NASHVILLE, Tenn. –** Roughly nine months ago, when ESPN's Jon Gruden and Sean McDonough met with the network's programming officials at the Pro Bowl, certain teams were discussed as attractive possibilities for Monday Night Football.
The conversation was a look ahead to the 2017 season, in advance of a meeting with the NFL.
"I know Jon really pushed for Tennessee," McDonough recalled in an interview with Titans Online. "Because he felt like they were a team on the way up, and they were poised to have a terrific year."
Well, the time has come -- Monday Night Football is back in Nashville. The Titans face the Colts tonight at Nissan Stadium.
McDonough, one of television's most versatile broadcasters, is excited about it. He's worked college games in the city in the past, but never an NFL game.
"When I saw Nashville on the schedule, I said 'Awesome,''' McDonough said. "It's probably about as hot a city as there is in America when it comes to people moving (to Nashville), or people intrigued by the city. It's kind of the hot spot.
"I'm looking forward to being there. It seems like everybody I know is moving to Nashville. I know it's a great town. Hopefully it's a good game – that's what makes it a fun and successful weekend for us, if it's a fun and competitive game people take an interest in."
McDonough, who has been with ESPN since 1989 – with the exception of 1996-99, when he worked exclusively for CBS -- is just the fifth person to serve as the play-by-play voice since Monday Night Football debuted in 1970, joining Keith Jackson, Frank Gifford, Al Michaels and Mike Tirico. The 2016 NFL season was his first with Gruden, the Super Bowl-winning coach.
In his career, McDonough has been a play-by-play commentator on the network's college basketball coverage, covered the World Series, NCAA Final Four, the Olympic Games and all four major golf championships, among other marquee events during his accomplished career. McDonough was the television play-by-play announcer for the Boston Red Sox from 1988-2004.
His life with MNF is an interesting one that involves a crash course in studying every week.
Leading up to tonight's game, McDonough has read through media guides and notes for both teams, and clippings from stories from each city, every day. He's watched Gruden's coaching cut-ups of position groups, film of plays each team likes to run, and things they do unique on offense and defense – that's hours of viewing. He's been on conference calls, and met with coaches and players from each team.
"It's a full week of preparation," said McDonough, whose father is the late Will McDonough, the legendary Boston Globe sportswriter who worked for NBC and CBS Sports. "Each week you have to forget what you learned about previous week's game and learn as much as you can."
Before heading to Nashville, McDonough said he was looking forward to spending some time with Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota.
"I've heard so much about what a person of character he is," McDonough said, "and I've always admired his play."
He's hoping for an intriguing game between the two teams.
The Titans and Colts are both 2-3. The winner would join the Texans and Jaguars, both 3-3, atop the AFC South.
"I know the Titans were a trendy pick in the preseason," McDonough said. "I know they are still figuring things out, but there's a lot to like about them. And it is an important game, because the division is there for either of these teams to win. Sure, they all have their flaws but I think the talent is certainly there for Tennessee to do it.
"So this is a big game for Tennessee, and it's a big game for Indianapolis, too. Hopefully it's a really good game."
A look back at the Titans over the years on Monday Night Football. (Photos: AP, Donn Jones)