An ESPN ax throw could have saved Rex Ryan, the crew of the Sunday NFL countdown


MIAMI – Earlier this season there was a buzz in the industry that ESPN could blow up its “Sunday NFL Countdown” show by the end of the year.

Hosts Sam Ponder and analysts Matt Hasselbeck and Rex Ryan started the season with expiring contracts.

During the summer, executives responsible for the show, Ponder, Hasselbeck, Ryan, Tedy Bruschi and Randy Moss, went on a chemical construction tour to Charlotte that involved throwing ax. The executives believe that this was a difference.

Well … wait … nobody seems to get the ax.

Ryan signs a new contract, ESPN vice president of production Seth Markman told The Post. Meanwhile, ESPN wants to keep Ponder and Hasselbeck in their roles.

After replacing Charles Woodson with Bruschi this season, ESPN hopes to sign new contracts with Ponder and Hasselbeck.

While Markman wouldn't go into it, Hasselbeck will likely have to accept a cut in wages. When Hasselbeck joined ESPN, the network applied to an NFL team, which drove up Hasselbeck's price. His exact salary is not known, but it is at least $ 2 million a year.

As for Ponder, Markman feels like she's gone to another level this season. She initially struggled to replace Chris Berman, which at the time also caused Tom Jackson, Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Trent Dilfer and Keyshawn Johnson to leave the show.

"We made too many changes," said Markman. "Last year we made a really positive change with Tedy."

Senior Coordniating Producer for ESPN's NFL studio features Seth Markman, Sam Ponder, NFL countdown presenter on Sunday, and Rex Ryan, analyst. Super Bowl 2020
Senior Coordniating Producer for ESPN's NFL studio features Seth Markman, Sam Ponder, NFL countdown presenter on Sunday, and Rex Ryan, analyst.Getty Images

In addition to Bruschi, Markman felt that the show had improved due to the team building experience that Ryan, Hasselbeck, Moss, Bruschi and top producers went to in Charlotte Axtwerfen. The next day, the on-air people added zip lining and white water rafting.

During the changes, Markman said he asked the new people to pretend they knew each other well.

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"I can take the blame for it, but for years I would say," We need you to have good chemistry, "said Markman." It's such a strange thing to tell people. "

But ESPN did not offer the space to create it, as was the case with the axes in Charlotte.

"I can literally fall back on it and say it's one of the best things we've done," said Markman.

After splitting some wood, Markman wants to hold everything together. Ryan is already there.

On the way up: Growing up in Shelton, CT when he was ten, Dan Orlovsky wrote in a notebook that he wanted to work for ESPN.

Now it's here – and on the rise. In his two years with ESPN, he has grown from a 12-year backup that has run out of end zone to a man you could see from Bristol's Dick Vitales, Kirk Herbstreits and Jay Bilases. They all had good careers as players, but became stars on television.

"The target is a moving target," said Orlovsky. “I want to be important here, what is important for them. I love live games so I don't think I would ever want to leave the booth. Love it. I think the ultimate goal is to do Monday Night Football or a great NFL game every week, or to be a great college football game, at the booth and at the moment, every week. And then when you say things, to be respected. "

Orlovsky is well on the way.

Fox Plan: When you look at the Super Bowl, fingerprints by Brad Zager, executive producer at Fox Sports, can be seen everywhere.

With only 25 years Zager became a well-known producer of Vin Scullys Dodger for the first time. After almost a decade, he went to Japan and built a new sports network for Fox Sports. Now, at just 41, he's going to oversee his first Super Bowl.

The Super Bowl for a network is the culmination of a year of preparation. Fox will have new graphics and a fly cam that will sail inside out.

"Hopefully it will have a very cinematic feel," said Zager.

What is the overall goal for broadcast on Sunday?

"Our goal is for people to turn on the Super Bowl. They know it's not a regular game of the season," said Zager. “The NFL is probably already the best-produced sports television on a constant level. It's just network level. When you watch the Super Bowl, you need to find ways to do even better and make sure people know that it is not just any other game. "

For more information on Super Bowl 2020, see the latest episode of the podcast "Gang’s All Here":