Transcript: ESPN’s Monday Night Football Team Previews Chiefs-Rams


Transcript: ESPN’s Monday Night Football Team Previews Chiefs-Rams

On a media conference call earlier today, ESPN’s Monday Night Football commentators answered questions in advance of their Week 11 game featuring Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs (9-1) vs. Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams (9-1) – the top teams in the AFC and NFC, respectively.

On the call, play-by-play voice Joe Tessitore, analyst Jason Witten, field analyst Booger McFarland and sideline reporter Lisa Salters were joined by MNF producer Jay Rothman and ESPN Executive Vice President of Programming & Scheduling Burke Magnus. Full audio replay. Photos via ESPN Images. Transcript:

ROTHMAN: Good morning, everybody. First of all, I would say we’re disappointed that we’re not going to be in Mexico City. We were really excited about the game when the schedule came out, we had it two years ago, we wanted it last year with New England, didn’t get it and this year we got it back. It’s a stadium that has great history, sold out crowds, boisterous crowd, unique sights and sounds, very different than what we’re used to here and we enjoyed the heck out of our last experience there so we were excited about that. But we understand the circumstances and just have to adjust as difficult as the logistics were for both teams, the Rams and Chiefs, certainly the Rams being in Colorado Springs. The same holds true for our crew. We had 150 people that were mobilizing, a ton of logistic, travel, security, transportation, equipment, setting up at the stadium, Estadio Azteca, we had a catering truck already in Mexico. So as you can imagine, with a game like that, a lot of detail, a lot of logistics, a lot of planning, a lot of thought and all of that you have to adjust. Our fleet of trucks left Santa Clara, they were in Arizona heading to the border and were to be at the Mexican border this morning. So with the news yesterday it turned into scramble mode for a number of hours for much of our team. We divided, worked hard, and now under these unique circumstances Monday Night Football returns to L.A. as Allie said for the first time since 1985. And we’re excited about that. It’s great matchup for us, we’re sensitive to what’s going on here in Los Angeles, certainly we experienced it in Santa Clara, over the weekend, with the fires north. And now the same holds true with the news that occurred in Thousand Oaks a week ago, the fires in Malibu, potential air quality concerns, which seem to have gotten better here in LA where I am now and all of that. But at the end of the day we’re excited for this matchup and excited to be televising from Los Angeles now.

Q. Did it make it any easier that you need to switch everything to L.A. rather than say another NFL city which may be more difficult to get to or just would have all kind of issues that maybe you would not have in Los Angeles and the other question is did the NFL consult with ESPN at all on this change and if so, how?

MAGNUS: They did not consult, I wouldn’t put it that way, they did not consult with us, we were not part of the decision, other than they did, which we really appreciated, gave us some notice of the potential issues several days ago. So to Jay’s point the logistical change here is not insignificant, but we appreciated that the NFL made us aware of the possibility several days ago while they were making their evaluations. But we did not have any part in the decision, though we understand it.

ROTHMAN: The only thing I would add again from a geographic standpoint, having our fleet in Arizona, to be able to stop that, we are a traveling circus, we move six mobile units that make up our show, so that was a bit of an easy turn around, it certainly helps that USC is playing in the Rose Bowl on Saturday, not at home, so that helps us from a technical standpoint in terms of set up. So it certainly was a few hours of a frenzy yesterday, but it’s back to normal now, doing the Monday Night Football game and here we go.

Q. Jay, you did the first game back in Los Angeles against the Cowboys, I wonder what you learned about sort of the logistical challenges of the Coliseum that you can apply there now and I wonder, have you ever had anything in your career like this where there’s an audible called at the last minute of this magnitude where you have to make this kind of switch so late in the game?

