Jason Witten Leaves MNF: Louis Riddick Headlines Potential Replacements

Getty American football tight end Jason Witten and Michelle Witten attend Kentucky Derby.

Jason Witten announced Thursday that he plans to return to the Dallas Cowboys next season, ending his 1-year stint as the color commentator on Monday Night Football.

“The fire inside of me to compete and play this game is just burning too strong,” Witten said in a statement. “This team has a great group of rising young stars, and I want to help them make a run at a championship. This was completely my decision, and I am very comfortable with it. I’m looking forward to getting back in the dirt.”

He will enter his 16th season in Dallas next fall. From 2003-17, he made 11 Pro Bowls, the most in team history by any offensive player. He amassed 1,152 receptions for 12,448 yards and 68 touchdowns as a Cowboy.

He was on the Monday Night Football broadcasting team this past season alongside Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland. Sources tell Heavy that possible replacements include former NFL safety Louis Riddick or former quarterback Dan Orlovsky.

ESPN PR released the following statement:

“We thank Jason for his many contributions to Monday Night Football and to ESPN over the past year and wish him continued success. We have seen many former coaches and players go into broadcasting before eventually returning to the game they love, so we understand Jason’s desire to return to the Dallas Cowboys. In the coming weeks we will determine our MNF plans for the 2019 season.”

Both currently serve as on-air talents for ESPN. A potential plan would pit either of them alongside McFarland, continuing the 3-man booth team. Lisa Salters is the sideline reporter.

Riddick played college football at Pittsburgh until the San Francisco 49ers drafted him in the ninth round in 1991. He also played for the WLAF’s Sacramento Surge, Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders and XFL’s Orlando Rage in his playing career. He joined ESPN in Sep. 2013.

Orlovsky is a former Connecticut Husky. The Detroit Lions drafted him in 2005 in the fifth round, where he mostly served as a backup. He also played for the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Los Angeles Rams before retiring in 2017.

He is probably most known for running out of the end zone for a safety against the Vikings during Detroit’s 0-16 season in 2008.

Dan Orlovsky Cooks Up a Safety Scramble! | NFL's Worst Plays EverOne of the worst plays in NFL history saw Lions QB Dan Orlovsky run out of his own endzone against the Vikings. Subscribe to the NFL YouTube channel to see immediate in-game highlights from your favorite teams and players, daily fantasy football updates, all your favorite NFL Network podcasts, and more! Subscribe to NFL on…2015-10-20T20:02:57.000Z

He joined ESPN as a college football analyst quickly after hanging up the cleats.

Late in the season, ESPN executive Lee Fitting told Lindsay Jones of The Athletic that the company was showing “patience” towards Witten, who received criticism for his on-air performance.

“Patience is a big part of this for me,” he said to Jones. “I could always be overruled, because I have a lot of bosses but I don’t want to live in the knee-jerk world of ‘Hey social media doesn’t like him, they don’t like this or that,’ and make a change.”

Some of Witten’s blunders included stating that Panthers quarterback Cam Newton runs well after the catch.

Witten acknowledged to Jones that he understood the criticism.