By Lucas Shaw
For just the sixth time in Monday Night Football’s 42-year history, only two announcers will man the iconic booth, ESPN announced Wednesday.
Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden will handle all of the commentary for the sports empire’s signature broadcast, as long-time ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski will exit.
Jaworski, a former NFL quarterback known as “Jaws,” will still contribute to ESPN’s other football programming, such as “Sunday NFL Countdown” and “NFL Live.”
“I thank Ron for the great contributions he has made to Monday Night Football and look forward to the many ways he will enhance our studio presentation from our NFL-branded shows to SportsCenter,” ESPN President John Skipper said in a statement. “With two strong analysts in Ron and Jon, these moves will better utilize their strengths and benefit our entire NFL presentation.”
Ever since ESPN began airing “Monday Night Football” in 2006, its broadcast booth has been a lightning rod for discussion and controversy.
Its first experiment paired Tirico with Tony Kornheiser and Joe Theismann.
It was Kornheiser that divided fans and critics, as some praised his unorthodox approach and others saw him as ill-fitted to in-game broadcasting.
The former Washington Post columnist and co-host of ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption” brought less knowledge of the “X’s and Os’ — specific plays and formations — but an opinionated voice and more pop culture references.
It was reported that he and Tirico, ESPN’s choice as play-by-play man, did not see eye to eye.
After one year, ESPN replaced Theismann with Jaworski, who shared the booth with Tirico ever since.
Two years later, Kornheiser left and was replaced by Gruden, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders head coach.
This was documented in detail in Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller‘s oral history of ESPN, “These Guys Have All the Fun.”
“Monday Night Football” has been the highest-rated show on cable six years running.