ROTHMAN: Yeah, to answer the second part of your question, not really. We certainly have had odd circumstances occur in the moment, lights going out at Candlestick Park, all the things of that nature, but, no, we haven’t had to adjust like that. It was crazy just that the last two games, including what we had in San Francisco with air quality in the Bay Area and things of that nature and any sort of moving of that game that was a little bit of a stressful weekend up there even knowing that, not knowing how the air quality would be, the talk of maybe moving the game site, knowing that these trucks had to get to Mexico, so there was a lot that’s gone on over the last week I would say. And then as it relates to doing the game at the L.A. Coliseum, not really, we have done a lot of NFL football there, not us per se but they televise there every week and certainly offers unique advantage points, we are adding some extra gear and equipment because of the magnitude of this game, but no, we should have no challenges. Again USC not being there helps. Understand the stadium’s a little bit under construction, so that doesn’t make for the prettiest of pictures, but we’re excited to be back in L.A. and fired up for the game.

Q. Was the second Monday ever a consideration? In other words, doing it during the bye week or was it just too complicated with postponing a Monday night game?

MAGNUS: We were never made aware of anything other than a venue switch.

Q. Jason, I was curious from your perspective, how concerned were you looking at the field conditions in Mexico City with the safety issue with players, what was your level of concern seeing those photos before the game was moved?

WITTEN: Yeah, I think it’s always a priority that you want to have it as an equal playing field in that you want, you don’t want the elements to ever get in the way of the outcome or affecting the game. So although it was just some pictures, my experience of playing in the NFL for 15 years was that every week with the equipment, with the field, with the support staff that was around, was always the best of the best. And so I trust the league’s vision and the standards that they have for what the NFL’s going to be and the playing field. And, yeah, I think from a player’s perspective you always wanted to be the best circumstance you can be, but at the same time you have to adjust. So obviously the league made that decision and we’ll respect that and move forward.

Q. How much have you guys been looking forward to this game since for about five, six weeks it looked like this could be one of the tight games on the NFL calendar.

TESSITORE: We have had this thing circled all year long, there’s just no way around it and I think probably a little extra so and I’ll let the others speak to this, but the fact that we were able to take such a deep dive on the Rams for so long, knowing that they were our opening Monday Night Football game against the Raiders. I think we really were tightened up on knowing the Rams inside and out and realizing what kind of season they had in front of them and then obviously they delivered the way they have. And we spent a lot of time with the Rams in the lead up to that first Monday Night Football game and there’s so much to like about them Sean McVay and then all the offensive weaponry and Aaron Donald. And then when it comes to the Chiefs a lot of us had the Chiefs pegged as sort of the team that could really surprise a lot of people and maybe have a breakout player in the league and sure enough the way things went very early with the Chiefs and then we were really blessed to have that outstanding performance and that game winning drive with Mahomes at Mile High in an atmosphere where he was going to be tested. So for our crew we got a really early taste of what these teams can be at their best and they never stopped, so we were always looking forward to this Monday night. Now you look at the stats and you look at how it sizes up with the dueling 9-1 records and what it means in terms of the AFC and the NFC and the number one seed and this is definitely the game that we had been looking forward to, that’s for sure. But I’ll let the guys speak to that as well.

WITTEN: I think we’re extremely excited in a lot of ways I think I speak and believe much like many people out there that this may be an early Super Bowl preview. The Saints may have something to say about that, obviously New England probably has something to say about that, but I just have so much respect when you look at the Rams having a season that they had last year with a young head coach, a lot of hype, a lot of expectations and they have met that. Quite frankly they have exceeded those expectations with the record and how what a great start they’re off to right now. On the other side, it’s kind of the opposite. I mean Andy Reid has really re-invented himself offensively in Kansas City, making a decision to trade Alex Smith who had taken that team to multiple playoff appearances, and Patrick Mahomes, I mean he’s worth the price of admission. The way they’re doing it, how these offenses are performing, we expect a shoot-out. So and both of these defenses, I mean they have struggled some this season, but they have also got big stops at critical times to allow their teams to win. So a lot of excitement, I mean if you love football you’re going to love this matchup.

Q. Doing a little bit of research the most watched Monday Night Football games since ESPN got the package was Favre as a Viking playing the Packers. Drew I think 20, 21 million. We’re in a different universe now. Probably unlikely you get that number. But can you give me a sense just in terms of anticipation and matchup where this would rank for you since ESPN took over the Monday Night Football package in 2006?

