Behind the Mic: ESPN’s New MNF Team Is Officially Joe Tessitore, Jason Witten, Booger McFarland, and Lisa Salters
ESPN made it official today, announcing that its new Monday Night Football commentator team will feature play-by-play voice Joe Tessitore, analysts Jason Witten andBooger McFarland, and reporter Lisa Salters. Tessitore and Witten will be in the booth, while McFarland will serve as MNF‘s first field-level analyst.
Tessitore, Witten, McFarland and Salters will make their regular-season debut on Monday, September 10 when the Oakland Raiders host the Los Angeles Rams (10: 15 p.m. ET) – as former ESPN MNF analyst Jon Gruden makes his return to the NFL sidelines – in the late game of ESPN’s season-opening doubleheader. This is the first time in the 13-year history of the week 1 doubleheader format that ESPN’s top crew will call the late game, following New York Jets vs. Detroit Lions at 7:10 p.m. (The ESPN team that will call Jets-Lions will be announced at a later date.)
Producer Jay Rothman and director Chip Dean will continue to lead ESPN’s MNF production team. The 2018 NFL season marks their 13th year on Monday Night and 28th overall as a producer-director duo.
“Our new Monday Night Football team shares a passion and respect for the game that will be evident to fans,” said Stephanie Druley, ESPN Senior Vice President, Event and Studio Production. “Joe brings an unrivaled excitement to each broadcast through his play-by-play style. Jason leaves the game with the respect of the entire league. His knowledge and insight will quickly make him one of the most respected analysts in football. Booger’s ability to share candid opinions and insightful observations has made him one of our best analysts. Together, with Lisa, our Emmy-nominated reporter, this team will deliver a fantastic broadcast. We are thrilled to introduce this new team to fans as we begin the latest chapter in MNF’s storied history.”
Tessitore, Witten, McFarland and Salters will make their first appearance together next week at the ESPN Upfront presentation in New York City.
Just the sixth person to occupy the coveted MNF play-by-play position, Joe Tessitore has been a premier broadcaster for ESPN and ABC’s coverage of college football for the better part of the last two decades. Best known for calling ESPN Saturday Night primetime and select ABC regular-season games, he called College Football Playoff semifinal games in 2016 and 2017. After 16 years with ESPN, Tessitore brings his unmistakable passion for football to the NFL.
One of the top game-callers in sports, Tessitore has been widely praised for his versatility, his distinctive voice, and for the joyous enthusiasm in his calls. In addition to his new role as the voice ofMNF, Tessitore is the veteran blow-by-blow ringside commentator for Top Rank Boxing on ESPN and a longtime courtside fixture on ESPN college basketball.
Tessitore: “Booger and Jason are my dream team. Everyone who auditioned was so impressive. With Boog and Witt, it was the chemistry and knowing we have only scratched the surface of what it will be. They felt like brothers or best friends with me in the booth. It has been effortless with them. It’s been fun.”
One of the top tight ends in National Football League history, Dallas Cowboys legend Jason Witten joins ESPN as a MNF analyst after announcing his retirement from football just last week. Witten played his entire 15-year NFL career (2003-17) with the Cowboys, while being named to 11 Pro Bowls. He holds NFL tight end records for most receptions in a season and a game, consecutive games played and consecutive starts. Witten also ranks fourth all-time in NFL history with 1,152 receptions.
An 11-time Cowboys team captain, Witten is one of the most-respected players in the NFL for his character and community involvement. He was the recipient of the 2012 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in addition to being nominated for the award in 2007.
Witten: “Monday Night Football is part of the storied fabric of the NFL. Growing up it was a night I looked forward to every week. Having spent 15 years as a member the Dallas Cowboys, I am excited and proud to represent another iconic franchise and join the team at ESPN and MNF. I love the game of football, and look forward to sharing my thoughts and insight with the viewers around the world.”
Two-time Super Bowl champion Booger McFarland joins MNF after serving as an ESPN and SEC Network college football analyst the past four years. Widely praised for his football insights and gregarious persona, McFarland joined the company in 2014 as one of the SEC Network’s first commentators. After excelling in the SEC Network studio, McFarland transitioned to the ESPN on ABC college football team as a studio analyst. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Get Up!, ESPN Radio and more.
A first round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1999 NFL Draft, McFarland played nine NFL seasons with the Bucs (1999-2006) and Indianapolis Colts (2005-06). He helped anchor Tampa’s menacing defense and was part of two Super Bowl-winning teams – SB XXXVII (Tampa) and XLI (Indianapolis). During his nearly decade-long career, McFarland played 109 games, amassing 188 tackles and 22.5 sacks.
McFarland: “As a football analyst, Monday Night Football is the pinnacle of what we do. It is a platform that has been held by some of the greats in our industry. I am both honored and humbled to be a part of it and look forward to bringing the Booger that everyone has grown to know during my years of covering college football to the NFL.”
Lisa Salters will return for her seventh MNF season this fall. She will contribute to game telecasts and provide updates on the teams during ESPN studio shows on Mondays. A versatile and accomplished reporter with more than two decades of experience, Salters is a sideline reporter for two of ESPN’s biggest sports properties – the NFL and NBA games on ESPN and ABC. She is also a featured correspondent for the company’s award-winning E:60 newsmagazine.
Salters: “I covered Jason during his career with the Cowboys and I have the utmost respect for him. I look forward to working with him and getting to know Joe and Booger as we prepare for our first MNF season together.”
More Behind the Mic
Hall of Fame basketball analyst Dick Vitale has signed a contract extension with ESPN through the 2020-21 season. Vitale will continue his work as a game analyst on key matchups each week during the regular season, as well as Champ Week. He will also remain a contributor on numerous ESPN platforms, including SportsCenter, ESPN.com and more. The longtime ESPN personality adds to a recent extension announced last May, as he enters his 40th season with the network this year. Vitale joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season — just after the network’s September 1979 launch — following a successful coaching career. He called ESPN’s first-ever major NCAA basketball game – Wisconsin at DePaul on Dec. 5, 1979 (a 90-77 DePaul win)…
…NBC Sports Chicago has hired retired Bears legend/two-time Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte as a game day studio analyst for the upcoming 2018 NFL season. In addition to his game day analyst role, Forte is also scheduled to make additional appearances throughout the NFL season on a variety of NBC Sports Chicago’s programs and cross-platform portals. Forte recently signed a ceremonious one-day contract with the Bears on April 23 that would officially mark the conclusion of his brilliant 10-year NFL career…
…UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley, former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and lead UFC host Karyn Bryant are on the FOX Sports desk for UFC 224: NUNES VS. PENNINGTON programming on Friday, May 11 and Saturday, May 12. Veteran MMA analyst Jimmy Smith joins blow-by-blow announcer Jon Anik to call UFC 224 live from Brazil on FX and FOX Sports GO Saturday, May 12 (8:00 PM ET). Reporter Megan Olivi interviews fighters on-site. Former UFC heavyweight champ Fabricio Werdum, Troy Santiago and Mario Delgado call the Spanish language telecast on FOX Deportes.