Sean McDonough on leaving 'Monday Night Football': 'We got one of the worst games each week'

Shutdown Corner

It came as something of a surprise last week when news came that ESPN was taking play-by-play man Sean McDonough off its “Monday Night Football” broadcasts and replacing him with Joe Tessitore.

But to hear McDonough tell it, he’s happy to be returning to college football.

Speaking on WEEI radio in Boston on Thursday morning, McDonough said the gig – a dream job for many would-be sports broadcasters – wasn’t much fun, and his happiness is more important than a job others covet.

“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. 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,” he said. “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.”

Former “Monday Night Football” play-by-play voice Sean McDonough, right, explained why he left the franchise to return to broadcasting college football. (AP)
Former “Monday Night Football” play-by-play voice Sean McDonough, right, explained why he left the franchise to return to broadcasting college football. (AP)

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A Boston native whose late father, Will, is a sportswriting legend, McDonough explained that he likes setting the scene and telling personal stories, but as part of the “MNF” team, he often took a backseat to analyst Jon Gruden.

The fact that the Monday night matchups often left a lot to be desired didn’t help.

“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,” McDonough said. “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.”

Despite that, McDonough says he is still friends with Gruden, who returned to coaching earlier this year, in charge of the Oakland Raiders once again.

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