ROTHMAN: Yeah, we’re excited. I think there’s a few that when you know you have an opportunity and one that always stands out to me candidly is the reopening of the Superdome, knowing the opportunity we had there in New Orleans with the Saints coming back and what it meant. Different because it wasn’t mano-a-mano with the Saints and the Falcons per se but you know a big opportunity, certainly had it with Drew Brees this year, knowing that he was going to break the record, the all-time passing yard record and the preparation and planning we had for that. I was really proud of that. You mentioned the Favre game, that certainly comes to mind and this is just a great shoot-out. I think the greatest thing we can do Monday night is not get in the way of the game. I think fans are expecting a shoot-out, they want a shoot-out, Jason has shared and you would probably say the same, could be a Super Bowl preview, so we just want to do a great job covering the hell out of the game. And not getting in the way of it. And that’s really the goal for Monday night. It’s exciting that we have it. I know the crowd will be rocking in Los Angeles I know they’re doing some great things, handing out thousands of tickets to first responders and things of that nature, so that adds that little layer and wrinkle to it. But we’re fired up just to cover a great game but we’re not really going out of the norm too much with adding that much extra equipment, and we’re excited. The interesting thing, just to your point, which I’m interested to see is, as you know, there are those teams from a ratings perspective that are just global teams that move the meter, right? The Steelers, the Packers, the Patriots, the Cowboys. Historically, Kansas City has not been one of those move the meter rating teams and L.A. is sort of getting there but it’s going to be interesting to see. So besides us not screwing up the game and doing a great job covering it I’m anxious to see the number, based on market size and see how that pans out.

Q. Curious if you guys can go back and talk a little bit, maybe Jay and Lisa, about how you guys decided to cover the air quality issues in Santa Clara and then looking forward to this week obviously a changing situation but the philosophy you guys have in terms of how much of this you’re talking about here, with the first responder tickets, to discuss how much has gone on during the broadcast on Monday about what has gone on in the L.A. area.

SALTERS: Well as far as air quality goes last week that’s kind of like right in the sideline reporter’s wheelhouse. It was not necessarily X’s and O’s, but it was something that could possibly have an impact on the game, was certainly having an impact in the region, so I had to school myself up on what exactly air quality index is and how it affects people, how it could possibly affect players and then explain it to the public in a minute. So it was something that it was a no-brainer for us, we knew we had to get to, we had to get to quickly, we had to make it plain and simple for folks to understand back at home. So as soon as the wild fires began and we knew that it was an issue, we began planning in that direction, so that was pretty simple for us.

ROTHMAN: I would just say when you fly, flying into San Jose and seeing the haze and not seeing the mountains and understanding what it was and both teams shortening practice on Friday, excuse me, the Niners I should say shortening practice on Friday and then those type of concerns, the imagery that came up from northern California, news trumps, we’re there to cover a game, but news trumps. You know, it’s odd to see fans wearing masks in the stands, that’s not common. It’s a different kind of deal. The 49ers, rightfully so, invited the Paradise High School football team, coaches, cheerleaders to attend the game, be on the field for the anthem, watch the game, all of them had lost their homes. So it makes common sense for us to do the right thing and to be respectful. And then just to your point about L.A. it’s the same thing, we’re not blind about what happened a week ago with the terrible shootings in Thousand Oaks, I flew over the fires yesterday over in Malibu that are still smoldering, what the Rams are doing in terms of first responders, so again just the week that was, we have a responsibility above and beyond covering a great football game of documenting the news and what’s gone on this particular week.

Q. Joe, this is for you. You had the opportunity to call many classic and down to the wire college football games and now you have a chance here with two 9-1 pro teams. Have you found that your call has changed at all coming from college with the drama that they have had there to the drama of the NFL?

