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FMIA: It’s Time. Who’s Complaining? Not Me.

40-For-40: Growing up with Montana and White
In his final 40-for-40 of the season, Peter King recalls how a "babysitting" gig covering 49ers vs. Eagles in 1989 turned into a cover story for Sports Illustrated and a life lesson on growing up.

I had this thought a couple of weeks ago, during Super Bowl week in Las Vegas: I’d really like to watch the Super Bowl on TV. You always want what you don’t have, right? I’ve been to 40 Super Bowls in a row, and every year when people talk about the commercials or the mistakes made by the TV crew or the hubbub surrounding the game, mostly I have no idea what they’re talking about, because from age 27 to age 66 (now), I’ve been in the stadium for the games, and worked the locker rooms and coaches’ offices afterward.

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).

Four reasons.

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.

One other thing that’s hard to understand if you’re not me. Last year my big boss at NBC, Sam Flood, suggested I cut the column back from the average of 10,500 words to maybe 6,000 or so, and set a hard deadline Sunday nights so I wouldn’t work till 4 a.m. It sounded good at the time. Two or three legit days off during the week, then a shorter sprint to the finish Sunday night/Monday morning. But as the season started, I pondered what to cut entirely and what to write shorter, and it just felt like if I did, it wouldn’t be the column the way I liked it anymore. And there’s this part of me that couldn’t change. It’s the way my brain works. Example: I’d been reading some old stories of mine trying to figure out what I wanted to put in this column. And I read something about John Madden—he coached his last game at age 42. Last Wednesday morning, I woke up a little after 3, thinking about Madden and age 42, and as happens most nights, I went to the bathroom. Instead of just going to the bathroom, I started thinking about that amazing Madden number. I took out my phone and looked up some coaches on, and I realized: Holy crap! Andy Reid’s coached 429 games since turning 42! And so that became one of my “Numbers Game” items for this final column. I was a little excited about it. I could not go back to sleep. At 66, it’s hard enough to fall back to sleep once you use the bathroom at night—and especially hard if your brain starts working like that.

My family. The sacrifices my wife, Ann, and my kids, Laura and Mary Beth, and their families have made for me to do this job at the highest level have been significant. To do this job well, you’ve got to have some selfishness in you, and you’ve got to miss time at home—lots of it. I don’t feel great about lots of those times, but I don’t regret them either. To do this job well, it’s a fact that some things in your family will suffer. Also: All three male members of my family (dad, two brothers) died by the age of 64, before ever experiencing retirement. And my buddy Don Banks, dead at 57 in a Canton hotel room in 2019. All of it matters.

There are things about this job I’ll never find in another gig, no matter how much fun any future job is. In college, I realized who I was. Nothing made me happier than even the littlest scoop about the Student Senate, or the new provost search, at Ohio University. It’s never left me. Breaking the four-game Lawrence Taylor drug suspension in 1988. Brett Favre spilling the secret to me of going into rehab, and why, in 1996. Sitting in the 49ers draft room in 2017 and hearing rookie GM John Lynch tell negotiator Paraag Marathe, “See if we can get one last thing with Chicago,” and then watching Marathe wrangle an extra third-round pick in trade with the Bears. Getting Andy Reid to tell me everything, on camera in the privacy of his coach’s office, about “Corn Dog,” the winning play in last year’s Super Bowl. And the immediacy of it all—5.5 hours after leaving Reid, Football Morning in America posted and the world felt what I felt sitting across from Reid: You’re kidding! The winning play in the Super Bowl is called Corn Dog?

andy reid.jpg

That’s the other part of this—it never would have worked without an audience. Some of you have stayed with me since I started this in 1997, when my football editor at SI, Steve Robinson, asked me to empty my notebook every Monday after I wrote my weekly football column in Sports Illustrated. We all like to feel like we’re read, and your reactions, good and bad, 250 or so every week over the past few years, have really added a lot to my life in the business.

Recently—maybe you’ve sensed I had an expiration date on me—I’ve gotten quite a few emails at, thanking me for the column over the years. An email from Thomas B. Richter of Germany showed up Sunday morning. It was long and heartfelt and ended with: “Peter, I can’t speak for others, but I assume many are with me in feeling: Thank you for writing, because every weekend you have done something good to me for the past 22 years.”

Sentiments like that will stick with me forever. Next week, I’m going to run your letters as my column, so I’d like to hear whatever you’d like to say. I mean it when I say whatever—because I value your rip jobs too. (Most of them.) And from all over the world, I hope. A couple of weeks ago, I got my first email from Siberia. So cool. I’m missing Greenland and Madagascar and Yellowknife, for what it’s worth.

Your generosity has left a mark on me too. In 2010, I asked for contributions to equip U.S. military bases with these portable rec centers the USO shipped to troops in the most remote places we serve. I called it “Five For Fighting,” asking for $5, or whatever you could send. You sent more than $210,000—enough for 10 of the facilities, with video games, weights and other off-time equipment. In the last two years, when I’ve run a fundraiser at the Scouting Combine for school supplies central Indiana teachers could access instead of reaching into their own pockets, you gave $29,434—and with matching funds, that ballooned to $442,000 of buying power for teachers. Three words for your giving spirit: You are awesome. I get emotional just writing that.

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.

Two things make me optimistic about the future.

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?

It’s a great game. It’s fun and inventive. The young coaches—Shanahan, McVay, McDaniel, and coordinators like Ben Johnson and Bobby Slowik—do such interesting things with motion and expanding and contracting formations. There are new ways to win, and new things in a 104-year-old sport we didn’t see coming.

I admire Kansas City not just for building a terrific franchise and winning three Super Bowls in five years, in a league when everything conspires against the winner. But I admire the team for trading the most electric player in the game, Tyreek Hill, then finding ways to win 32 games and two Super Bowls in the two years since he’s been gone. Winning in KC goes beyond the greatest player in the sport—although having Patrick Mahomes is the biggest single reason. It’s also intelligence and imagination.

