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Booger McFarland out of Monday Night Football booth?

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Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Big changes are apparently coming to ESPN Monday Night Football coverage, and it looks as though after two seasons former Buccaneers and Colts player turned broadcaster, Anthony “Booger” McFarland, will be out of the Monday night booth.

First there was a report on Tuesday from New York Post sports media writer,  Andrew Marchand, that ESPN was intending to make serious changes, first with the lead producer of Monday Night Football, Jay Rothman.

Rothman, who still has a deal with the network, will apparently be re-assigned and perhaps, to college football.

Marchand theorized that Rohman’s departure on Monday Nights signals significant change, including putting new broadcasters in the booth, as well.

Marchand also wrote that ESPN, which has tried for the last couple of years to hire Super Bowl winning quarterback Peyton Manning to be in the booth may have success this time. That’s because, Manning’s younger brother Eli, who is a free agent, may very well retire at 38 years of age after this past season from the NFL. Peyton Manning hosted a series of lighthearted half hour feature shows this past season on the ESPN+ app.

Next, Marchand wrote about CBS lead analyst and former Cowboys quarterback, Tony Romo, who is also slated to be a broadcasting free agent. Marchand said that Romo could be a possibility to enter the Monday Night booth, however, he’s wanting a significant raise from his reported $3 million salary.

And, it seems that CBS, which will have Romo with Jim Nantz on it’s Sunday coverage of the Kansas City- Houston Texans playoff game, will try to keep that tandem together, even if it means paying big for Romo.

A source has told F.F.I. that McFarland has mentioned that he may be moved off of the Monday Night Football broadcast, but that he could be kept with partner Joe Tessitore on a college football package. Marchand also wrote this in his New York Post Tuesday item.

Tessitore previously broadcasted college football for ESPN before landing the Monday Night play-by-play gig two years ago. That’s when the network put Sean McDonough, who had done the play-by-play the previous two years on Mondays himself, back on college football.

So, this would obviously be following a similar pattern.

McFarland, who still lives in Tampa, was previously a studio analyst for the launch of the SEC Network in 2014 and later on Saturday ABC football coverage in 2015 and 16, as well.

2019 was McFarland’s first year full time in the Monday night booth. The previous season he was the “field analyst” riding on a specialized elevated golf cart (shown above) behind one of the team benches.

That was while, Tessitore was joined by Cowboys tight end Jason Witten in the booth for game analysis. It definitely provided for some awkward moments with Tessitore and Witten not having McFarland with them and the three couldn’t see each other to find out whom should be talking next.

Eventually, at the end of last year, ESPN put McFarland in the booth with Tessitore and Witten, as a try out. Witten then decided to return to play in the NFL this past season with the Cowboys, and ESPN left Tessitore and McFarland together, as its broadcasters for the 50th season of Monday Night Football.

McFarland spent eight seasons in the NFL, and was part of two Superbowl winning teams with the Buccaneers in 2002 and the Colts in 2006. He’s a former #1 draft pick of the Bucs in 1999 out of LSU, and was also, one of several analysts on the ESPN set for their coverage of the 2019 NFL Draft.

McFarland has drawn recent criticism for on air blunders, where he got confused doing a Vikings game late in the year that they had lost the “Minneapolis Miracle” game. However, Minnesota won that playoff game two years ago dramatically in the final seconds vs. the Saints on a Stefon Diggs TD catch and run.

Then, on the larger stage Saturday, and as Marchand referenced in the Post Tuesday, McFarland got confused at the end of the Bills vs. Texans playoff game frantic finish with the Bills driving.

McFarland suggested that the Bills run the ball on the next play  to set up a tying field goal (which was 3rd down) and then, hurry to spike the ball-stop the clock. And, that would have obviously been on fourth down ending their possession and chance to tie. The Bills eventually got the clock stopped and kicked the tying field goal for OT.

It’s unclear whether the network would seek another significant name for the Monday booth, if neither Peyton Manning nor Romo are available?

But, if they’re moving both Tessitore and McFarland to college football together for this fall, they may end up swapping spots with longtime ESPN SportsCenter anchor and play-by-play man Steve Levy, and his partner and former NFL quarterback, Brian Griese.

Levy and Griese worked the second half of the Monday Night Football opening week doubleheader this past year, as the Raiders played the Broncos. Levy and Griese have also been the preseason broadcasters for Bronco games the last couple of years with Griese’s natural tie of having quarterbacked in Denver.

