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ESPN around Jason Witten with college football talent on "Monday Night Football"

The lineup for ESPN's Monday Night Football broadcast booth for 2018 is set, and it's a perfectly capable group of announcers. But if Jason Witten, like his former quarterback, can switch from play to comment, it could be great.

The four-person cast of the network will include two college football veteran game callers in Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland. They are flanked by longtime TV journalist Lisa Salters, who will be on the sidelines for another season. And then there is the newcomer Witten, who as the most famous face of the ESPN coverage MNF will make his first foray from the field to the stand. While the latter three are very solid, the success of this year's group may depend on the former Cowboys standout, which is set to replace Jon Gruend's mix of analysis and homespun stories from the press box.

When Monday Night Football 's 49th season kicks off this fall, ESPN will unveil a dynamic, new NFL commentator team with play-by-play voice Joe Tessitore Analysts Jason Witten and Booger McFarland and Reporter Lisa Salters . Tessitore and Witten will be at the booth, while McFarland will bring a new perspective on the games every week as the first Fieldlevel analyst for the sports television signature series.

ESPN Made a Safe Game with a MNF Lineup

Let's start with Tessitore, whose playful work at ESPN has made him a diviner for exciting college football games. The 1

6-year-old veteran was the common denominator behind insane amateur-level games, from Mountain West to the SEC. His ability to distract himself and unpack complex plays and storylines has drawn comparisons with broadcasting fees – the legend Verne Lundquist. His uncanny ability to associate with wild competition led to the theory of the "Tess effect", suggesting that his mere presence makes games better.

This will be put to the test in the second week when rebuilding seahawks and bears takes place in primetime. Tessitore replaces Sean McDonough, another strong game analyst.

His steady hand will count on helping Witten, who made his performance tryout tough enough to lure him out of the cowboy's locker room. The earlier close ending was always composed in interviews, but his ability to switch to a broadcasting role is still very much in question. He will have to fill big shoes, and in more ways than one.

He will be a direct replacement for Gruden, the former and current Raiders coach whose personality drove a handful of MNF segments to different mileages. Gruend's color commentary was not for everyone to put it diplomatically, but it was successful enough to keep him on air for nine years.

The coach's success was the result of an overwhelming personality and insider insight. His exuberant praise of young players and the ability to connect the events on the field with the behind-the-scenes events made him a valuable addition. Gruden had his niche. Now Witten has to carve out his own in the wicked trail he has left behind to take $ 100 million from Mark Davis' not particularly hard earned cash this offseason.

But there's a blueprint for that, and Witten can get all the clues he needs from a familiar face. CBS launched a homerun when he signed Tony Romo to his team after ending his playing career last summer. Romo did not just deliver stories from the group; he predicted games and created the kind of "Here's why they did that" glimpse that few, if any, announcers had brought to a national level.

Romo has also relied on these Gruden peculiarities to further establish his personality. He had his own cartoon, making strangely entrancing noises and making himself more or less popular with football fans by being a self-chosen version of himself. Then ESPN relies on Witten, a player who is probably best known as Sigh the second largest snowball guru of the NFL.

When Witten Fights, McFarland and Salter Give ESPN Fallback Options

Forty-year-old McFarland has been a rising star in the broadcasting world since retiring from the NFL in 2007 with two Super Bowl rings. The former first-round defense in the first round has been an integral part of ESPN's college coverage since 2014, focusing on its home market through various roles in the SEC network. Now the network has finally freed him from the delicate boat shoe Greg McElroy and put him on the field to give insights from the sidelines.

It's a big step for McFarland, but one he can handle. The biggest question is how his approach will change, from college football to a studio to analysis of the professional game off the field. For a former player on both levels who has spent the last seven years in the media, it should be a reasonable sea to navigate.

Experience is also the backbone of Salter's career. She has covered everything from Rae Carruth's murder trial to the World Cup since joining ESPN in 2000. This will be her seventh year as a collateral reporter at MNF where she has a reliable presence. Like Tessitore and McFarland, she made the leap from college football coverage to the NFL with little difficulty. She is rock solid – and more than capable of creating the cut-away analysis and reporting that can distract from any derailment of a first-year team.

Even though Witten Fights, Monday Night Football Becomes Good

Monday Night Football is the NFL's permanent cultural touchstone, and no announcing team is being tested more strongly than the team's that with the final game every week. ESPN made a brisk, moderately risky attitude by pulling Witten off the field and into the booth, but the network surrounded him with two college football aces and one of the network's most reliable page journalists to facilitate his transition.

This is not a slam-dunk lineup, but the potential is there. If Witten is able to fulfill his promise as a hybrid Gruden-Romo type, it should meet the standard of the league's most important weekly broadcast. If not, Tessitore and McFarland will be under pressure to bring their college football chops up to professional standards. This is a game of chance, but it is understandable for ESPN.

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