Monday Night Football will look different for ESPN, as the broadcast booth will no longer feature Joe Tessitore or Booger McFarland.
Monday Night Football will feature a new broadcast pairing for 2020.
According to Richard Deitsch of The Athletic, “ESPN is going to have a new Monday Night Football booth. Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland will not return.. The successors will be internal. No decision has been made yet. Both Tessitore and McFarland will remain in prominent roles at ESPN.”
ESPN’s Monday Night Football booth has been tumultuous since play-by-play guy Mike Tirico joined NBC Sports in 2016. He was replaced by Sean McDonough with Jon Gruden doing the color commentary. Gruden would leave for the then-Oakland Raiders head coaching gig in 2018 and McDonough went back to calling college football games as he had for years.
ESPN opted to go unconventional with its booth beginning in 2018. Longtime college football announcer Joe Tessitore was paired with former Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive lineman Anthony “Booger” McFarland Sr. was relegated to the sidelines.
The Witten experiment was a total disaster, as he was pulling a lot of “rabbits out of his head.” The gaudy Boogermobile on the sidelines obstructed more views than a support pole at Fenway Park or Wrigley Field. Witten went back to the Cowboys and now joins Gruden with the Raiders. All the while, Tessitore and McFarland never moved the needle as a two-man booth in 2019.
ESPN wisely decided to keep both in the company, as they do great work covering college football for the television network, among other things. They did a fine job, all things considered. Too bad their employer put them in compromising situations that set them up to fail. While they’ll surely succeed in their new roles, it’ll be interesting to see who replaces them in the booth.
Per Dietsch’s report, it will be an in-house promotion. So no, ESPN won’t pry someone away from CBS, FOX or NBC this late into the hiring cycle. Since we’re only four months out from Week 1, one could expect the promotion from within to be a college broadcast team. ESPN could do a lot of things here, but it might be one of these two booths.
While taking Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbsteit from the No. 1 college football spot would be daring, this is something ESPN may have to consider, given how bad Monday Night Football has looked optically for the last half decade or so. Fowler and Herbstreit have tremendous chemistry, but will they be able to captivate us like on Monday night like they have on Sunday night for years?
The other group of note is the trio of Tom Hart, Jordan Rodgers and Cole Cubelic from the SEC Network. They call SEC primetime games and have done a good job of it for years. Hart and Cubelic did cover the XFL briefly for ESPN while that was a thing. Again, this is a college focused crew, but they have done well together. Let’s not forget Rodgers is Aaron Rodgers‘ younger brother.
While those two broadcast teams could be transferred over no problem, ESPN may opt to put an entirely new team together. Bob Wischusen, Steve Levy and Dave Pasch are a few of the play-by-play guys to consider. For color commentary, Louis Riddick seems to be the front-runner, though Pat McAfee is the most captivating on-air talent ESPN has landed in over a decade.
The good news for ESPN here is it is finally addressing a problem. It has guys in-house to rectify its primetime NFL problem. Given the rapport Tessitore and McFarland had towards the end of last season, maybe they stay a broadcast team and do college games together? It wouldn’t be the end of the world putting them on the SEC Network game if Hart, Rodgers and Cubelic get the call up.