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ESPN broadcaster quits 'MNF,' claims Mondays were 'worst games'

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Sometimes, a dream comes true — only to turn into a nightmare.

When broadcaster Sean McDonough was named the fifth play-by-play man in the history of “Monday Night Football” just two years ago, he described it as a “dream come true.”

Last week, ESPN announced McDonough was being replaced in the MNF booth by Joe Tessitore. McDonough will be returning to ESPN’s coverage of college football. It was reportedly a mutual decision between the network and McDonough.

On Thursday, McDonough admitted to WEEI radio in Boston that he did not enjoy his time calling the Monday night games.

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“Ultimately, what is the most important thing in life is to be happy,” McDonough said. “As much as it was a great honor to be the voice of ‘Monday Night Football’ … it wasn’t a tremendous amount of fun the last two years. 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.”

Did you enjoy Sean McDonough's work on MNF?

McDonough, son of longtime Boston sports columnist and former “NFL on NBC” studio host Will McDonough, said one of the problems with his time on MNF was the lackluster games the league assigned to Monday nights.

“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.

And while he is still friends with broadcast partner Jon Gruden, now the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, McDonough said his job as the play-by-play man was basically to let Gruden be the star of the broadcast.

“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,” McDonough said.

“That’s not unusual, TV really is an analyst-driven medium,” he added. “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.”

One thing McDonough wasn’t shy talking about as a play-by-play man was his criticism of NFL officiating. But he denied rumors that the NFL wanted him off the telecasts because of his comments.

“I know there are people within the NFL who probably wish I talked less about the officiating, or whatever it was that rankled them,” McDonough 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. When you pay the league $2 billion per year, you ought to be able to pick who your own announcers are.”

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ESPN has not yet announced who will join Tessitore as the color analyst for MNF. Future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning reportedly told the network he was not interested in the job despite a rumored $10 million-a-year offer from the network.

McDonough, meanwhile, said that as a broadcaster, the environment surrounding college football games is what he loves.

“I love college football. For me, it’s more fun, and that’s a personal taste,” he said.

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Scott Kelnhofer is a writer for The Western Journal and Conservative Tribune. A native of Milwaukee, he currently resides in Phoenix.
Scott Kelnhofer is a writer for The Western Journal and Conservative Tribune. He has more than 20 years of experience in print and broadcast journalism. A native of Milwaukee, he has resided in Phoenix since 2012.
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