Wednesday’s NFL: ‘MNF’ returns to 2-man TV team

Joe Reedy
Associated Press
At left, Booger McFarland is joining Joe Tessitore in the 'Monday Night Football" booth. ESPN had a three-man commentary team last year.

ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” will return to a two-man booth when it kicks off its 50th season later this year.

The network announced that Joe Tessitore will be back doing play-by-play while Booger McFarland moves up to the booth after being a field-level analyst.

ESPN also announced that Lisa Salters will return for an eighth season as the sideline reporter after signing a multiyear extension.

Stephanie Druley, ESPN’s executive vice president for event and studio production, said the chemistry between Tessitore and McFarland was the biggest reason for moving McFarland upstairs. Before “Monday Night Football”, the two worked together when ESPN launched the SEC Network and had them on its Saturday pregame show.

“They have become close friends and they had a good first season (last year),” Druley said.

“Booger has a big personality and does a good job of analyzing all sides.”

McFarland, who played nine seasons in the NFL for Indianapolis and Tampa Bay, is the only former defensive player to be the lead analyst on a network’s top team. He said in a statement he is happy for the opportunity to be in the booth and to continue working with Tessitore and Salters.

“We have a great slate of games and I look forward to starting our journey in Louisiana, where I was born and raised, with the Texans-Saints game in early September,” McFarland said.

Jason Witten, who was in the booth last season, decided in February to end his retirement and return to the Dallas Cowboys. Druley said ESPN reached out to Peyton Manning, but nothing further resulted.

“Monday Night Football” had a three-man booth for all but 12 of its first 49 seasons. The first time the series had a two-man booth was 1986 with Al Michaels and Frank Gifford. Other two-man booths featured Michaels and Boomer Esiason (1999), Michaels and John Madden (2002-05), Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden (2012-15) and Sean McDonough and Gruden (2016-17).

“I am especially happy for Booger, whose unique talent and uncommon perspective will now be showcased even more prominently in his new role,” Tessitore said in a statement.

“With Lisa and the addition of Super Bowl referee John Parry (as a rules analyst), our goal is simple: serve the fan by documenting the event and celebrating the game as best we can.”

There was some criticism last year that Salters’ role was decreased with McFarland also being on the field, but Druley said the network went to her more than expected.

“It continues to be my privilege to be a part of the MNF team,” Salters said in a statement. “Tess and Booger are both a pleasure to work with.”

Childress back with Bears

Brad Childress will rejoin the Bears as a senior offensive assistant, the team announced.

Childress previously served as a senior offensive consultant during the 2018 offseason and training camp as coach Matt Nagy installed his offense.

Childress has 20 years of NFL coaching experience, including five with the Chiefs alongside Nagy. They were co-offensive coordinators in 2016 before Childress was promoted to assistant head coach and Nagy to offensive coordinator in 2017.

Childress, an Aurora, Ill., native, began his career as a graduate assistant and running backs coach at Illinois in the early 1980s. He was the Vikings head coach from 2006 to 2010 and also worked with the Browns, Eagles and Colts.

Childress originally was supposed to coach the Atlanta team in the Alliance of American Football this spring, but he stepped down before the season started. The league suspended operations after eight games.

Extra point

The Bears exercised their fifth-year option on linebacker Leonard Floyd, locking him up through 2020.