Prior to his current role as head coach of the Raiders, Jon Gruden spent nine years in the broadcast booth covering Monday Night Football for ESPN. He spent most of those years alongside Sean McDonough.
Gruden was well liked as a MNF analyst. His quirky personality was overshadowed by his strong football analysis. Sometimes, though, his passion for the X’s and O’s went a bit too far.
McDonough told Jimmy Traina on the SI Media Podcast this week that Gruden’s love of the schematic side of football essentially cancelled out the conversational side of the game.
“I think, to be totally candid, Jon Gruden enjoyed the X-and-O part of it,” McDonough told Traina, as transcribed by Pro Football Talk. “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.”
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) July 8, 2021
McDonough even went on to call his interactions with Gruden “awkward” because of Gruden’s unwillingness to answer certain questions.
“There were times it came across as being awkward, and it was awkward,” McDonough continued. “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.”
This measures up to what we’ve come to know about Jon Gruden. But it doesn’t sound like he was too much fun to work with in the broadcast booth.