It’s not particularly surprising to anyone that Monday Night Football‘s 2019 approach of having just play-by-play announcer and color commentator Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland in the booth seems a little smoother than last year’s option of Tessitore and the much–criticized Jason Witten in the booth, with McFarland weighing in regularly from the awkward BoogerMobile. Witten’s return to playing in the NFL felt like a blessing for ESPN, letting them move on to a better booth without admitting the problems of 2018. And comments from Tessitore on an interview with Steve Bennett of The Sports-Casters that was published this week add to that impression, with Tessitore talking about how he appreciates working just with McFarland in the booth instead of juggling the one booth analyst/one field analyst paradigm he was presented last year. Here’s the whole interview, with Tessitore’s McFarland comments starting around 31:00:
Tessitore says there that “It’s completely different, it’s a more conforming broadcast and production. …For me, it’s like putting on a comfortable pair of jeans, it’s what I’ve done for 20-plus years, having a guy next to me, having the ability to turn and speak to him, not this juggling act we had last year. Which, I’m all for taking chances and breaking new ground and going in certain directions and taking risks if it’s worth it and if it serves the viewer.”
Tessitore goes on to say he’s been impressed with McFarland’s evolution this year.
“There are moments this year where I’m very, very proud of what Booger’s done and what he’s been able to do. I think Booger has the ability to be very, very authentic, to be strongly opinionated, not care what anybody thinks, say it like it is and not hold back. …He’s very strongly opinionated, he continues to grow and get better week after week after week with the comfort mechanics, he’s a tireless worker, he’s wildly respected amongst players and coaches. But first and foremost, and this is key to almost anything in life, Tony Romo has this, I think all the guys at the top level have this; you have to be very, very comfortable with who you are. There’s nobody on earth more comfortable with who they are than Booger McFarland.”
While McFarland’s color commentary has received some praise (and certainly not the level of vitriol that Witten’s did), it’s also taken some criticism. But Tessitore told Bennett he’s seen improvement from McFarland over the course of the season, and he thinks there will be further improvement ahead.
“Is he going to get better next week? Yes. Is he going to get better a month from now? Yes. That’s the nature of reps. But eight games in to being the standalone analyst on Monday Night Football, I’m very proud of what he’s accomplished. And even more so than that, he’s just a very dear part of my family, my broadcast family, my personal family. He’s a very personal friend who I have great respect for and great care for.”
The whole conversation between Bennett and Tessitore is quite interesting. It can be heard here.