No stranger to sports fans, McDonough is one of the industry’s most versatile and accomplished commentators with a resume that includes the World Series, the Olympic Games and the NCAA Final Four. A signature voice for ESPN since 2000, McDonough’s most recent work has focused on college football and basketball. He has also called NFL games on ESPN Radio since 2013.
Now assuming one of the most high-profile positions in sports media, McDonough shares his MNF memories with Front Row; he also talks about his new partner Jon Gruden, his father, the legendary Boston Globe sports writer Will McDonough, and more.
– Sean McDonough on the prospect of working with analyst Jon Gruden on MNF
How does it feel to become just the fifth play-by-play voice in MNF history?
It is an exhilarating feeling to become part of the prestigious history of Monday Night Football. Anyone in our business would be thrilled to have this opportunity, and I am excited beyond description. I also feel a great sense of responsibility to uphold the standard of excellence established by Keith [Jackson], Frank [Gifford], Al [Michaels] and Mike [Tirico]. MNF viewers have come to expect the very best and I will work as hard as I possibly can to provide an informative and entertaining call every Monday night.
What are your expectations for working with Jon Gruden?
Working with Jon is going to be a lot of fun. I have spent some time with him over the years. He is a true character and is always an entertaining person to be around. I recently binge-watched several of his “QB Camps” because I could not shut them off. His charisma, knowledge and enthusiasm jump through the screen. His work ethic is legendary. Mike Tirico assured me I am going to thoroughly enjoy working with Jon and I don’t doubt that for a second.
Talk about reuniting with MNF producer Jay Rothman and director Chip Dean, whom you’ve worked with previously.
Jay and Chip are two of the nicest, most talented, and hardest-working people I have ever met in sports television. There is a reason they have been successful on MNF for so long. They are the best. Beyond their remarkable television skills, they have established a family atmosphere within MNF because they truly care about every person who is on the crew. They are well known for how hard they prepare for each game. I look forward to working hard alongside them.
Your father did NFL studio work for NBC and CBS, and your brother Terry is Vice President, Player Personnel for the Arizona Cardinals. Talk about continuing the McDonough family tradition in the NFL.
As the reality of this opportunity begins to sink in, my thoughts drift to my Dad. He was – and still is – a legendary figure within the NFL and was a pioneer as the first “information man” to make the transition from print journalism to television. The NFL was an important part of his life and many of his closest friends were people who were involved with the NFL. I know he is excited and proud that the oldest of his five children will be the play-by-play announcer for MNF. But I am equally certain he is every bit as proud of my four siblings, not only because of their professional successes, but for the wonderful people they are.
The first thing Jon Gruden told me when he called to welcome me to MNF was how much he likes and respects my brother, Terry. Terry is great at what he does and I have no doubt he will be a general manager in the NFL soon, if that is what he wants to do. He is in a fantastic situation in Arizona right now. Between my Dad and Terry, the McDonough family has been a part of the NFL since 1960. I am excited and honored to continue our family’s association with the NFL.
– McDonough on the meaning of calling the Dec. 12 Ravens at Patriots game in the town where his father Will covered games for the Boston Globe
What is your favorite MNF memory?
My favorite childhood memory of MNF was watching the games each week with my Dad. Dad would let [my sister] Erin, Terry and me stay up well past our bedtime each Monday night – usually with ice cream – to watch the first half of the game and [MNF analyst] Howard Cosell’s amazing halftime highlights. The bonding time with our father was amazing. He would analyze just about every aspect of the game…the playing, the coaching, the officiating and the announcing. I believe each of us learned to watch games with an inquisitive mind largely from those experiences as young children. Those Monday nights with my Dad remain some of the best memories of my life.
What are you looking forward to most about this new chapter in your career?
Anyone who works in sports television wants to do the biggest games possible. When you are working on MNF, you are getting that opportunity every week. I have been blessed to do a lot of terrific events throughout the years, but, in all candor, I had been waiting and hoping for many years that I would get a chance to return to the top rung of sports broadcasting, an opportunity I had in the early 90’s when I called the World Series for CBS. [ESPN Executive Vice President, Programming and Production] John Wildhack told me that my chance would come – it was just a matter of finding the right opportunity. I believed him when he told me that and I am ecstatic that my faith in him was rewarded. Now, it is my turn to reward his faith and belief in me by performing at the level expected of someone who is working on MNF. This truly is the dream of a professional lifetime for me.
What game on the 2016 MNF schedule jumps out at you?
This season our schedule is very strong throughout. The game that stands out is Dec. 12: Baltimore at New England, which has become a spirited and meaningful rivalry in recent years. And, as a Boston boy, broadcasting a MNF game from Foxborough will be emotional. I have no doubt that my Dad will once again be foremost in my heart and on my mind when I walk into that booth.
Sean McDonough will be the fifth person to occupy the play-by-play position in the 46-year history of MNF. pic.twitter.com/lBhXDje1m3
— ESPN Monday Night (@ESPNMondayNight) May 9, 2016