SI: Was Cosell the greatest MNF analyst?
JM: I don't break it down like that. I think the combination—Meredith and Cosell—was very good. I used to work with my coaches on Monday nights, but we'd always have someone call us in to watch the halftime highlights.
SI: Will you be part of the halftime show?
JM: I have no idea, but I hope not. That's the only time you have to take a leak or whatever.
SI: What did you think of the Dennis Miller experiment?
JM: I believe the game is the thing, that people tune in to watch the game. If the game is the thing, we don't need entertainment. If I go to watch a comedian, I don't expect a football game to break out.
SI: I'm sure you're aware that there's been a steady ratings decline for Monday Night Football over the past several seasons. What can be done?
JM: People tune in to watch good games. We have to realize that football has changed. Free agency, the salary cap, good teams becoming bad.... It's a different game in broadcasting; it's a different game in scheduling. The networks have to say in December what games they're interested in for the next season. Years ago, you'd know in December who the top seven or eight teams were going to be. Now you have no idea. Where did the Patriots come from last year, the Ravens the year before that, the Rams the year before that? There's no way to schedule reliably the way we do it now—we do the wish list in December, the schedule is made in February and March, and it comes out the first of April. Shoot, they haven't even had the draft yet, let alone the second round of free agency in June. In December, if you had had to pick between Baltimore and Buffalo on this year's schedule, who would you have chosen? Well, Baltimore. They were the defending champions and headed back to the playoffs; Buffalo was in last place. Well, since then the Ravens decimated their team and Buffalo got Drew Bledsoe.
SI: Do you think we'll see a flexible schedule when the next TV deal is signed in 2005?
JM: Even before that. My idea is to push everything back. The schedule doesn't have to come out in April. The networks' wish lists can come later. And then I think you just give out three quarters of the networks' schedules, the first 12 games. At the halfway point, they pick the last four.