Behind The ScenesNFL

McDonough anticipates many meaningful divisional games on 2017 MNF schedule

Jon Gruden (left) and Sean McDonough during a Monday Night Football game at Gillette Stadium. (Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images)
Jon Gruden (L) and Sean McDonough during a Monday Night Football game at Gillette Stadium.
(Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images)

The 2017 National Football League schedule was announced Thursday night, including ESPN’s 17-game Monday Night Football slate, which kicks off Sept. 11 with a doubleheader – the New Orleans Saints versus Minnesota Vikings (6:55 p.m. ET) followed by the Los Angeles Chargers versus Denver Broncos (10:15 p.m.).

Sean McDonough will call the Saints-Vikings opener with analyst Jon Gruden and reporter Lisa Salters as he begins his second season as the MNF play-by-play voice. He shared his thoughts with Front Row about the 2017 schedule and the games he’s most looking forward to covering.

What are your thoughts on the MNF schedule?
I am very pleased. There are a lot of compelling matchups. The additional number of divisional games will help create a greater likelihood that those games have meaning late in the year in particular.

Did specific games catch your attention?
As a broadcaster, you are always looking at the venue – where the games are being played. Last year we didn’t have Kansas City at all, and they were one of the best teams in the league. To get to go there twice (Oct. 2 and Oct. 30) jumped out at me. We didn’t have a game at Green Bay last year, so that’s another place (Nov. 6) that is exciting for me – to have a chance to do a game at Lambeau Field.

You once went to a MNF game at Lambeau with your father [legendary Boston Globe NFL writer Will McDonough]. Talk about that experience.
That was the only time I’ve been to Lambeau Field. I was a senior in high school in the fall of 1979. I was on a tour of colleges in the Midwest and I was with my dad. I met [ABC commentator] Howard Cosell before a Patriots-Packers Monday Night Football game in Green Bay. My father explained that I was interested in being a broadcaster, and he let me stand in the back of the booth and watch the MNF game that night. Of all the great memories I have of following my dad to different venues and sporting events, that’s the one that stands out the most.

What expectations do you have for your second year on MNF?
Like anything, it should be easier the second time around. Everything was so new, even though you are still just broadcasting football games. In terms of how we do things week to week and getting to know the people you are working with, it just took a little time. By the middle of last season, I felt a comfort level with the entire operation. It will be a lot easier in year two to just focus on broadcasting the game. We are getting together for a couple of days of meetings and watching tape in mid-May. I am already looking forward to it.

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