The Football World Reacts To Peter King’s Retirement: One Of The Greatest Sportswriters Of All-Time

Peter King
NFL on NBC

Back when a byline in Sports Illustrated was considered the mountaintop for any sportswriter to aspire to, Peter King was the constant. The man has been to the past 40 Super Bowls, founded the brilliant, Monday Morning Quarterback column, and has played no small part in the explosion of the NFL’s popularity with his exceptional coverage of the league over the years.

As was revealed in Monday’s MMQB column, King is retiring after 44 years, which has to hit any writer of sports right in the feels.

“It’s time. As most of you know, I’ve mostly moved away from the day-to-day minutiae of covering the league. Coaching searches, free-agency, the lead-up to the draft … It’s important, obviously. And last year I started noticing how much of it I simply didn’t care about. I had to force myself to be interested in things other than training camps and the games, and that’s no way to do this job. I thought about walking away after last season. I remember asking Andy Reid last year in his office after the Super Bowl win over Philadelphia, ‘Are you gonna retire?’ His retort: ‘Are you?’ I didn’t know what to say, because I’d been thinking about it. But I still liked doing the work so much that I decided to come back for the year, pretty sure it would be my last.

“Is that all there is? Don’t mean to be so deep; many of you who know me understand I’m pretty shallow. But I’ve found myself wondering, Am I meant to do one thing from the time I walk out of college until the day they put me in the ground? And who knows—I may find myself jonesing to do something in the media when I’m bored in three months. But it’s like when Atlanta writer Jeff Schultz retired in December and said, ‘Let me get bored. I want to know what that feels like.’ That resonated. I know I’ll want to do something with my time eventually. I just don’t know what it is.”

I suspect we’ll still see King pop up every now and then, but who knows? Almost goes without saying that he paved the way for so many of us who chose to pursue sportswriting in a professional capacity.

In typical, selfless Peter King fashion, he took a good chunk of his column to thank readers, revealing that he’ll run many of their recent letters as next week’s column. He also took time to shout out the current generation of writers who are coming up, naming several in particular who stand out to him.

Strangely, I was omitted from that list…

No but seriously, King even recommended Monday columns to read in place of his. What a guy, right?

Another standout, trademark feature of King’s latest write-up is his Numbers Game section. He kicks that off by stating that John Madden retired from coaching at the age of 42, whereas Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid, fresh off his third Super Bowl in five years, has coached in 429 games since his 42nd birthday. In related news!

Most coaches and people who cover the NFL in general tend to be lifers. Bill Belichick could’ve retired many moons ago, even as late as 2019 once Tom Brady left. He should be back as a head coach in 2025. Meanwhile, rumors were flying that Sean McVay, the biggest hotshot young coach to enter the league maybe ever, was mulling early retirement for a TV gig, not dissimilar to Madden.

At 66 years old, King felt like now was the time. It’s a bummer to see him go. He already knows what he’ll miss most.

Retirement has always been such an interesting concept to me. In forging a path to cover sports professionally, and taking a three-year, massive detour to an MFA drama school (results still TBD), I’ve been strangely at peace with the notion that I’ll never retire. Whether it’s necessity-based, or because I wind up continuing to do a job that I love, I don’t know what that’ll look like. But yeah, here I am having a sort of existential crisis now that one of my sportswriting heroes is riding off into the sunset.

Anyone who has any interest in being a sportswriter, or has a kid who’s really into sports and is perhaps on that trajectory, y’all could do far worse than starting with Peter King’s writing archives. Maybe we should’ve known something was up when one of his recent beauties featured his all-time 53-man NFL roster:

King is nothing if not prolific, an excellent storyteller who always knew the right questions to ask. He’d get different kinds of quotes from players than anyone else. More insightful. Really in the thick of, say, a Super Bowl celebration. The way he relayed those words from others, adding his own context and incisive analysis, made his arguably the most readable long-form sports column to ever exist.

With all due respect to the many fine folks who’ve covered the NFL and continue to do so, Peter King is the GOAT. When it comes to blending exceptional writing, original reporting and a singular voice, who’s better than King when it comes to NFL-specific coverage? A rather rhetorical question.

Big, full-bodied salute to Peter King. Congratulations on an outstanding career from one of the countless many you’ve made an unimaginable impact on. No hard feelings that you went to Ohio University. I’m not one of those Miami (Ohio) people who’d hold it against you. In fact, none of us are. OU cares way more about the supposed rivalry than us Miami alum. Did I just end my series of glowing words on Peter King by bashing his alma mater? I’m kidding. It’s all in good fun. I’m deflecting with humor to fend off thoughts of my future, how fast my life is passing, and how it feels like yesterday when I’d crack open a hard copy of Sports Illustrated to read King’s unparalleled work.

Now to get into some of the many reactions from more prominent industry pros on whom King made a huge impression. Great writer, but by all accounts, maybe an even better human.

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