Jan 30, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Sports Illustrated columnist Peter King (right) interviews San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio at a press conference at the Marriott New Orleans in advance of Super Bowl XLVII against the Baltimore Ravens. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As the biggest stage in sports, the Super Bowl often lends itself to historic moments. And this year’s was no exception.

There was the Kansas City Chiefs’ confusion over the San Francisco 49ers opting to receive the ball first in overtime. There was Patrick Mahomes finding Mecole Hardman for the walk-off game-winning score. There was the postgame celebration featuring two of the most famous people in the world in Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift.

And for the journalistically inclined, there was Peter King hunched over a desk inside the winning head coach’s office in Allegiant Stadium, frantically scribbling the exact verbiage as Andy Reid recited the game-winning play.

King wasn’t bothering Reid for a scoop. And he wasn’t taking part in some sort of performance art based on an on-screen alter ego. Rather, he was genuinely interested in which part of “Tiger 12, Tom and Jerry right, gun trips right bunch, F shuttle” denoted that the play involved motion.

King proceeded to tape a 15-minute podcast with Reid, who was just moments removed from becoming the fifth head coach to win three Super Bowls. He also gathered enough information to fill his weekly “Football Morning in America” column, which would prove to be the final column King would file based on an actual game.

While Reid quickly shut down retirement speculation following the Super Bowl, the same can’t be said for King. On Monday, the NBC Sports reporter/columnist announced that he’ll be retiring from his longtime weekly column — initially known as “Monday Morning Quarterback” at Sports Illustrated — after 27 years of writing it and 44 years of covering the league.

It’s a credit to King that the end of his column has elicited such a strong reaction from football fans. Even in the world of Woj Bombs and Twitter notifications, “Football Morning in America” remained a must-read through its final season, even if football fans had to wait all the way until Monday morning each week for it to be published.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that there isn’t — and maybe hasn’t ever been — a reporter more well connected to the NFL than King. Not just to the agents who could tip him off to the latest transactions. Not just to the teams and players eager to control the narrative. And certainly not to the league itself.

Despite only being one person, King’s weekly column had a way of making you feel like he was present at all 16 games in a given week. He’d accompany the star quarterback on his walk from the stadium to his car. He’d get the killer quote from the obscure offensive lineman no one else had. And he’d sit with the head coach of a burgeoning dynasty, clarifying the exact verbiage of the game-winning play.

King also didn’t play favorites. In fact, I just had to look up which team he covered (the Cincinnati Bengals) prior to becoming the NFL’s preeminent national writer. The only reason I already knew he went to Ohio University is because he once told a story about smoking a doobie with the Doobie Brothers during his time there.

King wasn’t perfect. He once offered to resign from Sports Illustrated following an erroneous report regarding Deflategate, and his social media quirks made him fodder for the Pardon My Takes of the world. But even when it came to his perceived shortcomings, he was accountable and self-deprecating — two qualities we don’t see often enough of in the media today.

And that’s the thing — King was already the top NFL columnist before there was even a debate to embrace. He could have taken his credentials and become a talking head on a studio show. He could have taken part in performative feuds with fanbases or star players. It probably would have been better for his bank account. Instead, there he was, slumming it in the locker room with a notepad following what could very well be the last NFL game he ever covers.

Even in this new era of media, King still evolved with the times — he just did it his own way. His podcasts weren’t filled with hot takes, but rather insightful conversations with interesting guests. He found a way to make his magazine-style column thrive on the internet.

It would be cliché to say that King is the last of his kind, but it also wouldn’t be inaccurate. That’s not to say there aren’t NFL reporters doing great jobs currently. Dianna Russini (whose salary King reported on, much to her surprise) is killing it at The Athletic. Same for Jonathan Jones at CBS. And Albert Breer has done a more than admirable job carrying the torch for King at Sports Illustrated‘s “Monday Morning Quarterback” vertical.

King’s retirement, however, undoubtedly marks the end of an era when it comes to his unique brand of NFL reporting. That doesn’t mean the new generation is any better or worse. It’s just different. Cliché or not, King truly was the last of his kind.

[Football Morning in America]

About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.