Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland are out as ESPN’s Monday Night Football announcing team, two industry sources said Saturday.
The network is planning to fill those two jobs internally, according to a source.
Steve Levy has emerged as the most likely candidate to replace Tessitore on play-by-play, two sources said. Levy has called college football since 2016 and has been a longtime SportsCenter anchor for the network.
Former Lions quarterback Dan Orlovsky, former Michigan quarterback Brian Griese and Louis Riddick are the top candidates for the analyst job. A three-man booth is under consideration.
ESPN also hasn’t ruled out the possibility of moving its lead college football announcing team – Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit – to Monday Night Football. But Herbstreit has said that even if he works NFL games, he still would want to do college games.
The Fowler/Herbstreit scenario would be more of a possibility if this fall’s college football season is postponed.
Orlovsky, the former NFL backup quarterback, has seen his stock rise at the network more than perhaps anyone in the past year. The network very much likes his work on college games and on NFL Live.
ESPN also holds Riddick, the former NFL personnel executive, in high regard and twice previously considered him for the MNF job.
Last season, Levy, Riddick and Griese called the second game of ESPN’s opening MNF double-header.
Levy has emerged as the front-runner for the play-by-play job in part because ESPN values Levy and likes his work, and in part because ESPN’s other lead announcers are closely associated with other sports: Mike Breen (NBA), Dan Shulman (baseball and college basketball) and Fowler (college football).
And ESPN isn’t going to cycle back to college football announcer Sean McDonough, who was replaced by Tessitore on Monday Night Football before the 2018 season.
Some of the most talented NFL play-by-play announcers – including CBS No. 2 voice Ian Eagle and Fox No. 2 voice Kevin Burkhardt – are not available because they’re under contract.
McFarland became ESPN’s sole MNF analyst last season when Jason Witten decided to return to the field after an uneven one season in the booth.
McFarland struggled during ESPN’s playoff telecast and that sealed his fate.
McFarland is expected to be shifted to a role on ESPN’s NFL studio shows. Tessitore is very likely to return to calling college games.
ESPN inquired about Peyton Manning’s interest in the job the past two offseasons, but Manning prefers not to do games at this point. ESPN planned to pursue Tony Romo, but CBS re-signed him for a reported $18 million a year before his exclusive negotiating period with CBS ended.
ESPN recently was given a chance to land New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees for a job after he retires, but bypassed that opportunity at the undisclosed salary figure Brees was asking.
Brees, who had interest in the MNF job, instead committed to join NBC when he retires – perhaps in a year or two – for a job involving Notre Dame game commentary and NFL studio work.