When it was announced that Jason Witten would be taking Jon Gruden's place on Monday Night Football, it felt like an eerily similar move to CBS handing Tony Romo the color commentator job on a silver platter. Neither former Dallas Cowboy had any prior experience calling NFL games, not that that's a prerequisite as many players go straight from the field to analyst roles, and many do well. Still, it was seen as unfair to other potential candidates who may have put in time to earn the job.
Romo has made the execs at CBS look like geniuses, sliding right in alongside Jim Nantz and reinventing the game. Expecting Witten to produce similar results would have been unfair, but Romo showed that it is possible to succeed in that role right away.
That has been far from the case for the future Hall-of-Fame tight end, as his first six weeks on the job have been somewhat of an unmitigated disaster. He's been robotic, too reliant on cliches and prior to Monday night any time the camera went to a live shot of he and Joe Tessitore in the booth, Witten would only look at Tessitore while he rambled on and on and on. Someone must have gotten in his ear about this very thing before the Green Bay Packers-San Francisco 49ers game, because Witten was practically staring directly into viewer's souls last night any time he was on camera.
In addition to one too many cliches from the Bill Parcells notebook, Witten has just flat out said some head-scratching stuff. There was the "left-wing" comment from a month ago, which, let's be honest, was a little overblown. What's not been overblown was Witten's gaffe from Monday night's game, which came after Aaron Rodgers connected with Davante Adams to tie the game with 1:55 to play. The analyst reached deep into his handy-dandy cliche notebook and threw out this gem:
"You saw Aaron Rodgers there, blood on his elbow big old knee brace on, hit on his wrist, it doesn’t matter, he pulls another rabbit out of his head."
Head, hat, what's the difference really. Witten was predictably and deservedly roasted on Twitter:
Unfortunately for Witten, the "pulling a rabbit out of his head" quote during the biggest moment of the game was just one of his many mishaps. Some other gems:
To his credit, Witten was a good sport about it, though I'm not sure what else you're supposed to do when the entire internet is crushing you:
It's a shame so much of the focus is on Witten (and the equally awful Booger McFarland), because the Monday Night games have actually been great this year. And Tessitore is a pro, but his style has always felt better for the big-play nature of college football, and putting him next to the rigid Witten was a big ask. It's only week six and it's only year one, so we should try to give Witten & co. some more time. But if he continues to do what he's doing there may not be a year two. Who knows, maybe he'll pull a rabbit out of his head.