The bizarre “Jaworski signs an extension! He’ll be on TV more! . . . . oh, but not on Monday Night Football” release from ESPN contains a link to quotes from the three men who, until today, called the games.
The most intriguing comments come from Jon Gruden, who seems to imply that he didn’t agree with the reassignment of Jaworski.
“I understand there are times when players have to put their faith in the coaches and other decision-makers who are trying to position a team for success, and that’s what I’m doing here,” Gruden said. “I have faith in the people I’m working for here at ESPN. Jaws has taught me so much about broadcasting and nobody works harder. He also watches as much film as anyone. I’ll miss working with him on Monday Nights but I’m glad we’re still on the same ESPN team.”
Apparently, that’s the best that ESPN’s P.R. team could come up with to throw water on the appearance that Gruden didn’t want Jaworski in the booth any longer, which would be the perfect bookend to the belief that Tony Kornheiser wanted Jaworski to replace Joe Theismann five years ago.
Though many TV decisions are made without the input or agreement from the on-air talent, Gruden occupies a special position with ESPN. The powers-that-be assume he’ll eventually leave to coach again, and they’re likely doing everything they can to keep him around for as long as possible.
What better way to try to persuade Gruden to stay than to make Monday Night Football into, essentially, The Jon Gruden Show, with Mike Tirico?
Maybe that’s why ESPN is going out of its way to create the sense that Jaworski wasn’t fired. Maybe the goal was to keep both guys over the long haul, with someone realizing that the best way to keep Gruden beyond 2012 is to make Monday Night Football all about him.