Kansas City has a 65-year-old coach you’d think would be set in his ways by now, and a 45-year-old offensive coordinator who doesn’t get nearly enough credit for his contribution to a championship team. I wrote about this in December, but on my way out “Heisman” deserves a nod. It says everything about how this team wins. Offensive coordinator Matt Nagy is a film nerd; he has a deep file of football plays he’s gathered through his years in Kansas City and Chicago, going back to the 1940s. Some nights when he has time and is hungry for a kernel of an idea, he dives into the file and spends an hour or two just watching. Last fall, he found one in a Penn-Columbia game in the forties, before positions were so clearly defined. Three backs were lined up behind the center, left guard and left tackle, and at the snap, the “quarterback” took the ball and faked a pitch left to the back next to him, then handed it to one of the two players sprinting right. Big play.

Nagy brought it to Reid, who liked it because of the attention it would bring to Mahomes if he wasn’t lined up behind center. And because he had a college option quarterback, Jerick McKinnon, trained to throw or run—and who wanted to do both.

“Wouldn’t work with every head coach,” Nagy says, “But it works with Andy. Andy invites ideas.”

What’s more, the players went to the coaches and said, What’d make this even better is if we used another center as part of the disguise. Good idea, Reid thought. Joe Thuney had snapped before, and he moved to center, part of the mayhem. KC’s offense had been slumbering much of the year. And now, late in the scoreless first quarter at New England, here came the play, at the Patriots’ four-yard line. Why now? Because Bill Belichick’s defense is trained so perfectly to read offensive cues; it’s incredibly hard to surprise the New England D. I went back and watched the tape of the play. Unbalanced line. New center. Mahomes in a three-point stance. McKinnon at QB. You can see the Patriots looking around, like, What is all this?!! No idea. But of course. Even the great Belichick wasn’t expecting an 80-year-old play from the Ivy League. At the snap, Mahomes sprinted left and McKinnon faked a pitch to him, and McKinnon put a three-inch toss onto the hip of Rashee Rice. Easiest TD of Rice’s life.

That’s what I’ll miss. “Heisman.” “Two Jet Chip Wasp.” “Corn Dog.” “Tom and Jerry.” The brains of football, the choreography of football, beating the brawn of football. I’ll miss bringing that to you, and I’ll miss your appreciation for it. But you’ll find it. The next generation will bring it to you. Jourdan Rodrigue, Ben Solak, Kalyn Kahler. You’ll see. The world gets better, as will what you read about football. You’re in great hands.

History Lessons

I’ve got a few thousand words of some of my great memories of covering the game for four decades. I thought that would be the best way to go out.

My favorite moment

Jan. 30, 1995

12:40 a.m.

Steve Young’s suite, Miami Airport Marriott

Post-Super Bowl XXIX

The man who’d thrown six touchdowns to beat the Chargers earlier in the evening now had Miami-Dade Fire Rescue EMTs on either side of his king bed. Steve Young had saline IVs flowing into both arms after being dehydrated on a muggy Miami night and then throwing up (hastily consumed red Gatorade, mostly) in the limo on the way back to the hotel. This was one of the strangest post-game celebrations in Super Bowl history. Young had maybe 40 family members and friends in the room and spilling out into the hotel hallway, and even the wooziness wasn’t affecting his glee.

“Is this great or what?” Young said, soundly weakly enthusiastic. “I mean, I haven’t thrown six touchdowns passes in a game in my life. Then I throw six in the Super Bowl!”

Just then, someone in the crowd yelled, “Joe Who?!”

“No!” Young said firmly. “Don’t do that!”

Joe Montana. For Young’s first six years in San Francisco, he and Montana had had an uneasy truce. What do you expect Montana, the best quarterback in the game, to feel toward the man Bill Walsh traded for to replace him? It was finally Young’s team for good in 1992, then Montana was exiled to Kansas City in 1993.

Last week, Young told me something interesting about that time in his life, and that night. Montana missed the 1991 season because of an elbow injury, and even though the job was Young’s, it wasn’t a happy time for Young because of the tension with Montana and tension on a team so loyal to Montana. “I had myself in this sort of victimization knot,” he said. “One day I was flying back from spending a day in Utah and I met Stephen Covey—he’s the guy who wrote ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.’ So I confided with him how tough it was for me.” There was the pressure of expectations set by Eddie DeBartolo, Bill Walsh, and having Montana there. Young explained everything, and Covey thought for a while, and Covey said words to this effect: I gotta be honest with you. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such an opportunity for one person to be great as the situation you’re in right now. Do you want to find out how good you can be?

“Yes!” Young told him.

“Well, you’re in the perfect place to do that,” Covey told him. “You’re LUCKY to have this opportunity.”

Young told me last week: “My life changed right there. All the tension, the rigor, just fell away. That’s why that night of the Super Bowl—it was my Uncle Val who said that about Joe—all those feelings were long gone. I was really placid about it. I was like, What? Stop it. That’s over! And it really was.”

The gathering went on well into the wee hours. The other thing I remember about it? Young, even in his weakened state, was trying to be a good host. At one point, maybe around 1:30, someone in the group got up to leave. Young said, “Don’t go. Stay! I’m fine. Really, I’m fine.” After his weirdly successful football life, Young didn’t want this night to ever end.

My favorite interviews

These stand out:

John Madden, Kearney, Neb., September 1990

Grandpa’s Steakhouse. Dinnertime, middle America. Halfway point of my 55-hour, 3,016-mile cross-country bus ride with John Madden. The place was bustling. Madden brought this up two or three times on the trip—how you’d never see places like Grandpa’s, or the acres of blazing-red wildflowers we’d seen that afternoon by I-80, in an airplane. And on this night, for the first of three times on the trip, he marveled about the United States, looking around Grandpa’s.

“Look at this place,” he said. “All these people from Kearney, laughing, enjoying dinner. They love it here. You and I might think, ‘I wouldn’t want to live in Kearney, Nebraska,’ but you know what? Maybe they don’t want to live on the coasts. You get out here in the country, riding along, stopping in places like Kearney, Nebraska, and places different from where you live, and you realize: That’s why this country works.

Brett Favre, New Orleans, January 1997

Favre had agreed to give me 10 minutes if the Packers won Super Bowl XXXI, but it was a zoo post-game and I missed him after Green Bay 35, New England 21. So I went to the team party at the Fairmont Hotel in New Orleans, espied Favre with a ton of people around him, waved my arms, got his attention, and pointed to a stairwell near him, and we met in there for 20 minutes or so. We sat on a luggage cart. He was only eight months removed from Vicodin rehab, and he played this game feeling ill. “Trouble never seems to be far away,” he said, his words mini-echoing in the concrete stairwell, but coming back from addiction to holding the Lombardi would be the greatest moment of his football life.

