Veteran broadcaster Beth Mowins is set to become just the second woman ever to call an NFL regular season game, and the first in prime time, as she will join former coach Rex Ryan to call the Chargers-Broncos Monday Night Football game on Sept. 11 for ESPN, according to Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch.
It would mark nearly 30 years since the last time a woman called an NFL regular season game. In 1987, Gayle Sierens was assigned to call a Seahawks-Chiefs game for NBC during the final week of the 1987 regular season. Though she garnered positive reviews for her work, and was offered further opportunities, she had to decline because the local NBC affiliate where she worked did not want her to miss more time.
The Chargers-Broncos contest is the late game of a Monday Night Football doubleheader that ESPN typically holds the first weekend of the NFL regular season. It's the only week of the regular season that ESPN has multiple games, so an extra NFL broadcasting crew is needed. In recent years, ESPN has tapped Chris Berman to call the second game of the Week 1 MNF doubleheader, either with Mike Greenberg or Trent Dilfer. Now that Berman has moved on from his regular ESPN duties, the network had to go in a new direction.
ESPN has, in recent years, begun to feature more women announcers in each of the major professional team sports it broadcasts. Doris Burke has long been a broadcaster for the network, covering college basketball and NBA games. In 2016, Jessica Mendoza was made a full-time member of the Sunday Night Baseball team. While Mowins' assignment appears to be a one-off arrangement for now, it opens the door for future work and breaks a barrier at the network for pro football games.
Meanwhile, Ryan becomes the latest NFL figure this off-season to be called immediately from work on the field to duty in the booth. Quarterbacks Tony Romo and Jay Cutler have signed on to call games for CBS and FOX. Romo was instantly elevated to the top announcing team for CBS, while Cutler will start off his TV career as a member of a three-man regional crew for FOX.
When Ryan officially joined ESPN in April, months after being fired as head coach of the Buffalo Bills, the plan was for him to mostly be a part of the Sunday pregame panel show, though he was initially slated to call the Florida State spring pregame along with Mowins.
That spring game broadcast will likely get more attention, as people look back to see what kind of chemistry the former NFL head coach and the veteran broadcaster share. Mowins has called Raiders preseason games, as well as college football in her career.
According to Deitsch, at a journalism symposium last November ESPN president John Skipper was asked by Andrea Kremer, an NFL Network correspondent and former NFL reporter for ESPN, about the prospect of the network finally getting a woman to call an NFL game.
"There is no reason not to do it now," he said. "It is one of things where people are making progress and that would be seen as there is no limit."