Prepare for a brutal call for the Seattle Seahawks vs. Chicago Bears.
I know, I know. It’s early. You have to let a show find its voice. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
But here’s the thing: the new Monday Night Football broadcast just isn’t good. It’s borderline painful to listen to.
Joe Tessitore is great. He has a big-game voice; he understands the minutia of the game; and he has that kind of relaxed, natural style that makes you feel like you’re hanging out with a buddy. That’s great.
The issue is pretty much everything else.
Booger McFarland was been poor in the preseason. He improved a little in week one. I disagree with some of his evaluations, and that’s fine. Diverging opinions are part of what makes sport fun. But too often he’s seemed uninformed, shooting from the hip on the Worldwide Leader’s grandest stage.
Transitioning from splitting reps between college football coverage and the NFL to full-time NFL is tough (believe me!). It takes time to get up with the skill-sets of every player, the scheme or every team, and the little idiosyncratic tendencies that makes each team unique. I get it.
Would it be such a crime to acknowledge that fact? Tess, I’m still getting up to speed with what they’re running, but from my initial impression… Admitting you’re not entirely sure probably isn’t a great look to your bosses or advertisers (which is who the whole song and dance is really for), but at least it’s human.
Then there’s Jason Witten: Woof!
ESPN fast-tracked the future Hall-of-Famer to its top gig with no broadcast experience. It wanted to capture some of that Tony Romo magic: the dude who had just come off the field, knew all the personnel, and whose rawness as a broadcaster added to the thing, didn’t detract from him.
CBS caught lightning in a bottle with Romo. ESPN might have hit on a dud. Witten is knowledgeable; he might wind up being good at this. But the early signs aren’t great. He stumbles and bumbles his way through replays. He misidentifies things. It feels like the broadcast is moving a little too quick for him:
Uhh, he didn't do any of that stuff you just said, Jason Witten pic.twitter.com/gkxfAtsCJE— Michael Trillbon (@DavidInAlief) August 21, 2018
Together, the three have zero chemistry. Why would someone not call Witten on that gigantic mistake and laugh it off? Everybody seems tense. I disliked a bunch of stuff about Jon Gruden’s MNF calls – he didn’t criticize anyone; he often spoke in generalities – but you couldn’t deny his enthusiasm. And he had a great “I don’t really need this” vibe that made him click with Mike Tirico (less so with Sean McDonough).
Four-person setups are always tough (Tess and Witten are in the booth; McFarland serves as a “field analyst; and Lisa Salters is the sideline reporter) -- there aren’t enough shots to go around. When you chuck in a guy who’s learning on the fly, you get mistakes, people step on each other’s toes, and we get an all-round crappy product.
The solution: pick one of Booger or Witten. The even better solution: use ESPN+ or Twitter or Facebook or somewhere to broadcast different types of commentaries. Give me a nerdy X’s & O’s booth. Give me the Dan Le Batard show talking all kinds of nonsense. Give me an alternative.
When you’re banging your head against the wall tonight. Remember: I tried to warn you.