ESPN's Booger McFarland in Monday Night Football booth for Browns-Jets | News Coverage from USA

ESPN’s Booger McFarland in Monday Night Football booth for Browns-Jets

Lorenzo Reyes


Published 9:46 AM EDT Sep 16, 2019

NEW YORK — Sitting in a sports bar in Chelsea, with “Sunday Night Football” beaming from a large flatscreen TV hooked to the wall, Booger McFarland was talking about the Cleveland Browns.

In between bites of a bacon cheeseburger — no bun — with sweet potato fries and an iced water with a floating lemon wedge, the new lead analyst for ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” offered his approach to the job — what he talks about on-air, and what he leaves out. It’s a balance between the pace of the game, the news cycle, and the curiosity of the viewer.

Some topics, however, are mandatory. This week, when the Jets host the Browns, Odell Beckham Jr.’s watch is one of those topics.

“I think there’s a portion of America who couldn’t fathom wearing a watch that’s 200 grand, and they’re jealous, and they don’t understand it,” McFarland told USA TODAY Sports in an interview. “So they’re thinking: ‘This prima donna NFL player is wearing a $200,000 watch during a game, how dare him? My house only cost 60 grand.’ I think there’s a portion like that. There’s a portion that doesn’t care. And then, quite frankly, I think there’s a portion of people that say this feeds to the negativity about him.”

Beckham wore a Richard Mille watch in last week’s 43-13 season-opening loss against the Tennessee Titans, a decision that has generated a wave of criticism.

“Odell likes his spotlight,” McFarland continued. “There’s nothing wrong with that. When you’ve got blonde hair and a Michael Jackson earring, you want people talking about you. So he likes it, and I get it. I’m fine with that. I just didn’t like when he said ‘Everybody’s picking on me.’ Nah, man, people just talk about what you do and you do it because you want attention. It goes both ways.”

McFarland said he personally didn’t care about the watch and the coverage it has garnered, but said he understood why it has become polarizing. He added that there is no scripted time during the broadcast when they’ll bring it up, just that he and play-by-play announcer Joe Tessitore rely on feel.

“We’re going to talk about it, without a doubt,” McFarland said. “That will lead to a conversation where Tess might say: ‘Hey, Boog, what do you make of the watch and the controversy?’ So I’ll say something like, ‘You know, Tess, I asked him yesterday if I could borrow the watch’ to make something a little fun out of it, I’ll say my piece, and then move on.”

The watch wasn’t the only issue to pop up this week. During a press conference on Thursday, Beckham told reporters that Cleveland’s players had to be on alert for “cheap shots” and “dirty plays” that he claimed Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams instructs his players to deliver. Williams served as Cleveland’s defensive coordinator in 2017 and 2018.

Beckham also said Thursday that he has heard from his current Browns teammates that Williams ordered defenders to take Beckham out of a preseason game in 2017 when the Browns played the Giants, the team Beckham previously played for.

The NFL suspended Williams for the 2012 season after the league investigated his involvement in the Bountygate scandal and found that he created incentives for his players to harm other players while Williams was the defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints.

This is another topic certain to make the air, and when it comes up, McFarland said he’ll try to inject context derived from his nine-year career as a defensive tackle.

“Here is exactly what I’m going to say about Gregg,” McFarland said. “ ‘Greg got stereotyped because of one word: Bounty. You take the word Bounty out, and Gregg is no different than the overwhelming majority of defensive coordinators in this league. But when you put the word Bounty, that signifies something in this sport. You can’t do that.’

“Gregg has denied it, but when you understand how defensive coaches talk, ‘When you cut the head off, the body will die,’ That’s Week 3 in the NFL. I’ve heard that 1,000 times.”

McFarland likened his talking points to the pre-planned script of plays coaches dial up at the start of a game to get an offense in a rhythm. He even calls his talking points his “First 15,” a reference to the scripted plays called by an offensive coordinator, though he said he usually has just five or six bullets on each team.

“I think Baker Mayfield is the closest thing I’ve seen to Brett Favre,” McFarland said. “People say Patrick Mahomes is, but Patrick doesn’t throw a lot of interceptions. Brett Favre led the league in picks in his career. Since Baker became the starting quarterback, he’s leading the league in picks. People love their quarterbacks, so I have to talk about Baker.”

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