BY GEOFF HOBSON
Boomer Esiason can only hope his conversations with Matt Millen on the radio are as open, honest and as interesting as the ones they used to have on the field.
Esiason, who had more comebacks than Nixon during his 14 years as an NFL quarterback, has surfaced in CBS Radio's Monday Night booth with Millen and play-by-play man Howard David . Six months after his messy firing from ABC-TV Monday Night Football, Esiason is looking forward to getting out from under the ugly relationship with play-by-play man Al Michaels that defined his two-year stint in the TV booth.
Esiason was peppered with questions about Michaels in Monday's conference call with Millen, David and sideline reporter John Dockery. That figures, since the CBS Radio booth and the ABC-TV booth will most likely be a handoff away at most games.
"If the opportunity comes, I'm sure we'll be gentleman and we'll be professional," said Esiason of meeting Michaels during the season. "There are still a lot of friends of mine at ABC . . . I'm an upfront guy. Even after I got released by the Jets I still dropped down to the facility to see people."
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Esiason has a two-year deal with an option he says "will be revisited," next year, so he's got just one season to see how he meshes with Millen. Millen, the former Raider and 49er linebacker who gets a lot of air time, is a top-notch analyst who claims he looks forward to swapping Xs and Os with a quarterback.
The two already tried to set the tone Monday with banter upholding their respective sides of the ball. Millen wondered what a quarterback does all game and Esiason said the only thing worse than a quarterback telling people what a linebacker is thinking is a linebacker telling people what a quarterback is thinking. Esiason thought he worked well in his first TV season playing off the offensive line analysis of Dan Dierdorf and sees the same thing developing with Millen.
"I'm looking forward to it," Millen said. "That's what I love is the Xs and Os."
So does Esiason, but the question is if he has the time to convey it in a three-man booth in his first extended radio game experience. It should help that he has a history with Millen and Millen's similar outgoing personality will draw out of Esiason the same candor that made him one of the best interviews in pro sports when he was a player.
Both men recalled Monday how they talked to each other during Bengals-Raiders games. Sometimes, even as Esiason called the cadence.
"Matt and (Raiders defensive end) Howie Long would like to carry on conversations," Esiason said. "I remember one time Matt was over there sweating, stuff hanging from his nose and he was screaming at me to run the ball up the middle. We were running outside with (running back) James Brooks. He was saying something like, 'You guys are intimidated about running up the middle.' I told him they didn't want us to run outside because they couldn't catch it."
Millen was always impressed Esiason could talk and play at the same time.
"A lot of guys can't do that," Millen said. "(Former Browns quarterback) Bernie Kosar was a guy who could do it . . . Boomer was bright enough to figure it out. You could have fun. You could say something in the middle of the cadence and he'd give me an answer back. It's fun. Then you sit back and say, 'That guy's pretty good.' "
They find out how fun and how good in the booth on Sept. 4 in the Monday Night opener in St. Louis. The crew will also do the Super Bowl, the Pro Bowl and one of the conference championship games.
One of the nice things about the deal Esiason said is, "I don't have to do anything during the preseason."