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Why Greg Olsen would (and wouldn’t) take the ‘Monday Night Football’ job

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The Panthers’ most important receiver could be headed to the booth — but will he go?

SiriusXM At Super Bowl LIII Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM

Greg Olsen has been hotly linked to the vacant Monday Night Football job ever since Jason Witten announced he was returning to the NFL. Now there’s a bizarre back-and-forth of rumors, and counter rumors either confirming, or denying that Olsen will take over the job.

Olsen’s interest in broadcasting is nothing new. The 34-year-old tight end made the most of his season-ending injury in 2017 to test the waters as a guest broadcaster for FOX, and he made an impact. Olsen only called one NFL game, but it was enough to show that he had the talent to hold his own in the booth. Now, with the Panthers at a crossroad and the coveted Monday night job available, a perfect storm has brewed for rumors to bubble to the surface and Olsen’s name become inexorably linked to the ESPN job.

Why moving to Monday Night Football makes sense for Olsen.

The biggest reason is simple: He’s really good at it. Olsen has a natural charisma about him, and the football knowledge to be a compelling addition to the booth. Taking the MNF gig would set him up for years, if not decades of work — and considering it’s the tail-end of his playing career it’s unclear if the job would come around again when he decides to finally hang up the cleats.

Also, let’s face it, Witten was horrifically bad on Monday Night Football. He’s not a tough act to follow, and that might be extremely-alluring to Olsen, whose first-time broadcasting job only requires him to be “better than Witten,” and not immediately saddled with the expectations of being as good as Tony Romo.

Olsen hasn’t managed to play a full season since 2016. Reoccurring injuries to his right foot have left the explosive tight end sidelined more than he’s played in each of the past two seasons. In December of 2018 he ruptured his plantar fascia, in addition to nagging foot injuries.

Adding to the situation is the reality that the Panthers are facing uncertainty. Cam Newton had offseason surgery to repair his shoulder, and an offensive shuffle is currently underway with the team in dire need of an upgrade on the offensive line, as well as wide receiver, where the Panthers are still waiting to see if 2018 rookie D.J. Moore or Curtis Samuel can evolve into true No. 1 targets for Newton.

It’s unlikely the Panthers will make a playoff push in 2019 unless they find a way to significantly upgrade their offense in a short period of time. That’s made more difficult considering the NFC South is poised to be another murderer’s row this season, with the Saints standing to be dominant, and the Falcons looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2018.

Simply put: The pros of continuing to play might not be enough to outweigh the Monday Night Football job.

Why Olsen would stay with the Panthers.

Before the Monday Night Football job became available Olsen staunchly stated his desire to keep playing in 2019. He’s a competitive player, still chasing a Super Bowl and his friendships on the team can’t be overlooked.

Following the 2016 season Olsen was garnering potential Hall of Fame buzz after becoming the first tight end in history to record three straight 1,000-yard seasons. While that possibility is likely gone, Olsen is well aware of how critical he is to the Panthers offense, and choosing to leave the team early would put Carolina in a lurch. Normally this isn’t much of a concern for a player, but Olsen has proven he’s willing to go to bat for the team, especially after they signed him to a two-year extension following his injury-wracked 2017 season.

When healthy, Olsen has shown he still has the skills to be among the best tight ends in the NFL. Appearing in just seven games in 2018, he still made an impact when he was able to play. While he caught just 24 passes, four of those were for touchdowns. When he is on the field he remains Newton’s No. 1 target.

As hotly pursued as Olsen has been in broadcasting, it’s entirely likely some job would be open to him whenever he decides to retire. It might not be Monday Night Football (at least out of the gate), but there might not be enough motivation to make the jump now, knowing he could still play and cement his NFL legacy, before making the jump.

What has Olsen said?

Not much, honestly. Before Witten announced his return to the NFL Olsen was firm that he wanted to return and play with the Panthers in 2019 — but the Monday Night Football job has an inescapable allure that a simple Sunday booth spot for FOX doesn’t.

When it came to the swirling rumors on Monday he decided to take a coy route.

Will he or won’t he? Only Greg Olsen knows at this point.