Actually, there are several possibilities of varying likelihood. Let’s run them down:
1. Back to NBC News: Here’s a possible scenario: The ratings of Williams’ successor flat-line. Jon Stewart doesn’t want the gig. Williams does the celebrity talk show as therapy grand tour, and goes over like gangbusters. NBC does polls and focus groups, and decide what the heck, let’s give him another shot. As Dylan Byers writes at Politico, this is unlikely, but far stranger things have happened in network TV.
2. Down to NBC’s bargain basement spin-off, MSNBC: After it was discovered in 2010 that Dave Weigel, who was promoted by the Washington Post as their man reporting from “inside the conservative movement,” rather viscerally loathed those whom he was covering, the Post suspended him for about a month or so, and then simply transferred him down the hall to their openly leftwing spinoff, Slate. As Daniel Foster quipped at the time at NRO, “One wonders if he has to fill out new W-4s.” Perhaps Williams could bring some of his NBC audience to the network’s flailing and failing hard left spin-off. Credibility issues? Imaginary stories? Likely not much of a concern to the network that keeps Al Sharpton on its payroll.
3. Over to Comedy Central: Like Howard Cosell in the 1970s, Williams apparently yearns to give up reading warmed-over AP copy on the teleprompter for a hellzapoppin wild ‘n’ crazy variety show. According to New York magazine yesterday, he lobbied hard to replace Jay Leno over at the Tonight Show. Why not the Daily Show, where he can really cut loose as a faux newsman?
4. AXS-TV (Formerly HD-Net): Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was a friendly face for Dan Rather after he faxed the pooch in 2004, providing the elderly former anchorman an alternative, at times reality-free universe in which to earn a few extra bucks in his dotage. Williams would add additional notoriety and controversy to channel #340 on your DirecTV guide.
5. CNN: Jeff Zucker, president of CNN, gave Williams his key to superstardom, when he designated him as Tom Brokaw’s successor, and then inadvertently began to damage Williams’ brand when he told USA Today in 2004, “No one understands this NASCAR nation more than Brian,” that scrappy workaday man of the people. Perhaps Zucker and Williams could reunite at the struggling cable network — and who better to host CNN’s goofy new game show?
6. The Internet: Former NBC, CBS and ABC anchor Katie Couric likely views her her gig at Yahoo as a paid holding pattern in-between sending her resume out to her old networks, as it was rumored she did late last week when it obvious Williams’ goose at NBC was cooked hotter than an RPG hitting a Sikorsky Superhawk. (Sorry to go all Full Metal Brian on you there.) Williams would add lots of celebrity cache to a deep-pocketed but struggling or start-up Internet TV platform.
7. Fox News: Like Jimmy Johnson when he coached the Dallas Cowboys, and the late Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders, Roger Ailes loves to collect troubled superstars in search of a new home. In-between Twitter selfies, Geraldo has made a fresh start there, as has Howard Kurtz, formerly of CNN. But on the right, will conservative and military bloggers, who doggedly pored over every utterance of Williams, accept him there? And on the left, will those frothing on Twitter this week stuff along the lines of “Sure Brian may have fibbed a little, but Fox News, maaaaaaan” tune in, if that’s where Williams winds up?
8. Somewhere Else: Let me know where you think Williams will wind up in the comments.