TESSITORE: I don’t think so. I think, I would have to really reflect on that a little bit, but we have been very fortunate this year that we have had games that have probably, they revert a little bit more than maybe you would think on paper and have given us some fantastic finishes and some great drama and when those moments happen I just don’t notice a difference in documenting a game and being one with the game and giving just a very authentic and natural call to what I do. I also think it’s when Jason and Booger are at their best, I think if you, if we look back at our work so far this year and we feel like we’re trying to get better every week and hopefully we have and we continue to, but when you watch the final minutes and moments of KC-Denver or the San Francisco-Green Bay game or even what we had in the final moments the other day with the Giants in San Francisco, I think that’s when my partners are at their best and hopefully it’s when I deliver with the same passion and football savvy that I feel good about from my college career for the last couple decades. But documenting things and being one with the game, but I don’t feel that much of a difference in the way I go about my business, I do think and I’ve discussed this with a few people, that I think that when you’re in the NFL college tends to be these one off events and that occupy these three and a half to four hours on a Saturday that stand alone. The NFL tends to be connective stories and narratives that are woven throughout the year and that you have to stay one with from a global NFL view that you’re really conscious of when you do a broadcast. But when the moment happens and you’re given a great call I think it’s very much the same. So I, just in a quick reflection I wouldn’t think that I’ve changed that much with the way I give a call from college to the NFL when the game’s on the line. But that’s a good question for me to think about for sure.

Q. How would you evaluate how you guys have done thus far in your opinion?

MCFARLAND: I think just like as players we always evaluate ourselves. Game One and Game Two, you want to be get better Game Two than you were Game One. And I think from my perspective I think that Witt feels the same way, that’s kind of how we approach this. It’s a unique setup that we have and I feel like every game we have gotten better at different aspects of what we’re doing. Are we a finished product? By no stretch of the imagination. However, I think the improvement we see from Oakland week One is miles away from where we started at and I still think we have a long way to go, but do I think that the progress has been made and just looking forward to continuing getting these reps and getting better at it.

WITTEN: Yeah, look, any time you have this opportunity, for me personally I mean I’m 10 games into it, of course you’re never going to feel like you’re where you want to be and it’s a unique challenge, something that I’m invigorated by this process of going through it, it’s a unique team, so there’s a lot to learn from and every opportunity is a chance to get better at it and so over time I hope that it will be a good listen from an analyst standpoint of what we’re offering, but, yeah, you’re always looking to improve and get better at it and certainly that’s the case for me.

TESSITORE: I don’t mind sharing something very detailed with you in terms of if I was to give an assessment and I think you hear from the guys right there and you understand their commitment and these are guys that spent their careers on the field and then more recently in recent years Booger especially I’m close with him on the TV side of things of constantly self-scouting, reflecting and how can I get better and being coachable and having a thick skin to be able to do that and really look at yourself and assess your work and then go out there and improve. They did that as players, they did it to the level of Super Bowl rings and soon to be Hall of Fame jackets and they’re doing it now as TV guys. And the one thing I will say if you want me to give you something very specific is I look back, especially in the course of about the last three to four weeks, I think when football – and I answer part of this in the question that was just asked, I think when football is happening fast and in front of us and you just got to react and have all that knowledge and experience come through, I think that’s when the three of us are at our best and I think we have had those moments, especially in some fourth quarters this year and some critical moments. So I never doubt our ability to document, assess, talk strategy, scheme, players, in the moment quickly and just let it happen. Where I think this crew has gotten better in recent weeks and I think it’s going to continue to get better is having really good cohesive conversation that flows and finds a rhythm. Which is the great challenge by nature of a three-man booth and then some of the unique things that we’re doing, but I really feel good about how we have been able to do that in recent weeks and that’s something that I can point to and say I’m proud of and I want to continue to see that growth and development. Now this week we have a game where I think everybody who is a sports fan with national interest is going to pause and say, hey, give me the game, document it well, I want to see this unbelievable matchup that’s as rare a matchup as we have had in the NFL generationally when you start crunching some of these numbers. Somebody was throwing out the number the other day and I threw it on that Monday broadcast, this deep in the season, having to teams that are either undefeated or one loss where it’s only the fourth matchup generationally we have had like that. And obviously the return of Monday Night Football to Los Angeles. We have a lot of things that are very unique with this game that people are going to be curious simply to see what happens on the field, so I think this game plays to our wheelhouse really well as to what this crew already does fairly well. But we are not close to being a finished product, we are not close to being what we know we want to be because our standards are very high. You talk about a group that takes a hard drive jump stick, the second we get back to the production truck and we’re all popping it into our cell phones and watching the game back and by the time we get off the plane on Tuesday afternoon here come the texts, here come the phone calls, we’re discussing segments, how did we execute, what could we do better, we take that very seriously. But I would point to the cohesive conversation in recent weeks as something where you can see you can identify some growth and development and I would say the thing that we can already say we do well is, in the moment, when the game’s on the line, strategy, action, documenting the game, I think we’re there and I think we’re going to continue to get better, but we’re not close to where we want to be but we know we’re headed in that direction little by little.

