Peter King Nov 3, 2023; Frankfurt, Germany; American sportswriter Peter King at Kansas City Chiefs press conference at DFB Campus. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

One of the longest-running media institutions in North American sports is coming to an end. That would be Peter King’s Monday morning NFL column, initially dubbed “Monday Morning Quarterback” for its 1996-2018 run at Sports Illustrated, then “Football Morning In America” after he took it to NBC Sports that summer. The 66-year-old King announced in his column Monday that he’s retiring (at least from that column and from his current role, but may take on other media projects down the road):

Who’s complaining? Not me. I’m the luckiest man on the face of the earth. To be a long-termer in an increasingly short-term business, to write this column for 27 years and to be a sportswriter for 44, well, that’s something I’ll always be grateful for. Truly, I’ve loved it all.

I’m retiring*. I use an asterisk because I truly don’t know what the future holds for me. I probably will work at something, but as I write this I have no idea what it will be. Maybe it will be something in the media world, but just not Football Morning in America (nee Monday Morning Quarterback).

In that penultimate farewell column (King mentions he’ll run one more with reader emails), titled “It’s Time. Who’s Complaining? Not Me,” King goes through the history of the column (which he attributes to his football editor at SI, Steve Robinson, asking him to “empty my notebook every Monday after I wrote my weekly football column” back in 1996). He also talks about why he’s making this move, saying he wants to spend more time with his family and experience and enjoy retirement (at least partially). He also mentions that he “simply doesn’t care” about much of the “day-to-day minutiae of covering the league,” and that’s been a factor in him contemplating this move for a year.

And while some people might just go to a less intensive version of this column while keeping it going, King already has somewhat tried that. He writes that NBC Sports executive vice president and president of production Sam Flood suggested he go to shorter columns (an average of 6,000 words instead of around 10,500) and more days off this year, but the shift just didn’t work for him, saying “it wouldn’t be the column the way I liked it anymore” and “there’s this part of me that couldn’t change.” So it makes some sense that King is hanging this up entirely rather than just dialing it down. And while he may still take on other media projects down the road, it seems unlikely they’ll come with the week-to-week grind of this column (or, at least, not with the specific grind of this column).

The history and staying power King built with “Monday Morning Quarterback” and “Football Morning In America” is remarkable. From those beginnings as a notes roundup, it became one of the most-read regular columns in North American sports media, and a key component for the various websites of first Sports Illustrated (which even launched the personality-driven “The MMQB” vertical around King and that column in 2013) and then NBC. (Notably, King’s discussion about moving from SI to NBC in 2018 included some of the same notes he hit here, including dialing down his work from the column and other things to just the column.)

Keeping anything going for 27 years is impressive, but that’s perhaps more remarkable still for a column that’s always been much longer than most pieces on the sites it’s ran at, and one always filled with a wide range of content. But King’s column has also found a wide range of devoted fans, including many who stuck with it through the SI to NBC transition and some who found it for the first time in recent years. And his column has always broken some important news and perspectives, in all its iterations.

This marks the end of an era, but it’s an impressive era. And King notes in this farewell piece that he thinks there’s plenty of other good NFL writing that will continue on after he hangs up this column, but he does also share some concerns about the future of coverage of the league:

A few of you have asked about Monday columns I might recommend with mine going away. Here are a few.

  • Albert Breer at SI always has very good coverage of the NFL weekend on Mondays, using his wide net of contacts. Here’s his latest.
  • At The Athletic, Mike Sando has an authoritative Monday column that always gives me things to think about, using front-office and coaching resources to dig deep in his “Pick Six” column. Here’s his column from the day after the Super Bowl.
  • The new kid on the block is 26-year-old Ben Solak of The Ringer, and I’m high on him. Very good writer, good interpretive analysis of the weekend just finished. Here’s his column, “The Hot Read,” from week five.
  • And, of course, there’s my NBC partner, Mike Florio, with Pro Football Talk and all the news Monday and every day.

That’s a short version of the top NFL writers—there are so many. I hope the pipeline doesn’t dry up. One fear I have is that enough strong young writers and imaginative media people won’t have the entrée into this business that I had. The business that was once majority reporter has now shifted to majority analyst/opinionista. We need more storytellers to emerge. There are so, so many stories to tell in a league with 1,700 active players and 650 or so coaches.

My fear, also, is the expansion of NFL Media and contraction of independent beat people covering local teams. Pravda, my old boss Mark Mulvoy calls it. I don’t go that far; I do think there are some excellent beat people working for team sites. But when Roger Goodell signs your paycheck, you know there’s only so far you can go when stories are sensitive. Ask Jim Trotter.

My hope is that the attractiveness of covering the NFL behemoth will attract more and more smart, young, untethered reporters, like the ones at Northwestern who investigated the football program so aggressively last year. I hope media companies covering the league, even those with contracts to do NFL games, will hire them—and continue to allow bulldogs like Seth Wickersham, Don Van Natta Jr. and Mike Florio to do their jobs without fear of slapdowns from the league or individual teams.

Beyond that, though, King says he’s optimistic about the future of football coverage for two reasons: the rising numbers of intelligent women covering the NFL, and the increased numbers of NFL broadcast innovations.

One: the fact that so many smart women who know the game and cover it intelligently—from national voices like Mina Kimes, to educated and prolific local beat people like Jourdan Rodrigue and Nicki Jhabvala, to young and aggressive national writers like Dianna Russini and Kalyn Kahler—have become vital parts of the football landscape. They’ve shown the way for the next generation (I hope) of young women who are into football as much as men. When you have daughters (even if you don’t), those things matter.

Two: the innovative newness of TV products like Red Zone and the Manningcast make the game so much more interesting and informative. Scott Hanson’s a treasure. Peyton and Eli, same. They make football more fun. Rich Eisen suggested a Coachcast, with Bill Belichick and Nick Saban, somewhere in 2024. Agreed. How fun and informative could that be?

We’ll see what’s ahead for the NFL and its media coverage, and whether King’s optimism there proves justified. And we’ll see what media projects he takes on from here, if any. But it’s certainly notable to see him hanging up this weekly column after an incredible run.

[NBC Sports]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.