“Thirty years from now,” Favre said to me, “the kids will be getting ready for Super Bowl LXI, and NFL Films will drag out Steve Sabol—he’ll be around 102 then—and he’ll talk about how Brett Favre fought through such adversity to win this game.”

The late Sabol won’t do that. But we’re only three years from Supe 61, and someone might in 2027.

George Martin, Bruceton, Tenn., November 2007

Martin played 14 years for the Giants in the seventies and eighties. Parcells guy. Grew to love New York, and he was deeply affected by the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. In 2007, disgusted by the lax federal support of sick 9/11 first-responders, Martin decided to walk from the George Washington Bridge to the Golden Gate Bridge, 3,000 miles, to raise money for the cause. I met him in western Tennessee, outside of Memphis, to walk 18 miles with him, including mile 1,000. Martin was 54, only a third of the way across the country, and, credit to him, had minimal pain and zero regrets. I watched him address an impromptu school assembly at the K-through-12 school in Bruceton. He asked the kids to stand and give three ovations: for the police on hand, for the fire/EMS folks, and for the teachers. Then he took all the first-responders in town out to lunch at a Mexican place. What a day. I wrote about it in my column Monday, and readers kicked in $300,000 to Martin’s cause. That was a proud moment.

Colin Kaepernick, Turlock, Calif., May 2013

Three months after San Francisco’s Super Bowl loss to Baltimore, I hung with Kaepernick before and after he made an appearance at his alma mater’s high school graduation. Three things I remember well: One, his conversations with Turlock cops curious about his myriad tattoos. Two, after the appearance, he was hungry, and he was going to stop at his parents’ home for a bite before driving back to the Bay Area. They stopped to pick up three pizzas at Little Caesar’s, and Kaepernick went in to pick up the pies. The kid behind the counter was jaw-dropping shocked to see Colin Kaepernick in his store. As Kaepernick turned to leave with three boxes, the kid said, “Beast!” Three, on the two-hour drive through the pitch-black night to the Bay Area, talking about his hopes and dreams, Kaepernick said: “I want to be someone who can’t really be compared to anybody.” That has happened, just not in the way he ever thought.

Gene Steratore, Washington, Pa., November 2013

Week in the life of an officiating crew. One of my favorite stories in 40 years, the first time I’d seen the real lives of officials, all week and during a game, as they prepped for Baltimore-Chicago at Soldier Field. On Tuesday morning, I was in the home of referee Gene Steratore. He had to leave at 11:30 to drive to his other job—as a college basketball official, to do a Michigan basketball game in Ann Arbor—but first, he was going to get his grades from his previous game, Houston at Arizona. At 10:58, the email from the NFL, with instruction to get his grades, showed up. Steratore’s heart sank. Two mistakes, called downgrades, on hits on the quarterback the league felt he should have called. That doubled his errors for the year, ruining his quest for the Holy Grail of officiating.

Steratore got up and sighed. “There goes the Super Bowl,” he said.

Tom Brady, somewhere in Montana, February 2017

This is what I could not believe when I met Brady, 39, seven days after he led the greatest Super Bowl comeback ever to beat Atlanta, played a career-high 99 plays, got sacked five times and knocked down nine times, and had the wind knocked out of him on a brutal shot by Grady Jarrett: He’d been skiing all morning on one of the most beautiful mountains in the world (he asked that I not name where we were, for privacy’s sake), and he said, “I have zero pain. I feel 100 percent.” Man, this Brady regimen. After talking for 80 minutes or so, we went outside to take a photo on a brilliant Montana winter day.

“Feel my arm,” Brady said.

He held his arm out, and I felt it. Not a rock. Pliable. (One of his favorite words.) “Strength is important to do your job,” he said, “but how much strength do you need? You need muscle pliability—long, soft muscles in order to be durable. I know how to be durable. I want to put myself in position to be able to withstand the car crash before I get in the car crash.”

Brady played in Super Bowls at age 40, 41 and 43. He won two. He retired at 45. Is there any doubt that the physical regimen he perfected and advocated was crucial in all that?

brady pliable.jpg

*Patrick Mahomes, on the phone from Texas, February 2024

* This is not one of the best interviews I’ve done, or most memorable. But it is the last I did of an active player for this column. It’s not like Mahomes will be the answer to a trivia question in the Peter King Career Trivia Game—but on this day, he was perfectly Mahomes.

I was trying to reach him in the wake of his third Super Bowl win, but a few things—my health, the shooting at the parade, Mahomes trying to live life, his daughter’s birthday—got in the way, and we did not connect till last Monday. I thought there was something that we talked about that explains Mahomes the person, the player and the competitor. The team-think, the singleness of purpose, the keeping the main thing the only thing, the single-mindedness

Kansas City ball, fourth-and-one at the KC 34-, 6:05 left in OT, down three, timeout. Get stopped and the game’s over; you lose. Make the first down, and the game goes on.

“What happened during the timeout? What happened in the huddle?” I asked.

“I wish I could take all the credit, but it was kinda crazy,” Mahomes said. “We were going through our plays. We were trying to decide if we wanted to run or pass. We had a couple run plays dialed up. We were trying to find that perfect play. I was thinking of passes because I wanted to pass it obviously and have the ball in my hand. So MVS [Marquez Valdes-Scantling] came into the huddle on the side, and was like, ‘Hey let’s go with Slide T’s,’ which is wild because it’s not even a play designed for him. It’s really designed for Travis [Kelce] and Rashee [Rice]. When MVS said it, it clicked to me. I was like, ‘That’s it. That’s perfect.’”

“What does it mean?” I asked.

“What it means is kind of a bootleg play where I fake a run. I get on the perimeter and there’s a throw to Trav as he’s sliding across and Rashee going across the middle trying to cause some disturbance, some interference-type stuff. I liked it because it gave me the option to throw to Travis, it gave me the option to throw it to Rashee, and it gave me the option to run. I told coach [Andy Reid], I was like let’s call this I told coach, ‘If it’s not there I’m gonna run for it.’ He trusts us to go out there and call it Once I kinda got outside and I saw room to run, I just went and got it.” Gain of eight. Game, saved.