Q. Booger, I know back when you guys first had the Chiefs on Monday Night Football in Denver you had some questions and concerns about the Chiefs defense. I wonder through these last couple weeks have you seen anything different has it just been a matter it of some of the competition they have face the or what have you seen on the defensive side for the Chiefs?

MCFARLAND: I think the Chiefs defense has gotten better. I think my thoughts earlier on in the season were very critical and I get all my criticism based on what I see on tape and that’s the great thing about watching football and studying football, that’s the fun part is you pop the tape in and the tape will speak to you and tell you everything you need to know. And early in the season you saw a defense that regardless of whether they were a little bit injured wasn’t playing with a lot of energy, certain players weren’t playing up to their ability and I named those players out such as Justin Houston. I think any time you’re given a contract of that magnitude there’s a lot of expectation and I didn’t see it. Now throughout the season especially when you pop the tape on here against Arizona as they’re playing and you see a guy that is a man, and he’s coming off the corner, Dee Ford is playing at a high level, the secondary is getting a little bit more confident and to me that’s the difference. Now they’re still giving up a ton of yards. However, in the red zone, third down they’re playing a little bit better. So, yeah, I have seen some growth and some would say that’s to be expected. However, in football you take nothing for granted you just turn the tape on and let the tape speak to you. And I think that’s going to be the challenge come Monday night is you have two teams that have high flying offenses and as Witt said earlier, the game is going to come down in my opinion to the defense. Which defense can get stops in certain situations. And I think if your defense can and give your offense some extra possessions, I think that’s going to be a critical part of this game.

Q. How do you sort of assess the two defenses in this game where obviously the Rams I think have more of the household names, but statistically they have had some shortfalls there as well. I mean they have given up some big chunks on the ground, they have also given up some points. How do you sort of assess the two?

MCFARLAND: Well, first I look at the Rams the Rams are very similar to a defense that I used to play in Indy. They’re a lot of guys that are fast, they want to run, they want to rush the passer and get to the quarterback. Well, Coach Dungy used to always tell us, in order to get third down, you better play first and second down very well. And right now the Rams aren’t playing very well on first and second down stopping the run. And it’s not just one person, it’s everybody. Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, like everybody’s taking turns allowing a run to go through their gaps and that’s why you see the high number of rush yards that they’re giving up. And can Andy Reid be patient enough — one of the criticisms of Andy Reid in Philadelphia was that he was a pass-happy coach he threw the ball too much. And I understand when you have weapons like they have in Kansas City I would want to throw it too. But when you have Kareem Hunt, a guy that led the team in rushing as a rookie, against a defensive front like Suh and Aaron Donald that want to get to the quarterback, the running game might be your best friend, especially with their quarterback. And I think when you look on the other side Kansas City to me, it’s a 3-4 scheme, any time have you a scheme like that you better have two guys on the outside that can get to the quarterback. Dee Ford is now healthy, Justin Houston looks healthy. He has linebackers that can run. The corners Fuller, Scandrick, Nelson, they’re going to have to hold up because one thing about Sean McVay, he’s going to go play action and he’s going to test your secondary down the field. So I think both defenses have problems, I think both defenses have playmakers, the Rams playmakers are on the inside in Suh and Donald, but the Chiefs playmakers rushing the quarterback on the outside in Dee Ford and Houston. And so I think both teams have to play first down though. We all want to get to the sexy down, which is third down, where we can throw the ball. But I think the key down, the critical down is going to be on fourth down and just how committed can Kansas City be to running the football. We know the Rams are committed. They’re the number one rushing team in the National Football League, okay? A lot of people don’t realize that. The Rams are number one at running the football. I want to see Kansas City be patient enough because I think that’s going to a critical part of this game as we try to accentuate our young stars, with the quarterback, with Mahomes and Jared Goff.

