Out of nowhere, future Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten announced he was returning to the Dallas Cowboys for his 16th NFL season after spending last year in the broadcast booth on Monday Night Football. Clearly, the three-man booth with Witten, Joe Tessitore, and Booger McFarland was simply not very good, and there wasn’t a ton of optimism they would get much better as a crew, so this gives ESPN an opportunity to start fresh in 2019 and beyond. Who should or could ESPN be looking at?
Veteran Panthers tight end Greg Olsen has made it clear that he wants to continue his playing career, but Monday Night Football might be too good of an opportunity to pass up if ESPN makes an offer. Olsen has spent time in the broadcast booth for FOX as a test drive of sorts (in a three-man booth), and he appears to be a natural at the job. If the soon-to-be-34-year-old decides his troublesome foot might be too risky at this point, perhaps he’ll decide now is the best time to make the jump—but don’t be surprised if Olsen would get the itch to return to the playing field like Witten did, which could make ESPN hesitant to give another fresh-off-the-field player the gig a second straight year.
Kurt Warner calls Monday night games for Westwood One Radio, and he’s very good at it. There are major positives for Warner as ESPN’s choice. One, he’s a noteworthy name as a former league MVP and Super Bowl champion that went from bagging groceries to a Hall of Fame quarterback. He’ll have some NFL Network fans that have watched him on NFL Gameday Morning over the years that’ll be anxious to tune in. And Warner’s a quarterback, which many people feel better about in the booth calling games. Also, Warner was reportedly a top candidate to get the job last year before ESPN went with Witten and McFarland along with Tessitore. He’d be a choice many people could get behind, and he’d be a safe choice given his history of calling games—he took control when NFL Network called the Eagles-Jaguars London Game in 2018, when Steve Mariucci and Michael Irvin clearly weren’t quite as comfortable as him in the booth.
I think Louis Riddick wants to jump back into the NFL as a general manager, as has been indicated by him taking interviews with teams in the hunt for general managers in recent years. However, the Monday night booth would be a nice promotion for one of the smartest football analysts out there. The former defensive back isn’t afraid to tell it like it is, but he doesn’t act like a know-it-all that would get annoying after a while. Riddick is an agreeable personality that works well with his colleagues, so he’d be an ideal fit in a three-man booth.
This is obviously a long shot, as Peyton Manning probably would’ve been in the job last year if he wanted it. Eventually, Manning probably wants to run an NFL team (maybe he’ll be part of an ownership group to purchase one after his brother Eli retires), but maybe he’ll spend some time in the booth before then. Manning would undoubtedly be incredibly funny and entertaining, and it’s hard to find someone that doesn’t like the five-time NFL MVP. Perhaps Manning feels more comfortable potentially jumping into the ESPN booth after he did some weekly quarterback breakdowns for ESPN+ last year, and maybe he’ll receive a huge offer because the network might need him considering the criticism they received during 2018.