“Do you recall thinking, ‘If we don’t make a yard, we lose the Super Bowl?’”

“I don’t,” Mahomes said. “I don’t think I thought about that at all. All I could think about was I told Trav if [defensive end Nick] Bosa comes up field I’m gonna drop it off to him and just hope. He’s gotta get the yard. The last thing I think I told Rashee was: ‘If it’s not there, you gotta find a way to get open.’ Then I was able to run for it. Got the first down, and kinda kept the chains rollin’.”

Three morals of the story:

1. Great players don’t clutter their minds with things like, If this doesn’t work, we lose! That cannot help Mahomes make a play.

2. Great players listen to good ideas. Valdes-Scantling had one. Mahomes (and Reid, presumably) liked it. It worked.

3. Great players like having the ball in their hands on the biggest plays of the season. Didn’t we all think there was a good chance Mahomes would end up figuring a way to make the first down by himself?

What happened on this one play, and Mahomes’ cogent explanation of it, says so much about why he’s won three Super Bowls in his first six seasons starting in the NFL.

Game of my career

Jan. 3, 1993

Orchard Park, N.Y.

Buffalo 41, Houston 38

The Bills, down 35-3 in third quarter, rallied for the biggest comeback win in NFL history behind a journeyman backup, Frank Reich. It was his seventh pro start.

The things you remember It’s 28-3 at halftime, and two Houston media guys use the landline next to me in the press box (no cells in those days, of course) to make non-refundable plane reservations for the playoff game in Pittsburgh the next weekend. But my biggest memory from that day? I was alone with Reich, 31, in the Bills’ locker room 90 minutes after the game, and he asked the equipment guy to bring his wife Linda in. She came through the door and started running at her husband. He lifted her in his arms and started twirling as they hugged. It was an FTD commercial, for crying out loud. Nosy me, I got close.

“I love you!” Linda said.

“Praise the Lord,” Frank said.

“We talk about that moment sometimes,” Frank Reich told me the other day, “and you’re always in the story. You were right there.”

“What do you remember about that game?” I asked.

“Well, you remember I was part of the biggest college comeback when I was at Maryland, right?” he said. Yes: Maryland, down 31-0 at the Orange Bowl to Miami in 1984, rallied behind Reich to win 42-40.

“So, at halftime, walking out of the tunnel for the second half against Houston, I feel this hand on my shoulder. It’s [coach] Marv Levy. He says, and I swear, ‘Frank, you led the greatest comeback in college history, and now you’re going to lead the greatest comeback in NFL history today.’”

“Wow,” I said. “Never knew that. What’d you think?”

“I thought Marv was crazy.”

To start the great comeback, Reich actually dug a deeper hole; he threw a pick-six to start the second half. Yikes. Now 35-3. This went through Reich’s head: Everybody’s thinking we can’t win without Jim Kelly, and I’m giving them every reason to think that. Then Reich went out and threw four TD passes in the second half and the Bills won in overtime. Reich played/sat for 13 NFL seasons, starting 42 games. He had one four-TD game. This was it. Pretty crazy to think that those four touchdowns came in a playoff game, in 23 minutes.

Reich was driving in his car in North Carolina when I reached him the other day. The game happened 31 years ago. But his recall was so good, you’d have thought it happened 31 minutes ago.

“Sometimes,” Reich said, “you have a moment in your life and you really don’t know if it’s going to be a moment that lasts. But this moment, I knew it was gonna be a moment, forever.”

Freezing Idiotic Takes

The worst forecasts I have made in my four decades (and these are even worse than I remember), with apologies to the “Freezing Cold Takes” people:

1. 2003: fantasy-football convention, Red Wing, Minn. I said: “If you can’t get one of the stud quarterbacks in your draft—Manning, Favre, Warner, Gannon—solve your running back and receiver needs, then pick up Danny Wuerffel of Washington.” One guy in the audience didn’t let me get away with that wisdom. “You’re smoking crack!” he yelled.

2. 2010: I wrote: “You want the next face of the NFL? It’s Cortland Finnegan.” From the moment of that prediction, the Tennessee cornerback never made a Pro Bowl or all-pro team, and had seven interceptions in his last six NFL seasons.

3. 1997: I wrote if Bill Tobin remained in charge of the Colts’ draft in 1998, “I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if they take Andre Wadsworth in the draft and let Paul Justin and Jim Harbaugh battle it out at QB next summer in training camp.” New GM Bill Polian did not listen to my advice. Took a guy named Manning.

4. 2004: “I think the Cowboys got a great deal in Drew Henson,” I wrote after Dallas traded a third-round pick to Houston for Henson, then signed the former Michigan QB to an eight-year contract with $3.4 million guaranteed (pretty good in those days). Henson threw a total of 98 NFL passes and started one game in the league.

5. 2008: I picked Jacksonville QB David Garrard second in my pre-season MVP voting. Garrard was close. He went 5-11 and was the league’s 22nd-rated passer in ’08.

Mr. Nice Guys

I get asked this a lot: What are these guys really like? Who are the nicest guys you deal with? I’ll separate it into the QB division—I dealt with quarterbacks so much over the years—and then all others.

QB division

1. Peyton Manning. We’ve talked about everything under the sun. I called him Chris Mortensen—he used to want me to come to his training camp last, so he could download info on the other teams I’d seen.


2. Boomer Esiason. Incredibly accessible. I once wrote about the inner workings of a game against Washington, and, on the Saturday night before the game, he had me quiz him on formations and plays.

3. Tom Brady. I’ll always appreciate when he entered the sphere of international megastar and still made time for me, long past the time when I could really do anything for him.

brady locker.jpg

4. Kirk Cousins. That friendly guy you see portrayed on Netflix and at Twins games with his family? That’s the real guy.

5. Geno Smith. A few sit-downs with him, and what always came through is how genuine he is. I value that a lot.

6. Phil Simms. Other than Manning, I’ve never met a player as intensely interested in talking football at any time of the day or night. Great guy to cover for my four years on the Giants’ beat in the eighties.

7. Patrick Mahomes. Has a great understanding of the media’s role in his life. Not crucial, but important, and he never shirks that part of the gig.

