ESPN's Monday Night Football booth is undergoing another overhaul. Richard Deitsch of The Athletic reported yesterday that Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland are out after one year together and ESPN is planning on replacing them internally.
Even better? Everything is aligned for them to take the next step in their relationship.
McAfee is a regular contributor on several studio shows for ESPN and does color commentary on their primetime college football coverage on Thursday night. He also hosts the wildly-popular "Pat McAfee Show" on Westwood One radio (part of the CBS Sports Radio Network) and did sideline reporting for the XFL. His radio show was broadcast on DAZN, but the two mutually agreed to part ways recently. That seems like fortuitous timing for McAfee to fully integrate with ESPN, starting with MNF and expanding to radio once his deal is up.
McAfee has seemingly been building for this opportunity since he retired from football in 2017. He's built a massive following on social and radio and, most importantly, honed his voice as an analyst. Offering a balanced blend of humor and intelligence, McAfee is your BBQ drinking buddy who knows so much about football you always stumble home impressed. That's exactly what ESPN needs after its failed hirings of Jason Witten two years ago and McFarland last year.
By all accounts, ESPN wants a massive name to headline their NFL coverage. They struck out trying to lure Tony Romo away from CBS this offseason and also couldn't convince Peyton Manning (for the four millionth time) to join their booth team. That's why they're going with an internal booth this year. It's a punt on fourth down. They'll see how the booth does for a year and then try and plug another big name in there next year.
That's why this is the perfect time for them to give McAfee a chance. While he is a little more edgy than what you're used to seeing on ESPN (he'll definitely have to watch the curse words), hiring him as the analyst for the MNF booth would create serious (positive) buzz around the broadcast next year. He's also proven he's capable of handling the opportunity, and with no other internal options with as loyal a following as McAfee, he offers the best solution on a one-year, prove-it deal.
Worst-case scenario is McAfee muffs the punt (not something he did much in the NFL, but something ESPN is used to following the Witten and McFarland experiments) and ESPN finds a replacement next year. Best case is he nails it and ESPN has someone they can build their future NFL coverage around à la Jon Gruden. Add McAfee's radio credentials into this convo and it seems like the timing is ripe for them to take the next step in this relationship.