In a very surprising release just coming down, ESPN has announced Ron Jaworski is departing the Monday Night Football booth to go back to the studio. ESPN will move forward with a two man booth for Monday Nights in Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden. Along with this news is a five year contract extension for Jaws that will have him appear on both Sunday and Monday Countdown shows and other platforms including his own SportsCenter Specials...
"Jaworski, the former Philadelphia Eagles standout quarterback, will have a greater year-round presence on ESPN in his new role. In addition to appearing weekly on both Countdown shows and Matchup, Jaworski will make regular appearances onSportsCenter (primarily Sundays and Mondays), NFL Live, NFL Kickoff, Mike & Mike, and the PTI’s “Five Good Minutes”. He will also be featured in ESPN’s annual NFL Draft and Super Bowl week coverage, in addition to having his own NFL-themed SportsCenter Special shows highlighting his expert analysis and X’s and O’s film evaluations."
While ESPN is careful not to deem Jaws leaving the booth as a demotion in any sort of way, especially given the five year contract extension, this is a stunning move. One immediately has to ask whether or not the booth was becoming too small for both Gruden and Jaws? There is always give and take with a three man booth and there were a few times where I sensed elbowing for position on MNF telecasts, but it wasn't anything drastic. I always thought Gruden and Jaws worked well together and made an enjoyable team with Tirico even if some of their QB love was redundant.
It's the first time since 1997 that ESPN will have a two man booth announcing NFL games and it aligns ESPN with the other networks in having their top team be a two man booth.
In the instant analysis, moving Jaws to the studio will greatly help all shows he will appear on. He's not a yeller or a laughbox and is one of the supreme X's and O's analysts in the game. Having him appear on SportsCenter and Countdown will make those shows smarter and better.
It will also put the pressure on Gruden as the lone MNF analyst for the first time in his career. ESPN is going all-in with Gruden as their top NFL analyst, so maybe this is his chance to move beyond his "this guy" stigma and become one of the top analysts in the sport. If anything, perhaps having him become the lone MNF analyst will give him the opportunity to be more hard-hitting.
However it breaks down, give credit to ESPN for making a bold move and not being afraid to shuffle their top talent in an industry that too often unequivocally supports the status quo. This move should make their entire NFL presentation better.