8. Lamar Jackson. Polite southern guy. Ended every interview with “Thank you, Mr. Peter.”

9. Matt Ryan. Never met anyone in the media who had even a remotely negative interaction with him. I think he actually enjoyed our conversations.

matt ryan.jpg

Photo Credit: Todd Rosenberg

Todd Rosenberg/Sports Illustrated

10. (tie) Three guys who’ve done so much for those with less:

Dak Prescott. Just a good human being. His mother would be proud of how much he gives.

Drew Brees. Helped so many causes in wounded New Orleans—and still does in retirement. Odd but perhaps telling moment: Went to do an HBO walk-and-talk interview with him in Audubon Park in New Orleans, and his Akita took a huge dump. My producer, Bentley Weiner, went to pick it up. “No,” Brees said. “I got it. I pick up after my dog.”

Charlie Batch. His work with the needy in hardscrabble areas of Pittsburgh is inspirational. Should write a book on how players, even non-superstar players, can make a huge difference in their hometowns.

All Others division

1. Calais Campbell. Not sure if he’ll be mayor or governor of some place, but whatever he does post-football, he’ll be the most considerate person doing it.

2. Harry Carson. One of the best leaders I’ve seen in sports, and one of the kindest. Amazing to read in Gary Myers’ book “Once a Giant:” Carson today still considers himself the captain of the players on the Giants in the eighties. When they need him, he’s there.

3. Fred Warner. Not sure I’ve met a player as kind off the field and intense on it.

4. Cam Heyward. Genuine and thoughtful, while being a beast between the lines. He’s arranged for each male student in 11 Pittsburgh high schools—many indigent kids—to get a free suit during their high school years.

5. Jason Kelce. Not only an excellent interview, always, but always gave the sense that he was in no hurry for the conversation to end. In our world, that’s quite valuable.

6. John Randle. Wrote about him once for SI, and he really wanted me to understand his life, so he took me to the shack in rural Texas where he grew up. He teared up staring at the place, recalling his poverty, and it made him grateful for everything in his Hall of Fame football life.

7. Anthony Munoz. What always amazed me about Munoz, in the one season I covered him (1984) and every time I’d see him after a game after that, is how calm and thoughtful he could be 15 minutes after doing battle with the best pass-rushers in football.

8. Joe Thomas. Never changed after I wrote these words about him before the 2007 draft: Thomas plans to be fishing with his father, Eric, sitting in a boat in Lake Michigan on draft day, 875 miles from Radio City. “Coho salmon, Chinook salmon, rainbow trout,” says Thomas, 22. “Some of my best memories are of fishing with my dad, and I’d rather spend a nice Saturday morning doing that than sitting in New York waiting to see what happens to me. I’m not a big fan of the limelight. Plus, to me, draft day’s not the important day. It’s what I do after draft day that’s important.”

9. Darrell Green. Once saw him riding a 10-speed bike from Washington’s training-camp practice field in Carlisle, Pa., back to his dorm, and stop on the way to sign autographs when people recognized him. He must have signed for 15 minutes.

10. Larry Fitzgerald. I could never get him to stop calling me Mr. King. His parents made sure no matter how great he got, he’d always have good manners.


A recurring element in the column this year: a video memory of one of my favorite memories of 40 years covering pro football.

For my final 40-for-40, I picked a moment in 1989 when I was 32, and when I had to grow up very, very fast. It happened at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, on a sunny late-September afternoon. The punishing Eagles brutalized Joe Montana for seven sacks in the first 46 minutes of the game, and then Montana brutalized the Eagles with four touchdown passes in the final 14 minutes. I was in the house for one of the great games of Joe Montana’s life, and well, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Grow up. You’re in the big leagues now.

40-For-40: Growing up with Montana and White
In his final 40-for-40 of the season, Peter King recalls how a "babysitting" gig covering 49ers vs. Eagles in 1989 turned into a cover story for Sports Illustrated and a life lesson on growing up.

Quotes of a Career

There are a thousand I’ve liked. These come to mind.


I’m 26 years old, I just threw 38 TD passes in one year, and I’m the NFL MVP. People look at me and say, ‘I’d love to be that guy.’ But if they knew what it took to be that guy, they wouldn’t love to be him, I can guarantee you that. I’m entering a treatment center tomorrow. Would they love that?

--Brett Favre, on the phone to me, the night before he went into rehab for Vicodin addiction in May 1996.


Peter, if you f--- me on this story, I will squash you like a squirrel in the road.

--Jimmy Johnson, while the Dallas coach, one late night after he told me more off-the-record stuff than on-. It was always an interesting information-balancing act with the wide-open Johnson during interviews.


Injury report for the Patriots: Long-snapper Mike Bartrum has a broken arm. Will return.

--Press-box announcer in Minnesota during Pats-Vikings game in 1997.


Do you enjoy beating animals?

--One of the 480 questions on the New York Giants’ “personality test,” given to prospects before the draft in the early years of this century. In 2002, Oregon QB Joey Harrington wondered, “If you’re a linebacker, should you say yes?”



--The entirety of Bengals receiver Chad Johnson’s voicemail greeting in 2006.


It’s my hair, and I have nothing negative to say about it.

--The bouffanted Mel Kiper, on his hair, in 2007.

Numbers Game


John Madden coached his last NFL game at age 42. Andy Reid has coached 429 NFL games since turning 42.


Results of the first 11 starts of the last two Green Bay first-round quarterbacks, in their first season as starting QB:

Aaron Rodgers, 2008: 5-6 record, 2,599 passing yards, +8 TD/Int margin.
Jordan Love, 2023: 5-6 record, 2,599 passing yards, +9 TD/Int margin.




If Jimmy Johnson drove his boat 81 miles south from his front yard in the Florida Keys, he could dock in Havana.


At 2023 Lions’ training camp, one of the great players in team history, former linebacker Chris Spielman, was on hand as a special assistant to the owner. During practices, Spielman doubled as a groundskeeper. During breaks in practice, Spielman took a plastic bucket with a mixture of seed, fertilizer and green ground cover, and hustled all over the field filling in divots and holes and tamping them down with his shoes.


