"Monday Night Football" on ESPN made a significant change last year, and everyone saw it from a mile away. Play-by-play announcer Joe Tessitore and color commentator Booger McFarland left the booth after just two seasons on the call, and the network added more excitement to the broadcast booth.
Whether it was the BoogerMobile on the sideline, NSFW pictures drawn on replays or countless other blunders, the experiment of Tessitore, McFarland and even Jason Witten for primetime NFL games simply didn't resonate with fans as ESPN hoped. In some ways, it was even worse than the Sean McDonough and Jon Gruden (now coaching the Raiders) phase after Mike Tirico left. Long gone are the days of names like Don Meredith, Frank Gifford and Howard Cosell.
ESPN has certainly tried to add bigger names to the Monday Night Football booth. They went after Tony Romo before he signed a record deal with CBS. They even tried to orchestrate a trade with NBC to land Al Michaels from "Sunday Night Football" and offer Drew Brees a spot once he decides to retire.
All of this left fans with a new MNF crew last season consisting of Steve Levy, Brian Griese and Louis Riddick, who were joined by sideline reporter Lisa Salters every Monday night kickoff. They're back this year, but ESPN is (sort of) adding two massive additions to their broadcast team: Peyton Manning and Eli Manning.
Monday Night Football's Broadcast Change
It's probably early to pile on, but I'd say the Monday Night Football crew of Joe Tessitore, Jason Witten, and Booger McFarland is its worst ever -- and I remember the days of Gifford, Namath and OJ. pic.twitter.com/KAVJT3yE9V
— Glen Macnow (@RealGlenMacnow) October 17, 2018
Last season, ESPN hired a crew of Monday Night Football commentators internally while Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland remained with the network. The last part means Tessitore returned to college football games and allowed ESPN to bring someone up through the ranks.
The network chose longtime ESPN employee and "SportsCenter" anchor Steve Levy. It was likely the best fit, too. Levy is charismatic on the call and brought a new flare to the MNF broadcasts.
Who would join Levy for the trending job was the biggest question mark, however.
ESPN gave the gig to Brian Griese, which made sense considering the two paired up together on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 in 2019. The chemistry is certainly there. Former NFL player Louis Riddick was given the third spot and brought a wealth of knowledge to the booth.
In addition, last season, the network's top college football team of Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit called the first game of MNF's double-header to open the 2020 season between the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers.
After the 2020 season, it wasn't clear if that three-man group would return.
Monday Night Football Announcers 2021
Now official: ESPN?s new Monday Night Football Commentator Team - Steve Levy, Brian Griese and Louis Riddick. Congratulations to a great team. Lisa Salters and John Parry also return to MNF telecast. First game: Titans at Broncos, the second game of ESPN?s Week 1 MNF Doubleheader pic.twitter.com/7Nw8eyenPA
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 17, 2020
NEWS: The team of Steve Levy, Brian Griese, and Louis Riddick will return to Monday Night Football this fall for ESPN. They will be the broadcast booth again for the 2021 NFL season.
— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) April 23, 2021
Monday Night Football 2021 Crew: Steve Levy, Brian Griese, Louis Riddick, Lisa Salters, John Parry
ESPN is keeping the three-man booth of Steve Levy, Brian Griese and Louis Riddick for its 2021 Monday Night Football broadcasts. They're also staying with Salters on the sideline and officiating analyst John Parry as well.
However, there is one new change coming to ESPN for Monday Night Football: Peyton and Eli Manning.
Peyton & Eli Manning on Monday Night Football
Peyton and Eli Manning will headline a Monday Night FootballMegaCast on ESPN2 and ESPN+ for three seasons through their new agreement. ESPN will produce it in conjunction with Peyton Manning?s Omaha Productions. It?s slated for 10 games each season, starting this year. pic.twitter.com/sYSdjzhn0I
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 19, 2021
ESPN announced that Peyton Manning and brother Eli Manning will cohost a Monday Night Football "MegaCast" on ESPN2 for 10 games for the 2021 regular season. The alternate broadcast will air the first three weeks of the season, including a Week 3 matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys.
Yes, that means fans will be able to switch back and forth between ESPN and ESPN2 during the Monday Night Football game and catch Peyton and Eli having fun. The Mannings will welcome celebrity guests on their broadcast, though it's not clear who those will be. They joined ESPN on a three-year deal.
One thing is for sure: ESPN having Peyton Manning in the broadcast booth in any capacity seems like a win for everyone.
Peyton was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year after a legendary career with the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos. Eli retired after a legendary playoff and two-time Super Bowl-winning career with the New York Giants.
Sure, they know their football. But they're just downright hilarious together.
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