Jason Witten has ways to go to match immense ESPN hype

ESPN’s lead “Monday Night Football” producer, Jay Rothman, did not hold back in hyping up his new trio during a media seminar in Bristol on Friday. Rothman called play-by-player Joe Tessitore a “cross between Frank Sinatra and a young Brent Musburger,” described Jason Witten as “Captain America” and Booger McFarland as “football’s Charles Barkley.” If Rothman is even half right in his assessment, then he and his fellow ESPN producers should have no problem making it work.

Witten is the biggest name and the riskiest of the three new voices. Fresh off his Cowboys career, he has been anointed into the MNF booth despite no TV-analyst experience. It worked for CBS with Witten’s buddy, Tony Romo, but even Romo — who deserved praise for his enthusiasm and first guessing — showed signs by the end of the year that he needed to grow even more in his analysis.

On-the-job training on national TV is not an easy thing, though at a salary at reportedly $4.5 million or higher, no one should feel too bad for the 36-year-old Witten. He felt surprisingly nervous in his first game when he called the Jets and Redskins.

“I was like, ‘Don’t try to set the world on fire in minute one,’” Witten said.

A preseason game is not one to fully judge, but Witten did not stand out on opening night. He has a game plan to improve.

“A good listen is very easy to digest,” Witten said. “I think it is good energy, not silly energy. It can’t be over the top. It is knowledgeable, drawing you in, but it is not overbearing or talking down.”

There is an earnestness about how the whole ESPN MNF team wants its broadcast to be a big deal. But one takeaway from the seminar is they might want to chill a little, if having the best chemistry — a keyword for sure from them — is the goal.

ESPN is sold on the Booger Mobile, which will have McFarland gliding at 30 mph on the sideline in a cart instead of the booth, even though he and Witten are supposed to be co-analysts.

We will give the Booger Mobile a chance, of course, but it feels like a lot of fuss without really a discernible explanation as to why it will produce a better broadcast. We would just put McFarland in the booth, especially if he is going to be the Barkley of football.

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