Q. This game is going to include several MVP candidates on both sides of the field. How would you handicap the MVP race at this point of the season? And the second part is what sort of challenges do you think Todd Gurley faces to actually winning an MVP award, given kind of the levity that’s given to quarterbacks?

WITTEN: First off there’s a number of MVP candidates in this game. Certainly it starts with the young sensation in Patrick Mahomes. How he’s performed, and not just the statistics that I look at, it’s the way in which he’s doing it. I mean a lot of off script plays, extending plays, when the play breaks down you’re seeing a young quarterback look like he’s moving at a different speed than his opponents are. And so his strong arm, how quickly he gets the ball out, he manages this offense really well, so statistically he’s up there. Drew Brees is going to be a name that at his age probably playing some of his best football, probably the only other guy that I think that is not in this game. Before I get to Todd Gurley another name is just Jared Goff. Statistically when you look at him what he’s been able to do, I think a lot of times people look at this offense and they think well, wow, Sean McVay and his system and of course Todd Gurley, but watching Jared on tape, I mean the throws that he’s making, he looks like an elite quarterback and 22 touchdowns, only six interceptions, so certainly his name will be in there. But I think it’s a challenge because it’s a quarterback driven league, so it’s going to be a challenge for Todd. But he is, there’s a lot of good running backs in our league right now, but Todd Gurley, how he’s running the football, the touchdowns – so he’s scoring points at critical times for his team to have almost a thousand yards this early in the season, and just the consistent play, I mean he’s an every down player and when you look at most valuable player I think often times that’s where he separates himself and where he will be in the mix with these quarterbacks. It’s going to be hard as I said because there is so much attention on the quarterback position and we love that. And it is, it’s the hardest position on the field to play, the quarterback position is, but Todd is the glue to this offense and in a lot of ways the glue to the team. When they go in cold environments when they go on the road and play these type of teams, you see him put the team on his back and he’s just as good as a receiver and as a pass protector. He’s a three-down player and so I think he is definitely in the hunt and if he can finish strong I think he’ll get a strong consideration for the MVP.

Q. For Jay, just to go back to what Joe was talking about earlier about the importance and challenges of conversation with a three-man booth. Halfway into this season how do you feel about how the dynamic is working of having Booger on the field and is it something that you might consider in the future to bring him upstairs or do you like the way that this is playing out?

ROTHMAN: We like where it’s playing out. I think Booger as a defensive player gives us a unique perspective, 10 foot high at the line of scrimmage, and I think sometimes it’s weaved into his commentary from his point of view but sometimes it’s just his commentary alone gives him a vantage point that’s different than what Jason has. I think the flow, if you listen to the games I’m really proud. You worry about guys stepping on each other, given the dynamic we have, but it’s very rare in a game, you can count it on one hand or less that these guys have really interrupted each other. We have cameras set up that they actually see each other in the heat of the battle. We spend a lot of time in conversation and preparation leading into the game understanding each other’s sweet spots and to some extent defining roles and things of that nature I think these guys have a tremendous amount of respect for each other, enjoy being around each other, a relationship that’s grown together and it’s good, sometimes they agree, sometimes they disagree, that’s okay. We have an offensive point of view, you have a defensive point of view, I think it’s been really, really seemless and getting better and better and really proud of where these guys are 10 games in.

