Why There Won’t Be a Coaches Film Room for the 2018 College Football National Championship

Here's why ESPN is replacing the Coaches Film Room broadcast with something it hopes will be even better.
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Come Monday, ESPN is skipping what some consider the best (and wonkiest) part of its multi-channel college football national championship megacast—the Coaches Film Room—for something it hopes will be even better.

“I want to be clear,” ESPN VP for production Lee Fitting said. “We love the Coaches Film Room. We’ve had great success with it, we want to continue to do it.” But a month ago, as Fitting and his team began preparing the 17 different ways you’ll be able to watch Alabama face Clemson—that’s not an exaggeration—a new idea emerged.

The previous day, Monday Night Football analysts Booger McFarland and Jason Witten were shown on ESPN breaking down film during a production meeting. Fitting thought the setting highlighted a new side of the duo in a personality-heavy segment full of X’s and O’s discussion.

Add in MNF play-by-play man Joe Tessitore, who called last year’s Alabama-Clemson Sugar Bowl, as well as draft analyst Todd McShay, and there was something to experiment with. “I think it’s going to be entertaining,” Fitting said. “Who knows? It may not be. that’s the beauty of MegaCast. It’s always been a laboratory for new possibilities.”

Fitting said he did consider having both an MNF Film Room and a Coaches Film Room, but ultimately decided that having one only available on ESPN3 would not be worth the hassle for either cast. With the annual coaches convention in San Antonio, wrangling a set of top guys this year would have been particularly difficult, Fitting added, and in past years his team has been working until the night before kickoff to secure talent.

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The Monday Night Film Room will debut alongside a Field Pass option on ESPN2, a BlimpCast presentation on ESPN3, and more.

The decision wasn’t about getting Witten more live reps, Fitting said, nor about flipping the narrative around a booth that struggled early on. Instead, they’ll have the chance to start that process Saturday, as McFarland moves to the booth for the Colts vs. Texans wild card game.

Expect to see plenty of the MNF crew during draft season. As a longtime defensive tackle in the NFL, McFarland in particular should be valuable breaking down a draft that will likely be dominated by defensive players. “We have all intention of including Witt and Boog in our draft buildup because of their knowledge and insight,” Fitting said. “You’ll see them all over.”