It is also believed that ESPN wants to promote former front office executive Louis Riddick, whom they have used as a studio analyst over the last few seasons. Riddick currently serves in that role pregame and post game at the stadiums for Monday Night Football.

ESPN used Riddick in the booth with Levy and Griese for the regular-season game that they did back in September.

ESPN generally announces their broadcast teams for the fall in late April or early May.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs DE Barrett basked in first Pro Bowl appearance Wednesday

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Off the best pass-rushing season in Buccaneers history, potential free-agent defensive end Shaq Barrett was soaking things in Wednesday in Orlando.

That’s where the NFC and AFC top players have congregated for the 2020 Pro Bowl coming Sunday.

Barrett, who set the Buccaneers single-season sack record with 19.5 this past season, ended up being the lone Buccaneer able to play in the game. This, after receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin have both had to bow out due to hamstring injuries.

Barrett got props on day one from one from Cardinals DE Chandler Jones, whom he battled for the sack title all the way down to the final Sunday of the season:

Barrett then got to hangout and sign autographs with the fans assembled at Disney’s Wide World of Sports. The sixth year player out of Colorado State, who was originally undrafted but signed with the Broncos in 2014, then told the media, he’s looking for a big-money free-agent deal. And, further, his preference is that he stays in Tampa Bay.

After all, Barrett surpassed anyone’s expectation in 2019, while playing for a modest one-year free agent deal and betting on himself to cash-in. And now, after his agent Drew Rosenhaus and Bucs GM Jason Licht are done, it appears he will be making in the neighborhood of $18-20 million per year just like the top pass rushers in the NFL.

The Bucs also have the possibility of putting the franchise tag for 2020 on Barrett which would also be valued around that same amount for just the one season.

One final cool moment came Wednesday, where Barrett got introduced to a young Buccaneers fan who’s enduring tremendous family hardship with one parent battling cancer and another suffering from the debilitating ALS disease. After signing an autograph for the young man, Barrett gave him the surprise of his young life with two tickets to next weekend’s Super Bowl in Miami:

And just like that fantastic reward, Barrett will soon be similarly rewarded for his fantastic year and upcoming potential. And most likely, it will be in Tampa Bay for a long time.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Evans got respect from LeBron James Saturday night

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The new present day cliche’ for respect among athletes/opponents in sports is: “Game Recognizes Game.” And, there was a neat example of that Saturday night, as the Houston Rockets of the NBA hosted the L.A. Lakers. That’s when iconic NBA star LeBron James of the Lakers came over to acknowledge Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans in the seats behind him.

As you probably know, James is arguably the most recognizable and successful NBA hoops player worldwide in the last 10+ years. He’s a 15 time All Star, a four time MVP, and helped the Miami Heat win two World Championships. And, then came back to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who originally drafted him out of high school, and led them to the city’s epic first professional title in any sport in over 50 years back in 2016.

And, LeBron has the Lakers rolling at 34-8 with another win in Houston last night.

As for Evans, he is a Tampa Bay Buccaneers biggest offensive weapon and was having a tremendous 2019 season statistically until it was cut short with a hamstring injury in the Bucs early December win over the Indianapolis Colts.

That’s when Evans suffered a severe hamstring injury on a 61 yard touchdown catch from Jameis Winston and did not play another down in 2019. Still, he joined teammate Chris Godwin, as they both went over 1,000 yards for the season, which was the first time in Tampa Bay history that that happened.

Evans is also only the second player in league history, besides Randy Moss, to have 1,000 or more yards receiving in a season in his first six years in the NFL.

Further, it’s also well-known that Evan is a huge fan of the NBA and he’s originally from Galveston, Texas and play in college at Texas A&M. So, it’s only fitting that he would be courtside during the off-season and the Rockets game against the Lakers.

Evans has made mention earlier in his career that he had met and talked to LeBron James on previous occasions. One reason that Evans brought that up during the season, was his touchdown celebration dance when Tampa Bay outgunned the L.A. Rams in late September.

In that 48 – 40 win Evans caught this clinching fourth-quarter bomb touchdown from Winston and then, celebrated with LeBron James’s signature dance move

James has previously and frequently used that on the court after a big moment, a big win or a championship.

Again “Game recognizes Game,” and clearly James wanted to give some recognition to the Bucs star whiteout Saturday night courtside at his own game.

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