Sean McDonough discusses “awkward” on-air partnership with Jon Gruden


After Sean McDonough exited the Monday Night Football booth, he explained that it wasn’t fun. He made waves at the time by attributing his views to the quality of the games. Recently, McDonough pointed toward the preferred topics of his on-air partner.

Appearing on the SI Media Podcast with Jimmy Traina, McDonough addressed the dynamics of his relationship with Raiders coach Jon Gruden, who served as MNF analyst for nine years between getting fired by the Bucs and hired by the Raiders.

“I think, to be totally candid, Jon Gruden enjoyed the X-and-O part of it,” McDonough told Traina. “He loved the telestrator. He told me when I first got the job, ‘I don’t like stories.’ So he didn’t want the stories and he didn’t want to engage in conversation. There were times when I would ask him a question or make a point and he didn’t respond, and I think it was just because he was so focused on, ‘I’m gonna dive into this play,’ and he just didn’t want to do it.”

So how did that go?

“There were times it came across as being awkward, and it was awkward,” McDonough said. “It was awkward for me. You’re standing there next to somebody wondering, ‘If I ask him a question about this, is he gonna answer it or is he gonna be annoyed that I asked him?’ So it was uncomfortable. . . . The part of it that bothered me was the narrative of some people in your line of work, ‘Oh, well that was a little too big for McDonough.’ I did the World Series when I was 30. I don’t think anybody thought I was nervous or out of place.”

McDonough emphasized that he’s not criticizing Gruden.

“It was the direction [the producer and director] chose to go in most of the time, which I understand,” McDonough said. “Jon’s the analyst. TV is an analyst-driven medium. It was his strength. They played to his strength. It made sense. It just didn’t match with what I was there to do. . . . It wasn’t great, but I’m glad I got the chance to do it. Did I think we were bad? No. I thought it was fine. But it could’ve been great, in my opinion, and it wasn’t.”

Their final game together became the most memorable, with McDonough needling Gruden about the open secret that he’d be taking the Raiders job and Gruden undoubtedly biting through his tongue while restraining himself from hurling McDonough out of the broadcast booth.

In his next assignment, McDonough won’t have to worry about Gruden or anyone else from the football world. Starting next season, he’ll become ESPN’s primary play-by-play voice for its NHL broadcasts.

12 responses to “Sean McDonough discusses “awkward” on-air partnership with Jon Gruden

  1. Growing up in Boston and watching the local teams for decades I Got used to hearing McDonough. The guy did/does a great job at every level throughout his career. He and Jerry Remy were one of the best play by play / color analyst teams I’ve ever heard for the Sox or anybody else and it was a shame when that got split up. They were interesting, funny and insightful. Gruden on the other hand always came across as a Ding-Bat and I’m not surprised that was an awkward situation for him.

  2. While Grudens charm wears off quickly no matter his job, I quit watching mnf due to Sean McDonough. When he got booted, I started watching again. And I watched mnf from the beginning. He is awful. I wont watch college games he calls. I’m glad I dont like to watch nhl. I’ve heard a lot of bad announcers in my time, but the only one that causes me not to watch a game they’re calling is him.

  3. I’m glad Florio is perfect. If the Raiders were a tree he would have chopped them down long time ago.

  4. Sean’s father, Will, wrote for the Boston Globe for many years and covered the Patriots. A Patriots DB named Raymond Clayborn did not like him and one afternoon took a swing at him in the locker room. Will McDonough blocked the punch and dropped Clayborn with a punch of his own despite being 40-45 years older.

  5. Gruden is a cartoon character anywhere he goes. McDonough was fine, though he seemed to have a puberty-like vocal crack at least once during every game.

    Booger got a lot of flack, but Tessitore was so much worse with his yelling, wrestling match histrionics. Bad. Very bad. Bring back Mike Tirico.

  6. Intrepid-Man, you grew up in Boston, but you’re calling Gruden a dingbat? That’s hilarious, considering Boston has some of the rudest, most arrogant, and downright classless and clueless fans in the country. I mean Patriot fans still think they won those Super Bowls without cheating, even though it has been thoroughly proven otherwise… At least Gruden didn’t have to cheat to get his ring. 🤷‍♂️

  7. I met Sean McDonough way back in 1991 when I was a rental car rep at an airport. Super nice guy, though it was distracting hearing that distinct voice from TV in the real actual life.

    I enjoy him calling games, and actually love it when his voice cracks. His call of the come-from-behind Atlanta Braves win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NLCS as Sid Bream slid in safe was an all-timer.

  8. I’m eternally grateful to the Raiders for hiring Gruden so I don’t have to listen to him bloviate about whomever is on the field at any particular time.

  9. Gruden’s like a rock star. He’s going to put on a show, no matter what he’s doing, as long as it’s football related. Gruden loves football so much, he was willing to put in all kinds of time preparing for a broadcast, but most of the others just looked at it as a job. Gruden could put in a 20 hour day and not even feel like it’s work. He’s just in heaven when he’s watching football. He truly loves the game more than just about anybody.

  10. You mean Gruden called football games just like he was a coach? Just like Romo calls games like he is a QB?

    Each style might not be for everyone but it brings great insight into the NFL game.

  11. I’m just glad he and Gruden found something else to do for 48 hours of football every year.

  12. Gruden always gave me the impression he walked onto the set 5 minutes before air time and just shot from the hip with zero preparation. That’d get old with any real broadcaster who is constantly doing his homework to be prepared. And having guys just spouting things off the cuff is really hard on their booth partners who have to try and make everything blend together to make sense to the audience.

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