The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre broke news this week of two NFL Network hires – Jenn Brown formerly of ESPN and Judy Battista of the New York Times. Brown departed ESPN earlier this year and had found work as host of NBC/Esquire's American Ninja Warrior. There were rumblings of her re-entry into the sports world (unless you count American Ninja Warrior to be some kind of weird sports offshoot) and the conventional wisdom pegged Fox Sports 1 as a destination, so the NFL Network move comes as something of a surprise.
Coincidentally, Brown will ultimately leave ESPN for what many female personalities have left ESPN in the past couple years for – an expanded role beyond sideline duty. Brown will host NFL Total Access for NFL Network and move away from the sidelines, which has to be considered a step forward. She was considered the heir apparent to Erin Andrews for a while, but after Sam Ponder received that promotion it was clear there was no real path forward in Bristol for Brown. Now she joins Andrews, Rachel Nichols, and Michelle Beadle as personalities who have seen their roles grow at other networks outside ESPN.
Not as many of our readers may be familiar with Judy Battista, but she's been an excellent reporter covering the league for the New York Times for several years and will be quite the addition for NFL.com and NFL Network. Battista joins a talented list of writers and reporters including Ian Rapoport, Albert Breer, and Andrea Kremer at the league outfit. It's another key loss in the sports world for the New York Times, who just saw Nate Silver take his 538 brand to ESPN. Two very good hires by NFL Network.