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ESPN should hire Kugler and Lofton for MNF

ESPN is reportedly considering College GameDay analysts Chris Fowler (left) and Kirk Herbstreit (right) as new Monday Night Football announcers. (GETTY IMAGES)
ESPN is reportedly considering College GameDay analysts Chris Fowler (left) and Kirk Herbstreit (right) as new Monday Night Football announcers. (GETTY IMAGES)

Network reportedly considering moving over to college duo

Never mind Fowler and Herbie. ESPN should hire Kugler and Lofton as its new Monday Night Football broadcast team.

According to the New York Post , ESPN is considering sliding over its No. 1 college football announcing team of Chris Fowler (play-by-play) and Kirk Herbstreit (commentary) on Saturday nights to the NFL on Monday nights.

They’d replace Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland, the unsatisfactory duo of the past two seasons.

Tessitore seems like a nice guy, he really does. But he inadvertently comes across as a 21 st- century version of gratingly over-earnest, overstating late-night talk-show host Tom Snyder from the ’70s.

Good play-by-play men stop just short of getting too sappy on the heart-tugging stories. Jim Nantz barely does so. Al Michaels became expert at it decades ago. Similarly, Nantz and Michaels understand that not everything is an epoch.

Tessitore, alas, does not seem to know such lines exist, let alone where they’re at.

McFarland, meantime, sometimes offers really good, insightful commentary but too often doesn’t. But Monday Night Football is a tough seat in which to cut your big-time commentator teeth, and he’ll get better.

It seems now merely a matter of who replaces Tessitore and McFarland, not if they’ll be removed.

Moving over Fowler and Herbie would be a bold move by ESPN. I don’t think it would work.

Not because of Fowler. He is an excellent play-by-play man, one of those diverse talents who has proved himself in professional tennis and even soccer for ESPN. He’d be fine.

But Herbstreit — as excellent as he is as an insightful college commentator — never played in the NFL and never has worked in the NFL.

Sure, he has familiarity with many star NFL players, having called many a game over the past 10-15 years involving Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and the like. Especially those from Ohio State, whose games he seems to call about once every three weeks, and where he rose to become starting quarterback in 1992.

But Herbstreit’s lack of either long-standing or expert NFL knowledge would be exposed early on. Why would he want to do that, when for more than 20 years he has been a co-host of ESPN’s iconic College Game Day show on Saturday mornings, and for 15-plus years he worked as commentator on ABC/ESPN’s Saturday night game of the week.

In my opinion, as I’ve been tweeting for years, by far the best up-and-coming play-by-play man in the business is Kevin Kugler.

For years he has expertly and entertainingly called Sunday night NFL games on radio for Westwood One. Kugler furthermore has shown his diversity by doing likewise but on TV for the Big Ten Network, both in football and men’s basketball.

He furthermore is Westwood One’s lead college basketball radio announcer, and even calls college baseball World Series games on radio, all in his signature smooth, upbeat, professional style.

Kugler deserves a long look.

I’d rejoin him with Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver James Lofton. Before Lofton jumped to CBS three years ago as an analyst on its NFL telecasts, he and Kugler were paired for years on Westwood’s Sunday Night Football radio broadcasts. They had a blast together and really made it fun for listeners.

I’m sure Kugler and Lofton would do likewise on Monday nights for ESPN.

NEW/OLD UNIFORMS FOR BUCS

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are so anxious to move on from their anemic recent past, they’re reaching back to their now-distant past.

When they were Super Bowl champions.

On Tuesday, the NFL team unveiled its new uniforms for 2020. And the new look is a throwback to its old look. Specifically, in 2002 when then-head coach Jon Gruden led the Bucs — wearing pewter-coloured pants and darker red jerseys —in Super Bowl XXXVII (37), a 48-21 win over the then-Oakland Raiders.

The team said the change was “inspired largely by fan feedback.”

Well, duh. Ask devout fans of any sports team and they’ll likely be most partial to uniforms worn in an era when the team didn’t suck. Hello, jaggedy Toronto Maple Leafs logo.

Most sports teams that constantly unveil new uniforms seem to do so to try to jump-start a more successful era. Exhibit A: The Cleveland Browns promise to introduce yet another tweak to their orange-and-brown unis.

As well, the team’s owner at change number umpteen-six explains the exciting reason for the exciting change, in exciting language. Such as Buccaneers owner and co-chairman Ed Glazer on Tuesday, in this statement:

“We are excited to return to our classic Super Bowl era uniforms while also introducing a sleek Colour Rush uniform that showcases our signature pewter in a new and dramatic way. The refreshed classic design of our home and away combinations bridges our past with our exciting new future, and we are confident it will resonate with our fans.”

Much of the 2020 uniform is identical to what Buccaneers players wore from 1997 to 2013, including the font of numbers, black facemasks and the darker hue of red. The pewter colour is unchanged from recent uniforms.

An alternate, all-pewter uniform also is new.

“The new uniform also retains the modern flag-and-crossed-swords logo, while incorporating the original shade of red,” the team’s website said. “The side of the flag on the helmet has been reduced to ensure the sword is visible on all helmet types used by players. The new uniforms also feature the modern ship design.”

The Bucs released many more paragraphs explaining uniform details than this.

Now, this may come as a shock but the Buccaneers immediately began selling new-look jerseys, the moment they were introduced on the team’s website. (Yes, that was sarcasm.)

The first three player-specific jerseys on sale are No. 13 (wide receiver Mike Evans), No. 14 (wide receiver Chris Godwin) and No. 12 (newly acquired quarterback Tom Brady).

The Buccaneers haven’t made the playoffs only twice since winning the Super Bowl 18 seasons ago (in 2005 and 2007), and lost in the first round both times. In that span the Bucs have had only five winning seasons, and just two double-digit-win seasons (2005, 2010).

New uniforms probably can’t hurt — a thought that every sports team with a revolving-door on the equipment room says before making yet another change.

Coulda been worse. The club could have returned to its “Creamsicle” original uniforms of 1976-1996.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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