Emphasizing that his exit does not represent a lack of faith in SI, King wrote that “sometimes it’s just time,” and that he had grown tired of his all-consuming job.
This is not about any dissatisfaction with SI, or any worry about the future of a great franchise. I love the place. Always will. Sometimes it’s just time. I am 60. My dad died at 64. I had one brother die at 55, the other die at 64 just months into his retirement. I don’t want to continue the family trend. A few weeks ago my wife, Ann, and I were on the train from New York to have dinner with friends in New Jersey. A few minutes from Montclair, I saw on my phone that Saints owner Tom Benson died. I was the only one on our staff who knew Benson even a little, so I knew it was up to me to write the deadline obit. I sat outside the restaurant thumb-typing the obit on my phone. No complaints. That’s the life. The 24/7-ness of the job, though, has worn on me, as has some of the silly and invented stuff that populates the football media (e.g., 2019 mock drafts 360 days before the 2019 draft). The monster must be fed daily. Enough.
Clearly, however, fatigue was not the entire impetus for King’s jump to NBC. As King acknowledged, his SI bosses offered him a lighter role, in which he could write his “Monday Morning Quarterback” column without any other responsibilities, but he turned them down anyway. The other factor, he said, was wanting to give the young staff he has assembled at The MMQB a chance to shine without him.
“If I stay, their development gets stunted because I’m the 225-pound gorilla,” he wrote. “It’s time for them too, and for a new generation of football writers. They deserve the spotlight I’ve been hogging. They’re ready. I’m really excited for them.”
We speculated last week that uncertainty about SI’s future could have played a role in King’s departure, as it did when Richard Deitsch left for The Athletic earlier this year. SI is in the process of being sold, and it’s hard to say whether a potential buyer would want to grow the publication or strip it down.
In his column Monday, King also explained what his role at NBC would look like. Basically, he said, he will write his signature column, produce features for the Football Night in America pregame show, as he has in the past, and appear once a week on Mike Florio’s radio show. He expects his written output beyond the weekly column to be limited.
I am not retiring. My column will continue in the digital space at NBC Sports, very likely with a new name, beginning in July. So I’ll continue to write a Monday column; it’s my first love. In addition, I’ll be doing what I’ve done for NBC the past couple of years: four to six feature stories for the “Football Night in America” pregame show. I’ll be appearing with Mike Florio one morning per week on his “Pro Football Talk Live” radio show. I may be doing a few other things at NBC in the Olympic sphere or other places. My plan is for the Monday column to still be long and filled with football plus the strange detours of this strange brain. I’m not going to be writing a lot more than that. Some, but not a lot.
King wrote that he will start at NBC on June 1, the 29-year anniversary of being hired at SI.
King had an incredible run at Sports Illustrated, emerging as the most poplar NFL writer in the country and then using his exalted position to give talented young writers a platform. We’ll see how much of that magic (and how many of those page views) he can bring to NBC.