ESPN’s Jason Witten Experiment Didn’t Work

Think about, if you’ll, the next situation. After his rookie yr of broadcasting, Tony Romo decides he hasn’t absolutely scratched his football-playing itch. He decides to go away the sales space and return to the Dallas Cowboys.

Think about the chaos. Think about the panic. Think about the executives at CBS tearing out their hair.

Now attempt to think about ESPN at present, within the wake of Romo’s former teammate, Jason Witten, doing the identical factor. It appears much less anxious, much less apoplectic that the way forward for asserting is slipping by their grasp.

It’s troublesome to think about forces on the Worldwide Chief circling the wagons and rounding up a giant effort to get him to remain. It’s much more troublesome to think about main money issues being introduced into the combination.

The distinction is that CBS discovered a diamond within the tough. ESPN discovered a rough-around-the-edges challenge. The stark distinction between each the acumen and public reception of Romo and Witten — who share a standard previous — highlights their diverging futures.

Soccer broadcasts, just like the NFL, have became a copycat league. Charismatic gamers are the brand new hotness, and the popular time to pounce is earlier than the ink on their retirement papers dries. However not each group can take a good suggestion and execute it. The work doesn’t finish on the blueprint stage.

Someday it’s concerning the Jimmies and Joes, not X’s and O’s.

Romo’s unbelievable run by the AFC Championship Recreation and Tremendous Bowl has CBS fits sleeping like infants. They’re set. They’ve their man, so long as the massive checks clear and he stays . This pleased marriage may final many years.

ESPN, however, should as soon as once more re-tinker. Monday Night time Soccer may come out of this higher than it was earlier than. In truth, I’d wager it does. That the subsequent particular person to take a seat in Witten’s still-warm chair will likely be an enchancment.

That’s the brilliant facet.

The darker fact is that the community seems to have made the worst attainable selection in choosing Witten after its crowded competitors to fill the Jon Gruden position. Not solely did his shaky efficiency advantage one million thinkpieces and near-constant damaging consideration for the first-year sales space, his choice to go away after one yr means ESPN will as soon as once more should make a dramatic overhaul.

In sports activities parlance, the MNF has, if nothing else, wasted a yr in its rebuild. There’s little to indicate for 2018. Regardless of a livid pr push, the trio of Joe Tessitore, Booger McFarland, and Witten fell far in need of lofty hopes. Maybe that will have additionally occurred with Joe Thomas or Louis Riddick or Kurt Warner within the sales space. That isn’t a lot comfort proper now.

This isn’t meant to pile on Witten or ESPN. Outdoors forces are the most important purpose MNF‘s spot as marquee soccer window is in critical jeopardy — if it hasn’t been misplaced already. Sean McDonough and Jon Gruden, the earlier duo, weren’t working. A change was wanted.

It’s simple to play armchair quarterback. Given some self-reflection, it’s truthful to say that The Massive Lead and related websites paid far more consideration to Witten than most informal soccer followers. Maybe we amplified his errors and have been too arduous on him.

On the similar time, it was troublesome for these on the surface to see what made him such a sexy selection within the first place. No matter magic he dropped at his audition didn’t translate. It was clear, very early on, that there could be some rising pains. These pains subsided a bit, however by no means went away.

His abrupt departure could possibly be seen as an admission of failure. And whereas that’s tough, Witten wouldn’t be the primary former participant to have a cup of espresso within the broadcast sales space, solely to go away and do one thing else.

Hardly ever, although, is it such a public spectacle or high-profile job. Hardly ever does an individual stroll away from what’s, arguably, the prime place within the discipline so early.

That is definitely not how ESPN wished the Jason Witten experiment to go. They’ll get one other probability to catch lightning in a bottle, to seek out their very own Romo, this time round. Be assured, although, that the brand new particular person will topic to the identical that got here final yr.

It’s odd that, a yr after writing about on a regular basis wasted within the pursuit of Peyton Manning, we will look again on the unproductive Witten yr. The strain for MNF to get it proper this time round will likely be immense.

Right here’s hoping we don’t meet again right here in early 2020.

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