Offseason changes aren’t limited to the NFL’s 32 teams.
ESPN revealed its all-new Monday Night Football crew, headlined by newly retired former Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten. The Cowboys legend takes over for Jon Gruden as the lead color analyst after following a page of the playbook of former teammate Tony Romo. The long-time Cowboys quarterback called it a career shortly after his offseason release in order to take a prime position in the broadcast booth. I suppose ESPN lightning will strike twice and that Witten will be as good (and well received) as Romo was in his first season behind the mic.
Joe Tessitore takes over play-by-play responsibilities from Sean McDonough, who called Monday games for two seasons. Tessitore has been broadcasting with the ABC/ESPN family since 2002, calling boxing matches, college football, and basketball games. Lisa Salters joins the squad as the sideline reporter. Salters has been with the ESPN family since 2000, and odds are you’re familiar with her from her reporting on the NBA, ESPN’s World Cup coverage in 2002, and Winter Olympics in 2006. Anthony “Booger” McFarland’s arrival wraps up the four-person team and is expected bring something fresh to the broadcast.
ESPN pitches McFarland as the first field-level analyst for the program, and I’m curious to see what that looks and sounds like. McFarland is a two-time Super Bowl champion who had a nine-year NFL career as a defensive tackle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts.
Bears fans will get their first chance to check out the new crew in Week 2 of the NFL season when the team plays host to the Seattle Seahawks in Chicago’s home opener. And if you’re not willing to wait that long, the crew will bring the action on September 10 when the Oakland Raiders play host to the Los Angeles Rams.
That’s right, the new broadcast team will call the first regular-season game coached by former crew member Jon Gruden. Funny how that worked out.