|Ron Jaworksi gives up MNF but will work on other projects at ESPN. (US PRESSWIRE)|
By Ryan Wilson
On Wednesday, ESPN announced that Monday Night Football was switching to a two-man booth. The odd man out: Ron Jaworski, who had been an MNF staple for five years. Instead, Jaws, who just signed a five-year extension, will have a "new, expanded multiplatform analyst's role."
"With him doing one game each week, we don't necessarily believe we were getting the best Ron Jaworski had to offer to the network," executive vice president Norby Williamson said.
ESPN president John Skipper added: “I thank Ron for the great contributions he has made to Monday Night Football. With two strong analysts in Ron and Jon, these moves will better utilize their strengths and benefit our entire NFL presentation.”
The Jon mentioned above would be Jon Gruden, who remains in the booth with play-by-play man Mike Tirico.
It's a peculiar situation for a number of reasons, chief among them: Gruden could leave for a coaching job and Jaws just got a new deal. But three-man booths are notoriously tough to pull off (see Tony Kornheiser's stint on MNF) even if Tirico, Gruden and Jaworski made it look seamless and easy.
Jaws, speaking to Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch, called the change "bittersweet" but said he was "excited and thrilled" about some other upcoming projects.
"I have an opportunity to do some things that can be creative, so in that regard I am excited about the future. The disappointment is I have worked with some incredible people, from Jay Rothman to [MNF director] Chip Dean to Mike Tirico to Jon Gruden and the entire crew that works on MNF. They are absolutely five star... Maybe it is a little bit of my makeup, but I have never been a guy to look back. I always thought it was a great thing for a quarterback to have amnesia. Forget the past and look to the future. It was an unbelievable experience to do five years of Monday Night Football."
Jaworski said that he was told of the decision Monday though he wasn't surprised. "Nothing comes as a surprise to you when you are in this business."
One of those upcoming projects is a "QB Camp"-type show made popular by Gruden leading up to last year's draft. "I'm a football guy and I want to do more of that stuff," Jaworksi said.
Not sure why Jaws can't do both but this is a bottom-line business and sometimes the bottom line obscures what might be a good thing. Here's our theory on how things may have gone down. (And we can't stress this enough: this our a theory based on a hunch and not much else. We even talked about it on the latest Pick-6 Podcast.)
MNF isn't about appealing to football fans -- they're watching games no matter who's in the booth. MNF is entertainment -- it's about enticing non-football fans to tune in. That's why, several years ago, ESPN started bringing celebrities into the booth during the telecasts. The results ranged from boring to hilariously awkward.
Short of revisiting that debacle, maybe ESPN conducted focus groups and found that people with no interest in Xs and Os (or, more generally, football) liked Jaws the least. Again, this is just speculation ,but it certainly seems plausible given that ESPN is business of making money and the fastest way to do that is by increasing viewership. Or maybe the network really does plan to keep Jaws busy with all these new projects.
Whatever the reason the reality is this: Monday Night Football will be worse off without him.
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