The Sean McDonough-Jon Gruden “Monday Night Football” pairing will not go down as one of the most revered pairings in sports broadcasting history. The two never really seemed to hit it off and lasted just two years together, with Gruden leaving to once again coach the Oakland Raiders and ESPN sending McDonough back to the college ranks, a much better fit.
“It wasn’t a tremendous amount of fun the last two years,” McDonough told WEEI radio in March.
“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 continued. “That’s not unusual. TV really is an analyst-driven medium. 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.”
McDonough’s first game back in his NCAA seat was Sunday night’s LSU-Miami contest, and he apparently couldn’t resist taking a gentle poke at his former broadcast partner over the Raiders’ decision to trade standout linebacker Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears in exchange for a bunch of draft picks. Here’s McDonough after reading a “SportsCenter” promo that promised to reveal Gruden’s comments on the trade:
“I’m anxious to hear this one, Jon Gruden and Khalil Mack talking about the trade,” McDonough said. “Khalil Mack traded by Oakland, by our man the Gru-dog, to the Chicago Bears. The Bears got a great player. I don’t know what my man the Gru-dog is doing. He got some draft picks, but that’s one of the best defensive players in the league. He could’ve been a Gruden Grinder. Now he’s a Chicago Bear.”
On Sunday, the “Gru-dog” told reporters that, with Mack holding out and unlikely to report without a new contract, the Raiders simply had to find a trading partner, and the Bears came up with the best deal — first-round picks in 2019 and 2020, a sixth-rounder in 2019 and a third-rounder in 2020. The Bears also received the Raiders’ second-round draft pick and a conditional fifth-rounder in 2020.
“He’s a great player for us, a great person, a great teammate,” Gruden said. “I did have contact with him [Saturday], too, exchanging our best wishes to him and thanking him for being a great Oakland Raider. The negotiation was what it was. It was tough. It was a long process. We talked about it daily. We made him an offer. I don’t believe we were anywhere close to where the Bears were. The Bears made us an offer we thought was really unique. Very, very tough to say goodbye to a great player, but here we are today.
“We have waited. We waited and waited, and the Rams game was looming,” Gruden continued. “Our feeling was he was not going to report anytime soon. . . . We made a decision, and we’re going to stand by it.”
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