Sean McDonough will make his debut as play-by-play announcer on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. He’ll be on the call as the Pittsburgh Steelers face the Washington Redskins, the first game of ESPN’s Week 1 Monday doubleheader.
For the veteran broadcaster, being the new face of Monday Night Football is a long-awaited opportunity to be a signature voice for a network and one of the lead voices for a professional sports league. The play-by-play chair for MNF certainly puts him in such a prominent role. McDonough will be just the fifth broadcaster to lead the TV institution, joining Keith Jackson, Frank Gifford, Al Michaels and Mike Tirico.
In an interview with the Washington Post‘s Rick Maese, McDonough revealed that former ESPN executive John Wildhack (now the athletic director of McDonough’s alma mater, Syracuse University) frequently assured him that the opportunity to be a lead voice for the network. However, McDonough was skeptical, looking at ESPN’s slate and seeing all of the prominent roles capably filled.
But last summer, Mike Tirico tipped McDonough off that there could soon be an opening in the MNF play-by-play chair. During last year’s British Open, Tirico mentioned that he had several offers with his contract soon to expire and could move on from ESPN. He also speculated that McDonough would likely be the first choice to take the MNF lead role. McDonough’s reaction?
“I told him, as his friend, well, you need to leave,” McDonough said with a laugh.
Nearly a year later, Tirico announced his departure from ESPN to NBC. Shortly thereafter, McDonough got a call from Wildhack, who said he was on the shortlist of possible replacements. Two weeks later, McDonough landed the spotlight gig he’s been waiting for, one he fondly remembers watching with his legendary father, and joining some impressive sports TV broadcasting company.