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It Looks Like Al, Dan And Boomer In Mnf Booth Gifford Moves To Pre-Game Host For Monday Night Football; Esiason Will Take His Place During Games

Associated Press

Boomer Esiason, who told the Cincinnati Bengals he will not return next season, will replace Frank Gifford in the broadcast booth for Monday Night Football.

Esiason, the Bengals’ starting quarterback at the end of the 1997 season, has an offer from ABC Sports that was simply too good to pass up, Bengals general manager Mike Brown said Friday.

“Late this afternoon, Boomer called and told us he had accepted the broadcasting position on ABC Monday Night Football and he’ll move on,” Brown said. “That came as an unexpected and unwelcome surprise for us.”

Esiason’s agent, Jerrold Colton, said he had not yet reached an agreement with ABC Sports. A network spokesman said a contract was being finalized Friday night, and confirmed Gifford would move from the broadcast booth after 27 years to become pregame host.

“Frank requested this so that he can spend more time with his family,” said ABC spokesman Mark Mandel.

Monday night games, always a 6 p.m. Pacific time fixture, will begin at 5:15 p.m. starting next season.

“We are grateful that Frank Gifford’s special insight and in-depth experience will be a cornerstone of ABC’s new pre-game show,” said Bob Iger, president of ABC Inc.

Esiason will join Monday Night Football holdovers Al Michaels and Dan Dierdorf.

The Bengals were hoping Esiason, 36, would return for another season as their quarterback after he replaced Jeff Blake and went 4-1 as a starter last season. He had said he would consider his options - including those in broadcasting - before deciding whether to retire.

“This is such a rare opportunity, he should take it. And I told him that,” Brown said. “He can ride this now and have a broadcast career starting at the very top. It would be the envy of almost anyone to start that way.”

Esiason led the Bengals to the Super Bowl and won the NFL’s Most Valuable Player honors in 1988. After four years with the New York Jets and Arizona, Esiason returned to Cincinnati as the backup quarterback, replaced Blake for the last five games and became one of the league’s hottest passers.

Brown said he offered Esiason a two-year contract worth $8 million to stay as the starter. It wasn’t enough.

Esiason was traveling to Vancouver, British Columbia, for the NHL All-Star game Friday and could not be reached.

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