When ESPN first leaked to ESPN the news that Cowboys tight end Jason Witten was planning to retire and join ESPN, the specific language in the report — that Witten would be “a lead analyst” on Monday Night Football — suggested that the team could consist of more than Witten and play-by-play announcer Joe Tessitore. And indeed it will.
Richard Deitsch of TheAthletic.com reports that ESPN will add Booger McFarland as a “field analyst” on the broadcast.
ESPN used Louis Riddick as a field analyst during the Pro Bowl, and as it turns out the move was a test run for the new position. But it was McFarland who secured the job after an audition process that included Riddick.
Others who were considered for analyst positions on Monday Night Football included Matt Hasselbeck (who served as booth analyst during the Pro Bowl) and Kurt Warner.
FOX previously used Tony Siragusa in a field analyst-type role, but Monday Night Football has never incorporated an analyst who isn’t in the booth. Lisa Salters will continue to serve as a sideline reporter.
While the approach will be different, the question remains whether it will be special. Many who grew up in the ’70s have fond memories of Frank Gifford, Don Meredith, and Howard Cosell. On the surface, the Tessitore-Witten-McFarland trio doesn’t suggest a significant sizzle factor. In time, we’ll see if they attract viewers who are planning to watch the game (or not) based not on who is calling the game but on who is playing in it.