"MNF" Booth Now Getting Complete Revamp With McDonough Exit
ESPN has decided to move forward next season with a completely new announcing team for "MNF," two months after Jon Gruden officially left the booth. In a release late Friday, ESPN said that Sean McDonough, “MNF’s” play-by-play voice for the past two seasons, will return to college football. Sources said Joe Tessitore will step in as “MNF’s” new play-by-play voice; the network has not decided on an analyst. The N.Y. Post was the first to report that Tessitore would replace McDonough. McDonough’s agent Sandy Montag described the decision as mutual, saying that when ESPN’s Exec VP/Content Connor Schell and Senior VP/Events & Studio Production Stephanie Druley first proposed it, McDonough jumped at the chance to return to college football. The two sides had been in discussions for the past month about the best way to move forward, resulting in a new multiyear deal that will see McDonough call a weekly high-profile college football game, plus the CFP semifinal that Tessitore had called in previous years. “College football is where he belongs,” Montag said. “If you think of Sean McDonough’s brand, it’s really college football. Given what’s been going on in the last month (as ESPN searched for Gruden’s replacement), he felt this was the best move for him going forward.” Montag described McDonough’s past two years at “MNF” as the "experience of a lifetime” for the announcer. McDonough also will call marquee college basketball games, The Masters Par 3 contest and the CFP Championship on ESPN Radio (John Ourand, Staff Writer).
WHERE IS PEYTON'S PLACE? In N.Y., Andrew Marchand cited sources as saying that Peyton Manning has "passed on calling games" for "MNF." However, Fox is "still in play for Manning’s service as its lead game analyst" on "TNF." Fox "continues a concerted effort" to turn "TNF" into a bigger primetime event than "MNF" and "hopes the 41-year-old Manning can be the central part." Sources said that they thought Manning would "prefer Thursdays to Mondays, because it would not require working the weekend." Meanwhile, ESPN's Matt Hasselbeck, Randy Moss and Louis Riddick "will be considered" for the "MNF" analyst role (N.Y. POST, 3/10).
THE NEXT ROMO? SPORTING NEWS' Michael McCarthy cited sources as saying that Fox also is "targeting" Cowboys TE Jason Witten to potentially fill the "TNF" analyst role. If Manning "doesn't want to do TV, the 35-year-old Witten could step right off the playing field and into the TV booth." Fox is "intrigued by the possibility the popular, square-jawed Witten could replicate the rookie TV success" of CBS' Tony Romo. He would have the "advantage," like Romo and Fox' Troy Aikman, of "broadcasting to a built-in, national fan base that loves the Cowboys." Witten, however, said that he "plans to play again" in '18. Browns LT Joe Thomas and former coach John Fox "recently auditioned with Fox." But sources said that Manning and Witten remain Fox' "top picks" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 3/11).
TWITTER REAX: ESPN Senior Communications Dir Bill Hofheimer tweeted, "Have loved working w/ Sean McDonough on #MNF the past 2 seasons. Great guy and terrific broadcaster." Bengals radio broadcaster Dan Hoard: "There's nobody better at combining information, humor, and storytelling. Truly one of the best play-by-play announcers ever." N.Y. Post's Marchand: "McDonough received a nice landing spot on college football, but the idea that this is what he wanted is hard to fathom." WEEI's Alex Reimer: "Would be a shame if Sean McDonough lost the MNF gig because the NFL wanted him replaced. His candor is one of his best attributes. He's actually a real person in the booth." N.Y. Daily News' Bob Raissman: "Guess the NFL didn’t appreciate his honest approach. Would ESPN cave to the NFL’s wishes? Of course." Atlanta-based WZGC-FM's Mike Conti: "If Sean McDonough ends up working with Todd Blackledge next year, that becomes ESPN's best booth in any sport."