On the 21st night of September in 2004, the Vikings released defensive back Earthwind Moreland, who was named after the band Earth, Wind & Fire. That brought to mind the first two lines of Earth, Wind & Fire’s hit song September:

Do you remember?
The 21st night of September?

King of the Road

ITHACA, N.Y.—When I saw Chris Berman, Brown grad, at the Super Bowl and told him I was going on an Ivy League basketball road trip after the season, he was enthused. Which one? he wondered.

“The Brown road trip to Columbia and Cornell,” I said.

He said, “No!!! You know what we used to call that? The Ivy League redeye!”

My friend from our hometown, Enfield, Conn., Russ Tyler, the Brown basketball color analyst, had been after me to make a trip for a while, and I really wanted to. But the NFL. You know. Last fall, I looked at the schedule and picked the late February road swing to Columbia and Cornell. Tough year for the Bears, 7-17 entering the weekend, 3-6 with an outside shot at the last of four playoff spots for the Ivy League tournament. I met the team for the Friday night game at Columbia’s gym on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and sat next to Russ and his play-by-play man, Scott Cordischi, at courtside. Big win for the Bears, 66-64.

Now for the fun part (some would say). Coach Mike Martin okayed me coming on the team bus for the 4-hour, 10-minute drive to Ithaca in upstate New York. I sat across the aisle from Martin as he re-watched the Columbia game, going over the tape on his laptop. I napped in 10- or 15-minute increments as we drove through Jersey on I-80, passed into northeastern Pennsylvania, skirting the Poconos, joining I-81 around Scranton, finishing the trip on New York 79 to the Marriott in Ithaca. Every time I stirred, I looked over and there was Martin, still watching. For the last couple of hours, he scouted the Cornell-Yale game from Friday night. (What a country. The Ivy League coach coaches a game in Manhattan, gets on a bus, watches his game on tape on I-80 in Jersey, then watches another game played in Ithaca and downloaded before he left New York City, and prepares his scouting report to give the team at the 9:45 a.m. breakfast.) Got to the hotel at 1:55 a.m., and these players stumbled into the lobby and got their keys. Now all they had to do was get some rest and get ready to play the best team in the league, Cornell, atop the Ivy standings.

On the bus to the shootaround Saturday morning, I told Martin about a piece of wisdom Mike Shanahan once shared: “There’s a way to win every game.” Martin had heard that, and he agreed. In this game, the way was to not turn it over as much as Friday night, to handle the Cornell full-court pressure and to challenge their three-point shooters. Martin wasn’t cowed. He really thought his team, if it played smart and hard, would win. Not could, but would.

Brown 78, Cornell (which led for 95 seconds) 74. Such a good example of how to win in any sport. Brown was relentless on defense, rebounded fiercely, and turned it over only nine times. The reward for the players and coaches: a six-hour ride back to campus in Providence, and homework to be ready for classes Monday. (After two nights of great fun, I flew home on Sunday.)

“You know you gotta be with us next weekend now,” Martin said. “It’s a must.”

Tempting, but it’s grandson time. I’ll be following the Bears, though, from Seattle.

brown bears.jpg


Reach me at

I’ll use a collection of your emails on the end of this road next week. Would love to hear from as many of you around the world as possible. Thanks. The vast majority of the column next week, the end for me, will be authored by you.

On Patrick Mahomes. From Sayan Chakraborti: “Just watched and loved the Mahomes interview on your podcast. All these great ones have one thing in common: The thought of losing never crosses their mind.”

Bingo, Sayan. I was hoping that message came across.

Dublin checks in. From Sean Dunne, of Dublin, Ireland: “Great insight on the Mahomes draft. Love learning about the history of the game and stories from past and present on the NFL. I lift my pint of Guinness to you.”

You may have a chance to lift one with me, Sean. I’ll be making an appearance in Dublin on March 28 with the folks who run the Irish NFL Show.

Here’s a nice haiku, and thank you. From Gary Kugler:
“Seasons last haiku
Peter King swings for the fence
Hits grand slam home run”

Well, that’s a lovely sentiment, Gary. Much appreciated.

10 Things I Think I Think

1. I think it takes a special family to make this wonderful life possible. My daughters Laura and Mary Beth grew up mostly without a weekend dad for five to six months a year; maybe they liked the freedom, I don’t know. But they never complained. They even tolerated being in the column once in a while. And Ann. Wonderful, patient Ann. I wanted to cover the Olympics in Korea in 1988, when the kids were 2.5 and 5. Go, she said. I wanted to go on these training camp trips to make me a better NFL writer. Go, she said. I disappeared for so many snowstorms in playoff season. I’ll shovel, she said. (I think grrrrrrrrrr accompanied that.) Ann sacrificed so much in her life for me, and was the best mother there could be, and I get a little emotional thinking about putting her through that. She knew it was the cost of me doing the job the right way. I can’t repay her, but I will try in my own nerdy way.

2. I think I owe thanks to those who gave me my breaks along the way. Frank Hinchey and Jim Schottelkotte hired me in Cincinnati in 1980; in those days, 22-year-old kids weren’t hired at major city papers like the Cincinnati Enquirer, but they took a chance. Dick Sandler gave me the Giants and NFL beats at Newsday, and it was quite a culture shock, reporting for work at training camp in 1985 in Pleasantville, N.Y., with beat people from 18 other papers to spar with. Mark Mulvoy, the Sports Illustrated managing editor, hired me at 31 to cover the league in 1989, and made me the mag’s youngest senior writer at 32. I owe so much to Mulvoy. The entrée of Sports Illustrated in those days was everything. I wrote like a Triple-A player in a place with an All-Star Team of wordsmiths, so I knew in order to stay I’d simply have to outwork my peers—and that’s always what I tried to do. Thanks to Ross Greenberg for giving me a six-year run at HBO’s “Inside the NFL;” such wonderful TV journalists there. And thanks to Dick Ebersol for bringing me aboard “Football Night in America” in 2006 when NBC got the NFL again. I’ve loved my time at NBC. Thanks to Sam Flood, with an assist to Rick Cordella, for keeping the light on for me and bringing me to the network full-time in 2018, and to Matt Casey, Ron Vaccaro, Kevin Monaghan and Tess Quinlan for being such great collaborators/bosses over the past six years. I owe you all more than I can repay.

