Wonder why Rick Reilly looks so happy? After leaving SI for ESPN in 2007 and then signing a huge contract with ESPN worth about $3 million dollars a year, Reilly has been a bust of Akili Smith like proportions. Or Tim Couch. Or JaMarcus Russell…. or insert whatever infamous bust you choose. His most memorable moments have been bizarre columns in which he's duped by satire, goofy TV segments, and of course his epic Twitter reporting skillz.
Under no metric can Rick Reilly's ESPN tenure be viewed as a success. That's not to say Reilly can't still deliver a good column or a funny joke on Twitter every now and then. That's not to say he's not talented and doesn't deserve some of the awards he's won in his career as SI's back page columnist. But he hasn't come close to justifying his massive contract as his form has slipped and ESPN has struggled to find the right spot for him.
So what's ESPN going to do?
Re-sign Rick Reilly of course, according to Richard Deitsch of SI…
— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) March 20, 2013
If Reilly is returning to ESPN, I'd imagine it is at a greatly reduced rate. At this point, it could be a situation where Reilly has nowhere else to go (hard to imagine him going back to SI, and hard to imagine another network really jumping at the bit to get a hold of Reilly's skill set). His recent work has been widely panned and the criticism has been harsh for Reilly's ESPN career. Especially considering recent reports were that ESPN couldn't wait to get out from the albatross that was his current contract, this is a surprise to say the least. It's not like Reilly is an institution at ESPN with a lifetime contract like Dick Vitale or Chris Berman. I'd put him in the same category as Bob Knight. Big name hires that for whatever reason didn't work out as ESPN envisioned.
It's difficult to see what the benefits are for ESPN in keeping Reilly around. More Homecoming specials? More essays? More weird columns? Just so ESPN can give blogs more material? From that perspective I suppose I can't complain… but otherwise, it's a puzzling decision from Bristol.