Ron Jaworski is out at "Monday Night Football."
ESPN announced Wednesday that the analyst would be removed from the network's signature broadcast beginning in August. Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden will operate as a two-man booth.
Jaworski will remain at the network and appear on various programs, including "Countdown" and "Matchup."
The longtime ESPN analyst had been in the MNF booth since 2007, replacing Joe Theismann after one season. He was supposed to add a respected football voice to a broadcast that included Tony Kornheiser. He dutifully played that role for two years until Jon Gruden was brought in as Kornheiser's replacement. It was all downhill from there.
When Jaworski appears on other ESPN shows, he's an insightful football mind who breaks down X's and O's with clarity. His "NFL Matchup" program is the best on television for real football analysis. There was none of that on "Monday Night Football." Jaworski stuck to talking points, spoke in cliches and offered little, if any, breakdown of what was happening on the field. It was like a college professor being forced to teach third grade and not having any idea how to relate to his new surroundings. The addition of Gruden exacerbated the problem. Suddenly there were two football guys in the booth and they seemed to be in competition for who could say the most without saying anything at all.
This paragraph, from a December article in The New Yorker about Gruden, was a perfect microcosm of Jaws' time in the booth:
When it was Jaworski's turn, he issued a stern proclamation. "Call me crazy, but I'm really excited for Tyler Palko tonight," he said, and a roomful of skeptical sports producers erupted in laughter. Jaworski had given himself the thankless task of building up the Chiefs, praising them as much as he could without putting his own credibility at risk. Perhaps viewers would buy into the idea, however far-fetched, that Palko would emerge as the night's underdog hero. Later that day, as Jaworski was making a cup of coffee in the ESPN bus, he tried the line again. "Call me crazy, but I'm excited about Tyler Palko," he said. He exhaled. "I've got to sell this," he said to himself.
He became a carnival barker, not a football analyst. That may have been his own doing or based on the suggestions of ESPN producers. Regardless, the mentality to promote the game rather than describe it, which seems to be shared by Tirico and Gruden, is a big reason why "Monday Night Football" has become borderline unwatchable in recent years. It's not a football game anymore; it's a promotional vehicle. (That's only going to get worse when Gruden is given a bigger stage.)
Jaws was out of place. His football knowledge didn't change, it was the forum he had in which to disseminate it.
ESPN played up Jaworski's new role in a press release, but it's hard to consider this anything but a demotion. He goes from being in the booth for the network's marquee telecast to fighting for airtime on "Sunday NFL Countdown" with Cris Carter.
"I am grateful for having the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of working on 'Monday Night Football' the past five seasons with Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and so many other talented people behind the scenes who make the show so great, and I look forward to bringing my passion and knowledge of the game to more fans in more places than ever before on any and all football topics," Jaworski said in the statement.
The last two-man booth on "Monday Night Football" was Al Michaels and John Madden. ESPN has used three-man teams since acquiring rights to the telecast in 2006.
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