3. I think FMIA and The Peter King Podcast could not exist without the support of so many, and I must thank those vital people. For years, Dom Bonvissuto was the editor/conscience of the Monday column, a terrific friend and confidante. When he departed two years ago, I inherited two ace editors/assistants at NBC: Sarah Hughes and Amelia Acosta. What I liked about them is their willingness to advise me as a peer, not a superior. That’s what you need in this business. Neither tired of the ridiculous hours. I’m so grateful to Sarah and Amelia. Also, thanks to Paul Burmeister and Myles Simmons for co-hosting the podcast over the years. Both terrific. Myles, who’s done it the last two years, isn’t afraid to tangle with me—and he’s also great at adjusting to my ever-changing schedule. Also, thanks to Mike Florio for our Friday PFT fun over the past few years. The cool thing about the 7-9 a.m. ET PFT show—and I’ll be on this morning for two hours for you early risers/readers—is we could riff on anything from Seinfeld to well, a hundred things. Courtney Gustafson, Kristen Coleman, Pete Damilatis, thank you for your help and your imagination and E.J. Gentile, the inventor of the bizarre videos that made me seem hip (an impossible task) or funny, thank you.


4. I think what’ll be fun next fall is turning on Red Zone at 1 p.m., flying through the day with Scott Hanson, napping for 20 minutes at some point, walking Chuck the dog at another point, then watching the first half of the Sunday night game and then, at halftime, deciding whether I want to watch the second half or not. If not, I’ll be in bed by 9:40. A normal Sunday night in the fall. That’ll be weird. I can’t wait to experience it.

5. I think when I think back on experiences of a football writer’s life, I think back to sitting in a New Jersey movie theater around Christmas in 1992. Ann and I were there to see “A Few Good Men” (Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore), and in the middle of the movie, when things were getting heavy in a Marine murder case, Cruise drove up to a newsstand and picked up the Sports Illustrated from Aug. 12, 1991. Eric Dickerson on the cover, as a Colt. My cover. My story. And here Tom Cruise examined it and bought it, and boy, it was all I could do to not yell in the theater, “Hey, that’s my cover!”

tom cruise pic.jpg

6. I think I’ll miss:

a. The training camp tour. Best month of the work year. Forty-five minutes in Andy Reid’s cinderblock dorm room, real time with quarterbacks and other key guys, watching practice to see things like Josh Allen sprint downfield to chase an interceptor—you learn a lot in that month.

b. Writing a story you know will get people’s attention. The thrill never goes away.

c. Seeing America. When I was a kid, the longest trip my Connecticut-based family ever took was to Cape Cod. I always wanted to do a job that included travel. It’s changed a bit. I remember flying out of Cincinnati for a Xavier basketball game (one of my first beats) in 1981, and the last six rows of the plane comprised the smoking section, and they were in full use.

d. Draft rooms. I was inside 11 of them, to see how the sausage got made.

e. Working with young writers. For the first 70 percent of my work life, I was an independent contractor, essentially. My job was to be the best I could on the beat. Sometimes I won, sometimes I lost. Most weekends on the road, I was alone, trying to write a better story than anyone covering what I was covering. It made me selfish, quite frankly. Winning the week dominated my thoughts. But starting in 2013 when Sports Illustrated allowed me to start a football microsite called The MMQB, I realized how lousy it was to be in the business for yourself and yourself only. I have loved having some small role helping the twenty-somethings I’ve been fortunate to work with starting in 2013—Jenny Vrentas, Robert Klemko, Emily Kaplan, Kalyn Kahler, Andy Benoit and others who followed. They’re thirty-somethings now, but they’re the future, all over the place, in sports and news and TV. Working with veteran scribe Greg Bedard and veteran editors Mark Mravic, Matt Gagne, and Gary Grambling was a pleasure as well.

7. I think I won’t miss:

a. Mock drafts. Busywork. Waste of time. Blight on the football planet. One mock draft, the week of the draft or close to it, after listening to sources and people you trust in the game—fine, and even good. Mock drafts in February – laughable; you don’t know anything. Mock drafts in October – worse, because you don’t have any idea who’s picking where. What a total waste of time.

b. Researching mock drafts. From mid- to late-April the past 10 or so years, I had no life, just a constant stream of tips and guesses and maybe 10 or 12 people in the game—GMs, coaches, two agents—who I knew were being totally honest with me.

c. Writing at 2:08 a.m. I got better, and slightly earlier, in 2023. (Average last file time in my final season: 2:29 a.m. Mondays.) Not saying it was misery, but to do the job right, and to have a good column out in time for morning tea in Europe and the early risers in the U.S., you’ve got to work late Sunday nights. Part of the job, just not a part I want to do anymore.

d. Trying to write something meaningful between the draft and training camps. I’ve always thought May 1 to July 15 should be a dead time. Ten weeks or so to get away, recharge. And that’s how it should be. But my time at The MMQB for those 10 weeks was filled with stuff, mostly pablum, to fill empty days. The media’s been conditioned to keep throwing logs on the fire, day after day after day when absolutely nothing is happening. I am thrilled to not contribute to that anymore.

e. Not a lot more, honestly. It’s been a wonderful life.


Photo Credit: Todd Rosenberg

Todd Rosenberg/Sports Illustrated

8. I think there’s one thing that was going to die in my notebook because I never got to it this season, but I decided to include it here under the heading of “Team I Think you Might Be Overlooking for 2024.” The Dolphins. Let me take you back to Frankfurt on Nov. 3. The Dolphins had just finished Friday practice, and coach Mike McDaniel agreed to let me ride back to the team hotel, maybe 25 minutes, with him so we could talk. I wanted to talk about one specific play that interested me. It was a touchdown against Carolina a couple of weeks earlier. Tight end Durham Smythe went in orbit motion (behind the backfield) from left to right of the formation, but instead of completing the motion, Smythe stopped short and at the snap of the ball, moved forward to block a linebacker near the line of scrimmage. Tua Tagovailoa flipped a short pass to Raheem Mostert, who scored the easiest touchdown of his life—because Smythe eliminated the only defender who could have stopped him short of the goal line. I loved the play because I hadn’t seen an orbit-motioner stop in mid-motion and charge ahead to block like that. It was just another way that McDaniel’s imagination invented new stuff on the fly, and it made football fun. So I brought this up to McDaniel in the car, and this was our exchange:

McDaniel: “Do you have cameras in the building?”

