday Night Football" it has done only once before: stage a doubleheader.
An NFL source said the league and ESPN are giving "serious consideration" to opening the 2006 Monday schedule with two games, one beginning at 3 p.m. and the second at 6 p.m. Pacific time. The league staged a similar doubleheader in Week 2 last fall so the New Orleans Saints, displaced in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, could play their "home" opener at Giants Stadium.
This fall, "Monday Night Football" will move from ABC to ESPN, which paid $8.8 billion to buy the rights to the program for the next eight seasons. Because the NFL does not have a Monday game in Week 17, and because ESPN was promised 17 games a season, the network has the rights to an extra game. Additionally, that extra game cannot be played on a Thursday or Saturday because the NFL Network owns broadcast rights to those.
The NFL will announce its 2006 schedule in April. If the league keeps with recent tradition, the Pittsburgh Steelers, as Super Bowl champions, will play host to the season-opening Thursday night game.
In last season's doubleheader, the Saint-Giant game kicked off 1 1/2 hours before the previously scheduled Monday game between Washington and Dallas. When the Redskin-Cowboy game began, the Saint-Giant game was switched to ESPN in all markets except New York and New Orleans.
In the format being considered for the 2006 Monday opener, both games would be aired in their entirety. The source said ESPN's No. 1 broadcast team â€” Mike Tirico, Joe Theismann and Tony Kornheiser â€” would work the later game.
Al Michaels, originally expected to join Theismann in a two-man booth, was allowed out of his play-by-play contract by ESPN. A member of the "Monday Night Football" team since 1986, Michaels will join John Madden, his former ABC broadcast partner, for NBC's coverage of Sunday night games.