Jon Gruden, former coach of the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was named as Tony Kornheiser's replacement on ESPN's flagship Monday Night Football broadcasts. Gruden is, obviously, very knowledgable and also very charismatic, but his selection fails to add anything to the booth already featuring play-by-play man Mike Tirico and x's-and-o's commentator Ron Jaworski.
Gruden will not disagree with Jaworski, and both men bring the same knowledge to the table. Also, both are unquestionably enthusiastic about football. I fear we will have the straight man Tirico surrounded by two cheerleaders who never disagree and never add anything to the other's comments. Plus, if Gruden ever wants to work again he has to watch what he says. ESPN either needs to drop the entertainment angle Kornheiser was supposed to bring, or they need to feature the third aspect of the sport and bring in a player personnel man.
Here are the groups I'd have liked to see.
1) Tirico-Jaworski-Millen - Matt Millen, while a disastrous head man for an organization, proved last postseason that he does know what he's talking about. Sure, execution is a problem but that hasn't stopped other former players and coaches from becoming good broadcasters. While Millen and Jaworski wouldn't necessary go at each other, it would be a nice third perspective.
2) Tirico-Jaworski-Dennis Green - If you want a former coach in the booth, and one with charisma, Dennis Green was the way to go. Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden are too similar, and both are harnessed by their desire to some day coach again. Billick and Jaworski have the same knowledge, except Jaworski is more commanding. Mike Ditka would just be out of his element surrounded by a pair of 120+ IQs. Dennis Green is the logical choice since he isn't likely to be a head coach again and offers a great likelihood of straying from the talking points.
3) Tirico-Jaworski-Joe Thiesmann - Yeah, I said it. Jaworski and Thiesmann would be at each other constantly. Nobody likes Joe, that's for sure, and I doubt his exile has humbled him enough to make the old "Joe is the smartest guy in the room, just ask him," adage any less true. Still, that would an entertaining booth.
4) Tirico-Jaworski-Wilbon - This is how it always should have been. Wilbon brings the same pop culture saavy to the booth that Kornheiser purportedly brought, and Wilbon actually follows sports. Wilbon would not express awe over Jaworski knowing how many officials are on the field. He follows golf, hockey, basketball and baseball. He can hold his own with Katherine Heigl. The plain truth is that they cannot offend Kornheiser by putting his old knockaround pal in the booth as his replacement, but that's how it always should have been.
5) Tirico-Jaworski-Former NFL Referee - This has been a long time coming. The NFL would not like having a former member of the flock in the booth to accurately criticize poor judgment and blatant misinterpretation of the rules, but it's the next logical step in building a lifelong fanbase. Plus, ESPN is broadcast overseas and Europeans need to understand the rules if the NFL is actually going to expand to a worldwide presence. Also do not forget that the game is played on Monday Night, so in the event of a snoozer, the official can explain weird and questionable happenings from the other 12 to 15 games from the weekend. Ideas like this are why I should be in charge of something.
And finally, the dream team.
6) Mike Patrick-Paul Maguire-Ron Jaworski - Patrick and Al Michaels are the gold standard in professional play-by-play men. They both infuse the perfect blend of enthusiasm and hyperbole without going a little Gus Johnson in a meaningless game. Many disliked Paul Maguire in the former configuration with Patrick and Thiesmann, but I give him the benefit of the doubt because he always had to correct and rein in Thiesmann. With Jaworski, I think you'd get two enlightening color commentators with a stellar play-by-play man. ESPN has all three men already, and I think this booth would make MNF an event again instead of a sideshow.
Tirico is very good himself, but I think he lends himself better to the college game. With the elder statesmen in that arena nearing the sunset, he could have positioned himself as THE big-game guy on ABC/ESPN. He has shown himself to be both opinionated and insightful regarding the BCS, and his growth would have been unlimited.
Honorable Mention: Bill Simmons, J.A. Adande, Gregg Easterbrook (TMQ)
Dishonorable Mention: Rush Limbaugh, Condi Rice, Dennis Miller
Any other ideas or suggestions? What other feasible pairings would you have liked to see?