Monday Night Football has been a staple night for the NFL, as we know the theme song, and it signals the end of the week for football. You have to go back to 1970 for when Monday Night Football started. The NFL was looking to create a primetime game to provide to a greater audience, as Saturday night games were not drawing a large crowd. They eventually settled with ABC, which aired all Monday night games until 2006 when it made the switch over to ESPN. The original announcers were Howard Cosell, and Keith Jackson. There are rumors they tried to get Vin Scully and Jack Buck, but that never surfaced. The third man was Don Meredith, who was the quarterback of the Cowboys, and both him and Cosell clashed often.
On September 21st, 1970 the New York Jets faced off against the Cleveland Browns in Cleveland. The game was actually blacked out in Cleveland, but it had a 33% viewing of the audience overall. The Jets ended up losing 31-21. There were quite a few announcing changes early on, as Howard Cosell remained the consistent name. Frank Gifford was sought after, and after his CBS contract ended, he became available. Jackson went back to doing college football. Meredith had rumors of drinking on the job and drug use, which lead to Fred Williamson and Alex Karras were added to the team.
Monday Night Football was gaining popularity, and we saw notable politicians and celebrities join the broadcast booth during intermission. On a night in 1980, John Lennon was shot, which Howard Cosell broke the news of his death, in what is one of the more iconic segments in TV history. Lennon had been on Monday Night Football in 1974 for a celebrity appearance. In the mid 1980s, ratings were starting to fall again, and the announcing crew took a lot of the blame. In 1986, Al Michaels took over, and it was him and Frank Gifford early on. It wasn’t until 2002 when we got the iconic duo of Al Michaels and John Madden. It was a two-man booth and went up until the change to ESPN.
ESPN has carried the Monday Night Football broadcast for the last 15 years, and what we know as more recent network scheduling as NBC has the Sunday Night game. We saw Mike Tirico, Joe Theismann, and Tony Kornheiser in the booth, before Ron Jaworksi took over. There continued to be consistent turnover as Jon Gruden took over for Tony Kornheiser. The Monday Night announcing crew has not been a consistent bunch, and they continue to search for a crew that the public favors.
When the lights shine brighter, you get some amazing player performances. We can start with Jerry Rice, who had one of the best Monday Night Football games of all time back in 1995. He finished with three receiving touchdowns and 289 receiving yards in a close win for the San Francisco 49ers. This came after a year he had 169 receiving yards, two touchdowns, and a rushing touchdown against the Raiders. Wide receivers have dominated this game, as Randy Moss put up a 171 receiving yard game and three touchdowns back in 2001.
One of the biggest beatdowns in Monday Night Football history, Michael Vick came out against the Washington Redskins and put on a show. He had 333 passing yards on 20 completions, throwing for four touchdowns. He also added on 80 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. The Eagles won that game 59-28, and that is the most points ever scored by a single team on Monday night Football. Sticking with quarterbacks, Tom Brady threw for 517 yards and four scores back in 2011.
Emmitt Smith in 1995 had one of this more dominant overall seasons and four of his 25 total touchdowns that year came in a Monday Night Football win against the New York Giants. In 1987 Bo Jackson accumulated 221 yards and four total touchdowns. Earl Campbell certainly put up some monster games in his career, but in 1978 he rushed for 199 yards and four touchdowns against the Dolphins. One of the early dual threat running backs, Ron Johnson had 124 yards and a touchdown on the ground, but 60 yards and three receiving touchdowns.
Matchups of key games have been placed on Monday Night Football since the beginning of its time. We have gotten a lot of great games, but also a lot of iconic moments that had nothing to do with the game itself. There has been a lot of blowouts on Monday Night Football, and also some incredible comebacks. There have been three ties in Monday Night Football history, and two of them were before overtime was even a thing. Looking into some of those iconic moments, hard to not think about Brett Favre playing a game right after his father died of a heart attack. Favre would go out and throw four touchdowns in the first half to go with 399 total passing yards in a big win against the Oakland Raiders. The first game back at the SuperDome after Hurricane Katrina goes down as one of the most watched MNF games of all-time, as the Saints beat the Falcons.
