The Cowboys dropped a bombshell Thursday, announcing Jason Witten is coming out of retirement and returning to play TE for them.
Witten spent last season as the lead analyst on Monday Night Football. With Witten now gone, ESPN is back to the drawing board.
ESPN released a statement, saying it would take a few weeks before the MNF team is determined.
So who will replace Jason Witten? Let’s take a look at some potential options…
Warner was reportedly a finalist for the job last year before ESPN decided to give the job to Witten. Warner continued his gig as an analyst for NFL Network and called two Saturday Night regular season games with Mike Tirico [CLE-DEN, BAL-LAC]. He also calls games on the radio for Westwood One and worked for FOX as a color commentator during the 2010 season. Overall, the fan reaction to Warner has been positive and he would be an immediate upgrade to the MNF booth.
If ESPN decided to stay in-house, Louis Riddick is the guy. Riddick is one of the smartest football minds on television and is simply an enjoyable guy to listen to. While Riddick is currently with ESPN, he has taken GM interviews over the last couple years. He interviewed with the 49ers in 2017 and the Giants in 2018. With that being said, there’s no guarantee Riddick would be a long-term answer in the booth.
Manning is the big name ESPN and other networks have been trying to get. ESPN attempted to hire Manning last year, and FOX also tried to get him for Thursday nights. Manning reportedly declined both offers. Manning ended up joining ESPN with his show “Detail” where he breaks down NFL game film. If he was willing to get into broadcasting, Manning has the personality, IQ and popularity that would make him a grand slam addition.
McAfee is probably a long shot and unlikely to happen. He called one game last season in Week 17 and fans went crazy. He has an enormous following and would be an interesting option if ESPN gave it consideration. When the Witten news broke, McAfee immediately took to twitter to let ESPN know he’s available. His call when Matt Prater threw a TD pass will forever be an all-time great.
#Lions kicker Matt Prater throws a TD pass to Levine Toilolo.
Pat McAfee is going nuts. I love it.
Week 17 football! pic.twitter.com/RIBEZN357a
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) December 30, 2018
Orlovsky currently works for ESPN as a college football analyst and is one of the best at breaking down football for the average fan. He’s now being featured on several of their studio shows and is becoming fairly popular. He hasn’t called any NFL games, but ESPN proved last year that doesn’t matter.
Thomas tried out for FOX and ESPN last offseason and has said he would be interested in broadcasting. ESPN’s Joe Tessitore said at the time that Thomas “had shades of John Madden in his audition.” Thomas made it clear last year that he preferred not to immediately jump into broadcasting after retiring. Now a year later, he’ll have a chance with ESPN once again.
Olsen has worked for ESPN as an analyst and did one game for FOX in 2017. While he’s still under contract with the Panthers, Olsen has been pursued by FOX and ESPN and the NY Post reported that both have made offers. HC Ron Rivera said he expects Olsen back in 2019 but only time will tell.
Hasselbeck is another in-house option for ESPN. He currently works an an analyst for their Sunday pregame show. He got to call the Pro Bowl in 2017 with Sean McDonough and showed some promise.
Burleson is everywhere. He does the Sunday pregame show on CBS. He’s on every morning as a co-host on NFL Network’s GMFB. He called 2 games in 2018 for FOX. The two games he called for FOX got rave reviews from fans all around. He’s simply a likable guy and a rising star.
This would be the easiest and simplest route for ESPN. Just keep Joe Tessitore as the play-by-play, get rid of the Booger Mobile, and move McFarland to the booth to be the color analyst. For the most part, McFarland did an above average job in his first season and had some funny moments.
Booger McFarland: "Kelvin Benjamin is a Popeyes biscuit away from being a tight end."pic.twitter.com/Zcn7pdiH1R
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) October 30, 2018
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