Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN committed to bringing back maligned 'Monday Night Football' team next season

Alex Reimer
December 18, 2018 - 10:19 am

ESPN’s rocky “Monday Night Football” crew is expected to return next season, and perhaps for many years after that.

The Athletic’s Lindsay Jones spent a weekend in Seattle with the much-maligned broadcast team, prior to last Monday’s dreadful Vikings-Seahawks matchup. The game was bereft of offense or much action at all, leaving viewers ample time to skewer Jason Witten on Twitter for his malapropisms and mispronunciation of the word “establish.” According to the critics, of which there are many, it was another rough broadcast for the Joe Tessitore-Witten-Booger McFarland trio. But ESPN executives say they’re committed to keeping the team together.

“Patience is a big part of this for me,” ESPN’s vice president of production, Lee Fitting, told Jones. “I could always be overruled, because I have a lot of bosses, but I don’t want to live in the knee-jerk world of, ‘Hey social media doesn’t like him, they don’t like this or that,’ and make a change. I just want to see it play out, I want to see them get better together. It’s hard to pinpoint what they have to do better, I just need to see more of their best, if that makes any sense. We see glimpses of them being really good from time to time, and the last few weeks there has been more of it, I just want to see more of that.”

Jones reports ESPN has “made a commitment” to the MNF booth for multiple years. “Like it or not NFL fans, you should expect to see and hear this trio next season,” she writes.

ESPN does confess to committing some mistakes in the formation of its three-man MNF team, including not putting Witten on TV sooner than opening week. This NFL offseason, Jones says Witten will be a fixture across all ESPN platforms, in an effort to increase his comfort on camera. 

“In retrospect, and this is a great lesson to learn when we hire the next new person in any sport, is just put him on TV. Let him get comfortable talking to America,” Fitting told Jones. “Let him get comfortable talking to the camera, and talking to others. That’s something that I personally whiffed on and hold myself accountable for and wish we did more of that.”

While Tess, Boog and Witt may not seem to have much on-air chemistry –– their broadcasts remain filled with fake laughter and cliches –– they insist they enjoy working together. And at least one of them appears very comfortable. Prior to kickoff, while McFarland is on the field and Witten practices his telestrator technique, Tessitore sits alone, and starts playing the soundtrack to “A Star is Born” from his iPhone.

“He slept little, he said, and is powered by caffeine and leftover good vibes from seeing Springsteen on Broadway on Friday night,” Jones writes.

I can’t imagine why people don’t enjoy this broadcast team. 

Read the full profile here.