Last week, ESPN announced that Sean McDonough wouldn’t be covering Monday Night Football as an analyst anymore and he had some things to say about his stint on the broadcast.
On WEEI’s Kirk & Callahan show, McDonough admitted that he struggled to make Monday Night Football pop. The sports analyst told the radio jockeys that MNF was “one of the worst NFL games each week,” and that it was an uphill battle to make it “interesting and exciting.” McDonough replaced Mike Tirico in 2016 and co-hosted MNF with Jon Gruden. While McDonough won’t be analyzing MNF anymore, he has signed a multi-year extension to cover ESPN’s college football on a weekly basis and a College Football Playoff Semifinal.
I'll never forget when Sean McDonough spent 45 minutes on the phone with me just talking about the business and getting a wealth of his knowledge and insight when I was at a crossroads. Wish him the best. It'll be nice having him back on college football.— Nick Camino (@NickCaminoWTAM) March 10, 2018
“If you go back and look at the schedule, generally we got one of the worst NFL games each week,” said McDonough. “You’re trying to make something sound interesting and exciting that isn’t.” While it might be unwise to publicly denounce the quality of work you’re being paid to cover, it is refreshing to hear someone on the inside be so brash — and McDonough has, after all, signed an extension contract. According to him, one of the biggest problems was “just the way the booth was set up the last two years. It was really geared around Jon Gruden.”
McDonough explained, “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.’” He continued, “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.”
Sean McDonough received a nice landing spot on college football, but the idea that this is what he wanted is hard to fathom. At the end of his last game with Jon Gruden, he talked about calling one of Gruden MNF games in Oakland and check out the stories when he got the job.— Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand) March 10, 2018
When it comes to trash talking the games on the very network that covers them, McDonough claims he was told it wouldn’t come back to haunt him. “I know there are people within the NFL who probably wish I talked less about the officiating, or whatever it was that rankled them,” he said. “I was assured by people at ESPN as they were considering a reboot that that wasn’t really an issue.”
“I’d like to think ESPN would ignore that,” said McDonough. “When you pay the league $2 billion per year, you ought to be able to pick who your own announcers are.” As for the analyst’s return to college football coverage, he seems pretty excited. “I love college football. For me, it’s more fun, and that’s a personal taste,” said McDonough.