The NFL playoffs are coming to cable and Jon Gruden is coming to the NFL playoffs.
For the first time in its 35-year history, ESPN will broadcast an NFL playoff game. It was announced Tuesday that the Monday Night Football network will air one wild card game in January 2015 as part of an eight-year extension that began this spring. The usual MNF crew of Gruden, Mike Tirico and Lisa Salters will be on the call.
"We're thrilled to televise our first Wild Card playoff game and we thank the NFL for the opportunity," ESPN President John Skipper said in a statement.
ESPN's game will be taken from NBC's usual slate of two wild card Saturday kickoffs. NBC, in turn, will air a divisional playoff game for the first time since reacquiring NFL rights in 2006. That divisional playoff game will alternate every year between an NFC (taken from Fox) and AFC (taken from CBS) game.
Since it's NBC's turn in the Super Bowl rotation, this means the Sunday Night Football network will air games on three of the four playoff weekends in 2015. More Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth? That's a nice consolation for an additional weekend of Jon Gruden shouting about "spider two Y banana."
If January seems busy at NBC, the folks at ESPN will have their hands full too. In addition to its first ever NFL playoff game, the network will air all three games of the inaugural college football playoff in the opening weeks of 2015.
The NFL's playoff television announcement comes days before the expected release of the 2014 schedule, which will include the first-ever Thursday night package on network television. It also precedes future discussions about an expanded playoff field.