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Sean McDonough on K&C: I didn't have fun on 'Monday Night Football'

Alex Reimer
March 15, 2018 - 10:39 am

There are few assignments more coveted in sports broadcasting than being named the voice of “Monday Night Football.” But Sean McDonough, who held the post for two years, insists he’s happier without it. 

ESPN announced last week it was replacing McDonough in the MNF booth. McDonough spoke out about his departure for the first time in an interview Thursday with “Kirk & Callahan.”

“I say that after a lot of reflection and mostly a lot of belief that, ultimately, what is the most important thing in life is to be happy,” McDonough said. “As much as it was a great honor to be the voice of 'Monday Night Football' –– and you guys know me well enough, and certainly a lot of my friends and family do –– it wasn't a tremendous amount of fun the last two years. When I took my ego out of it, when the conversation about a reboot of MNF came up, when I took the ego part of it out, and rationalized it, I really could be fine with  not being the voice of MNF, then it became easy. I love college football. For me, it's more fun, and that's a personal taste.”

As an announcer, McDonough says he enjoys setting the scene and telling personal stories, which didn't mesh with the MNF telecast. The broadcast was centered around analyst Jon Gruden’s football insight, which McDonough says made him inconsequential at times. 

The longtime play-by-play also managed to sneak in a shot at MNF's lackluster slate of games. 

“If you go back and look at the schedule, generally we got one of the worst NFL games each week. You're trying to make something sound interesting and exciting that isn’t,” he explained. “For me, part of it was just the way the booth was set up the last two years. It was really geared around Jon Gruden. That's not unusual, TV really is an analyst-driven medium. Jon had a particular set of skills that he did really well, and foremost among them was analyzing the play, breaking down the play, 'here's why they ran that play, here's why it worked, here's what this guy did or didn't do.' It was really football heavy, X and O heavy, and I think most play-by-play guys, all play-by-play guys, would've felt like a bit of a bystander.” 

When Gruden first left ESPN, McDonough says he thought he would remain part of MNF. But it quickly became apparent ESPN had other plans.

Despite their philosophical differences, McDonough says he maintains a friendship with Gruden, who’s now head coach of the Raiders. McDonough also dispelled the report that ESPN replaced him because the NFL thought he was too critical of the product.

“I know there are people within the NFL who probably wish I talked less about the officiating, or whatever it was that rankled them. I was assured by people at ESPN as they were considering a reboot that that wasn't really an issue,” he said. “I'd like to think ESPN would ignore that. When you pay the league $2 billion per year, you ought to be able to pick who your own announcers are.

McDonough will return to calling college football for ESPN, which was his primary assignment prior to getting shifted to MNF. He will also contribute to the network’s college basketball and Masters coverage.

Veteran play-by-play voice Joe Tessitore will take McDonough’s seat on MNF.


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