Phil Dean, a 28-year ESPN veteran, was named the new Monday Night Football producer today. He follows Jay Rothman, who has produced ESPN’s weekly NFL prime-time game for the past 19 seasons.
Dean, who joined ESPN in 1992, has been one of the company’s top producers since being promoted to the position in 1999. He has worked on college football the past 15 years, while also producing NBA games (seven years), college basketball (12 years) and premier events, including the NCAA Women’s Final Four Championship for 15 years.
Dean spoke with Front Row about his NFL background, the craft of producing, and how he’s approaching this opportunity ahead on Monday Night Football.
What excites you most about producing MNF?
I’m excited to get back to the NFL where I started my career in sports television. I also look forward to working with director Jimmy Platt and the incredible MNF team.
What’s your favorite part about being a producer?
There are so many things. Being a leader. Working with tremendous individuals. Growing and learning together and working as a team to achieve the common goal of putting on an informative, entertaining telecast.
Your first job with ESPN was on Sunday Night Football NFL games. What do you remember from that experience?
It’s pretty neat that Fred Gaudelli, the lead NBC football producer, hired me to join ESPN to work on Sunday Night Football and that Jim Rikhoff, the lead CBS football producer, helped me get my start in the business. I owe a lot to both of them for being great mentors and teachers. The things that I remember most about my seven years on Sunday Night NFL games are [former Detroit Lions star] Barry Sanders and his footwork replays, shooting a tease with guitar legend Slash in Pittsburgh, and traveling to Japan for some fun preseason games in Tokyo.
Do you have a favorite memory of watching MNF?
I was in college and remember vividly in 1985 when Joe Theismann and the [Washington] Redskins were attempting a flea-flicker and [New York Giants linebacker] Lawrence Taylor got to Theismann and broke his leg in two places. Not a favorite memory, but one that is certainly hard to forget.
A more recent memory is a happier one from two years ago when Drew Brees broke Peyton Manning’s NFL record for most passing yards in a career. Jay Rothman and [former MNF director] Chip Dean did an incredible job. They captured Drew’s wife and four kids on the field after he broke the record and showed Drew hugging his kids saying “[you can] accomplish anything in life if you work.” It was awesome and a really touching moment that all parents and their kids can relate to.
When the NFL schedule comes out, is there a particular NFL stadium you hope MNF travels to or a team you are excited to cover?
Arrowhead Stadium and the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. I never got the chance to cover [Chiefs quarterback] Patrick Mahomes when he was in college so that would be fun. Also, Raymond James Stadium [in Tampa, Fla.] I grew up in New England so I’m curious to see how Tom Brady and Gronk [Rob Gronkowski, like Brady a former New England Patriot] do in Tampa Bay. Minnesota, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Las Vegas would all be fun, too!