TESSITORE: I want to pick up on that that I agree with what Jay said but I was just actually commenting on this last night in watching back a few more segments. What I have noticed is with Boog’s position hovering above the line of scrimmage, we are often getting different analysis and opinions from what Boog will say and obviously you want, you want that, but really a different perspective compared to the way we’re seeing things in the booth and that makes for a very healthy broadcast. And personally I’m glad, I know before we started doing this and everybody was speculating what it would sound like we were getting a lot of these Tony Siragusa comparisons and I think that’s gone away very quickly because you realize it’s a three-man crew and it’s not somebody standing on the field, it’s somebody that has a perspective unlike anything we have heard before. What I find often is that Boog — and I’ll let you chime in here — but that we’re often getting Boog speaking a lot of times in two different levels, to the emotion of the game, the feel of the game, the momentum of the game, the breaking of a team’s will, a player matchup and how that’s going and the emotion in that what he’s breathing in and sensing there right above it. And also Boog will often — I will find where we are giving what is, what you’re expecting the typical broadcast in the past that the typical broadcast would go down, Boog is often sensing things in the line play on the offensive and defensive line that we aren’t and then he’s speaking to that. So I think we’re getting different opinions and different perspectives that’s benefiting the broadcast because of not just Booger’s ability but Booger’s physical position.

MCFARLAND: Yeah, and I’ll just add to that, there were obviously some questions going into this, especially on my part because this is something new, something I have never done, but I could couldn’t be happier with how things are going as far as working with this team and working with Jason. I knew of Jason, Joe and I had a previous relationship, but I couldn’t have more respect for Jason, not only as a man but as teammate, as a former captain of the Cowboys, he understands and you see why he’s revered and respected the way he is and he’s been nothing but the best because it takes teamwork to do what we’re doing because there’s a little bit of give and take from everyone. And I think that the more we get used to that on the air because we have it off the air, the more that continues to grow on the air, I think that that dynamic of he and I is going to get better and better. But I think it’s something unique. To your point, Joe, everyone threw out what they thought it was going to be early on and I think now people see kind of what it can be and I think when it’s at its best, which it’s going to be, I think it’s going to be something unique and different that no other, no other broadcast can offer, which is offense, defense, young, old, I consider myself old, guys talking about football and having a conversation that pulls the viewer in off the couch or out of their bed and say you know what, I want to be a part of this conversation and I think that’s something that can’t be offered anywhere else and I’m just happy to be a part of it and more importantly happy to be working with a guy like Witt and a guy like Tess and Lisa has been phenomenal because believe it or not she’s kind of had to make the biggest sacrifice dealing with us three newbies on this staff. So everyone has been phenomenal and I think we all enjoy working with each other.

TESSITORE: Especially Lisa the other night with what we were dealing with, with the nearby fires and the air quality I thought Lisa was just a star the other night with what she was able to accomplish pregame before kick off in such a sensitive thing but, and also then such an important thing when it came to player and fan safety and what we were dealing with and the updates she was able to get throughout the game because of that it was excellent the other night.

Q. Jason, you’ve been self-deprecating about some of the mistakes and flubs you’ve made as a rookie broadcaster. What do you say to the critics who have said you’ve struggled on the air this season and what do you think you need to do to get better?

WITTEN: Yeah, there’s been some flubs. I mean I made mistakes. You try to own it, you embrace it. Hell, I’m not perfect, I’ve certainly had my fair share of mistakes on live television and more than anything else you try to embrace it, you laugh at it, you smile at it, I had the remark on Twitter that you don’t try to deny it. You know, I got a few texts from my wife and it’s good to see her laughing at it when I get home the next day and talking about it. So it’s a transition, I try not to take it too serious, I really try to embrace it, and focus on improving. I understood when I took this job that it was going to be hard, it was going to be a transition. Certainly with Tony and the success that he had, I really try not to live in that world and fully embrace it and continue to get better and evaluate it, but I think with the flubs I certainly do not deny it, I don’t try to hide it and as you said, that’s really all you can do in those moments is self-deprecate and move forward. So over time I hope to improve and get better at it, but yeah, that’s kind of my approach with it.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

Allie Stoneberg

I advance ESPN’s communications and publicity efforts for NFL studio programming, Monday Night Football, the NFL Draft and our coverage of the Canadian Football League and the Arena Football League. I enjoy meeting journalists in person at games and events and delight in showing them around our Bristol, Conn., campus.
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