During Jon Gruden‘s absence from the NFL, he became a star analyst at ESPN. His Monday Night Football commentary was very popular as was his Quarterback Camp show. He was also the company’s highest-paid personality for a time before the Las Vegas Raiders paid him big money to coach the team.
A reason Gruden may have decided to ditch ESPN for another NFL head coaching gig was the person they assigned to be his partner during Monday Night Football games after Mike Tirico departed. Sean McDonough replaced Tirico and he simply didn’t work well with Gruden. He’s been honest about that in the past. Recently, he decided to get more candid about the situation and did a deep dive on why things didn’t work with the Super Bowl-winning coach.
“I think, to be totally candid, Jon Gruden enjoyed the X-and-O part of it,” McDonough said on the SI Media Podcast with Jimmy 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.”
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McDonough Says Working With Gruden Was Awkward
The disconnect between Gruden and McDonough didn’t make for the best product. The latter admitted that he would feel awkward around the former.
“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 was a veteran commentator when he signed on do to Monday Night Football but Gruden is a unique individual. Considering he was one of ESPN’s stars, he was going to do things his way. That obviously didn’t lead to a cohesive situation with McDonough.
McDonough Didn’t Think Brief Partnership Was Great
Fortunately for McDonough, he didn’t have to work with Gruden for long. He didn’t think that the partnership was very good for the brief time they were together.
“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.”