There have been a few great comebacks on Monday Night Football, but Arizona leading the Bears 23-3 in the third quarter, and losing 24-23 is one of the best comebacks. It happed through the defense and special teams as the defense scored 14 points off rumble returns, and with three minutes left, Devin Hester returned a punt for a touchdown to give them a lead. Another great come back goes to the Colts who were down 35-14 with four minutes remaining. A touchdown and onside kick with another score brought them to a 35-28 game. With 35 seconds left, Peyton manning drove the ball 87 yards for a game tying touchdown. In overtime the Colts went on to win by a field goal.
If you are looking for points records on Monday Night, the Philadelphia Eagles still hold the record for the most with 59. This beat the Indianapolis Colts record in 1988 as they put up 55. However the Chiefs-Rams game in 2018 will go down as one of the greatest shootout games in NFL history, as the Rams beat the Chiefs 54-51. The Chiefs scored the most points by a losing team. There have been a lot of one-sided gams, as Baltimore beat Green Bay 48-3 in 2005, and in that same season the Seahawks beat Philadelphia 42-0 which is the largest margin of victory by a road team.
Looking at the 2020 Monday Night Football schedule, we always open up with a double-header. The Steelers get a cupcake road matchup to start off the year against the New York Giants, and the Tennessee Titans will head into Denver for Game 2. Las Vegas will open up their new stadium in Week 2 against the Saints, which is a tough opponent to start off your new stadium with. Easily the best game on the Monday Night Football schedule is the Chiefs at the Ravens. Lamar Jackson vs Pat Mahomes is going to be a hyped up matchup that should deliver. Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers square off in Week 4 which should be an exciting quarterback matchup.
Now there are some games on here that don’t have quite the appeal as they should. The Chargers going to New Orleans is not as appealing given the up in the air quarterback situation with Los Angeles. The Patriots going on the road to New York also isn’t quite the same with Tom Brady gone and the Patriots having a lackluster offense. Now there are some games that could feature plenty of offense as the Buccaneers and Rams play each other in late November. The Cardinals and Cowboys early October is another one.
There are certainly some less than desirable matchups on the horizon, especially getting later in the year. Pittsburgh going on the road to play Cincinnati should be fairly lopsided. If the Beats offense turns out to be a lot like last year’s, they made games tough to watch. Now the Bills and Patriots play for the last Monday Night Football game of the year, which could have some division implications, so we won’t write that one off just yet.
There are a total of 17 Monday Night Football games, as they will be played on 16 weeks, where Week 17 will not have a game on Monday. The NFL will open up with an east coast MNF game and a west coast MNF game to give us a doubleheader.
While Monday Night Football started on ABC, ESPN and ABC are family networks. In 2006, ESPN received rights for Monday Night Football and have aired it every year. ABC had Monday Night Football from 1970 to 2005 before turning it over.
In 2019 it was Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland as the Monday Night Football announcers, but ESPN has been looking to make a change. Currently for 2020, ESPN has not come forth saying who the announcers will be for the upcoming season.
Monday Night Football starts at 8:15 Eastern Time every week. The only exception is during Week 1 when they do the doubleheader. It will then start at 7:15 Eastern Time, and the following game will start at 10:10 Eastern Time.
An average football game is going to last just a shade over three hours, despite the game being only 60 minutes. Factoring in halftime and commercial breaks, Monday night Football usually will end a little after 11 PM Eastern Time.
The very first Monday Night Football game was on September 21, 1970. It was between the Cleveland Browns and the New York Jets. The Browns won 31-21, as Joe Namath threw three interceptions, one going for a return touchdown.
The very first announcers of Monday Night Football were Keith Jackson, Howard Cosell, and Don Meredith. Jackson only lasted one year as Frank Gifford took over after his contract expired with CBS Sports. There were multiple changes within the first few years.