While the coronavirus pandemic has changed the entire sports world, the NFL offseason is still trucking along. Things might have moved online, but teams are still drafting, signing, and cutting players. ESPN is getting in on the personnel changes, too; the network is reportedly ready to remove Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland from the Monday Night Football broadcast booth.
While many football fans will be glad to see Booger go, the former lineman isn’t going to vanish completely. Even if he leaves the broadest booth, you haven’t seen the last of Booger McFarland on ESPN.
Booger McFarland’s time on the gridiron
While Booger McFarland has gained most of his notoriety in the broadcast booth, that wasn’t the start of his football career. The big man spent plenty of time on the gridiron before ever stepping behind the mic.
McFarland got his start at LSU, where he didn’t waste any time making an impact. As a freshman, the defensive tackle started every game of the season; he piled up 73 tackles and even stepped in as a running back in short-yardage situations. Booger became a fan favorite, but he also had the skills to back up his popularity. During his four seasons with the Tigers, the lineman won three bowl games, became a co-captain of the squad, and earned All-American honors as a senior.
After graduation, Booger entered the 1999 NFL draft; the Tampa Bay Buccaneers snapped him up with the 15th overall pick. The lineman would spend the next seven and a half years in Florida, accumulating 211 combined tackles, 141 solo tackles, and 20 sacks and claiming victory in Super Bowl XXXVII.
During the 2006 season, McFarland was traded to the Indianapolis Colts. While Peyton Manning and his offense may have gotten all the headlines, Booger teamed up with Raheem Brock, Dwight Freeney, and Robert Mathis to form a capable defensive line. The team would win the Super Bowl that season but, unfortunately, the big game would be Booger’s last NFL appearance; he suffered a career-ending injury in following training camp and never suited up again.
An unsuccessful move to Monday Night Football
That knee injury may have ended Booger McFarland’s playing career, but it didn’t end his relationship with football. Eventually, the former tackle found a home in the media.
In 2012, Booger joined a Tampa Bay-based radio station, where he found a home talking sports. When the station switched to an all-music format, he had gained enough experience to land a gig with the SEC Network. Eventually, he joined the Monday Night Football broadcast in 2018; after one infamous season in the Booger Mobile, he headed upstairs and became a proper color commentator for the 2019 campaign.
While the move was historic—Booger was the first African American lead analyst on a national NFL broadcast since 1985—it didn’t pan out. The former lineman became a punching bag for fans and players alike; each week seemed to bring a new mistake or meme-able moment. Monday Night Football was often must-watch TV, but rarely for the right reason.
What comes next for Booger McFarland?
While ESPN whiffed on their attempts to land some big-name replacements, it seems like the network had to finally bite the bullet. On Saturday afternoon, both Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland were reportedly removed from the Monday Night Football broadcast booth.
“ESPN is going to have a new Monday Night Football booth,” Richard Deitsch tweeted. “Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland will not return, via sources. The successors will be internal. No decision has been made yet. Both Tessitore and McFarland will remain in prominent roles at ESPN.”
Andrew Marchand of the New York Post, however, provided some insight into what those prominent roles could entail. “Tessitore will continue as ESPN’s lead boxing blow-by-blowerer and on ABC’s show, “Holey Moley,” he explained. “Meanwhile, McFarland is expected to have a prominent NFL studio role, according to sources.”
While that might be a step backward, it might make all the difference for Booger. Although he wasn’t a natural on Monday Night Football, having to analyze a game as it happens isn’t the easiest task. Hopefully, moving to the studio—where things are a bit more scripted and less reactive—will give the former lineman a chance to avoid the missteps that made him famous.