Me: “Uh, no. Why?”

McDaniel: “How did you know what it meant? This play represents everything about our team that is special to me. I was sitting on it all training camp. The motion was new. The concept, it was probably the worst success rate that any play has ever had—we were like 0-for-11 on it in practice. The reason why it represents everything special is because the entire time we were working on it, I was waiting for somebody to say, ‘Why are we running this play?’ It kept failing.”

Me: “In other words, nobody was negative about it.”

McDaniel: “No one even took a moment thinking about something that isn’t in their control. They trusted coaches. Nine times out of 10, if a play doesn’t work in the first three attempts, people throw it out. Either the coaches throw it out or the players say, I don’t wanna run this. But anybody who’s great at anything spends little to no time worrying about things outside of their control. Does Michael Jordan hesitate at the end of a game because he’s 5-for-20 shooting? He does not. Because he’s process-oriented and has conviction and doesn’t worry about anything. The whole reason the offense looks the way it does is because people have bought in across the board. There’s a lot of things that we do that are new that most people don’t wanna try. They’re resistant. They’re not willing to be vulnerable but you have to be vulnerable to be your best self. You have to be secure and… I just think it epitomizes what’s going on. People see the results but they don’t see the fact that since April 17, there hasn’t been one day that our locker room has wasted. It starts with the captains. When you approach every day and every rep with the same amount of intensity, how are you not gonna have results?”

Me: “Why did it fail 11 times?”

McDaniel: “Sometimes the quarterback would miss it. Sometimes the back would be too shallow in relationship to the quarterback’s launch point. Sometimes the blocker would be too far out in front of the halfback. They would throw it, the halfback would catch it, and the blocker would be outside of the halfback. If Durham wasn’t in the right relationship inside out of the back in the timing of the play, he couldn’t execute the block. When it worked, it was all the reps Durham Smythe and Raheem Mostert had in camp. And the eight times that Tua ran it and it didn’t work but he sat there and listened and absorbed all of it.”

Me: “I bet your players were euphoric when they came to the sidelines—all that failure, then it works in a game and helps you win.”

McDaniel: “Not really. That’s another cool point about that moment. When you approach practice with full intentionality, you get used to the natural momentum swings. You don’t get too high or too low. So like, people were happy in the moment and then came to the sidelines and looked at the pictures of the entire drive and moved on with their lives. They trusted the coaches, we trusted them.”

That’s modern football. That’s the brains of the game trusted by the talent of the game. That’s why I think Miami will rebound this year and give Kansas City and Buffalo and Baltimore and whoever a very tough go.

9. I think I have five quick thoughts about the near future:

  • Tom Brady’s going to be very good in the Fox booth. Well, he should be for $37 million a year, or whatever it is. Quietly, Brady’s been working over the last five months, getting used to doing games in the booth, and learning from people he admires in TV. Remember one thing about Tom Brady: He was handed nothing in the NFL. Everything he got he earned. And he knew when he signed this ridiculous contract he’d have every eye in football on him when the job began in September 2024. Do you think he hasn’t knocked himself out to be sure he knows the rhythm and the cadence and the information patterns of doing color? Now that doesn’t guarantee he’ll be good. I just think he’s smart, and he knows what it’ll take to be good, and when he has to call out a friend in the game, he’ll find a way to do it.
  • I suppose the Bears are going to trade the top pick. I know nothing, but that seems to be the way the wind is blowing. What I say: The Bears could keep Justin Fields (and should), and trade the first pick down once or twice, and build the kind of supporting cast a team needs to contend. Suppose GM Ryan Poles traded the top pick down one spot to Washington (which would take Caleb Williams), and got the second pick, a second-round pick and a 2025 first-round pick in return. Then suppose Poles traded the second pick to Atlanta at eight, and the Falcons picked one of the other quarterbacks. In return, Chicago gets the eighth pick, Atlanta’s second-round pick, and first- and second-round picks next year. Imagine moving from 1 to 8 and ending up with this draft haul:
    • The eighth and ninth (their own) overall picks in round one this year.
    • Second-round picks from Washington and Atlanta this year.
    • Three first-round picks and two second-round picks in 2025.

    For moving down seven picks in the first round, the Bears could end up with nine picks in the first two rounds of the next two drafts. Instant infrastructure.

  • I don’t have a good feeling about Philadelphia in 2024. But if the Eagles return to goodness, it’s got to be on the wings of Jalen Hurts. Lead, man.
  • Best new-media TV hire this off-season: Jason Kelce—assuming he retires. No idea who lands him. He’d be fun in a studio or educational in a booth.
  • Player under the most pressure in 2024: Justin Herbert. Wonderful player, wonderful numbers—except being 30-33 as a starting quarterback with zero playoff wins in four years. Herbert now has a coach, Jim Harbaugh, and GM, Joe Hortiz, who will be sure to build winning elements around him. This year or next, Herbert’s got to take his team deep into the postseason. Tall ask, in a conference with Josh Allen, Tua Tagovailoa, Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson, whatever is left of Aaron Rodgers, and the great Patrick Mahomes.

10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:

a. Book of the Month: “The Lede: Dispatches From a Life in the Press,” by Calvin Trillin. Ann bought it for me, and here’s Scott Simon with an interview of Trillin on NPR.

b. I’ve hammered home the importance of media as watchdog, and been a nag about the disappearing local press all over America. Trillin, 88, monitors that, and writes common-sense columns about the world we live in.

c. Trillin told Simon about one his subjects, Miami-based crime reporter Edna Buchanan:

“She was relentless. She was asking questions after you thought the conversation was over. And she talked to me once about calling the next of kin of somebody who had just been murdered. And if somebody accused her of being just a ghoul and a vulture for calling at such a time and hung up on her, she counted to 60, and then she called again. She figured that by that time, somebody might have said, ‘You should have talked to that reporter,’ or maybe somebody else would answer the phone who was more talkative.”

d. So I paged through “The Lede” to the story about Edna Buchanan, and the lede read this way:

In the newsroom of the Miami Herald, there is some disagreement about which of Edna Buchanan’s first paragraphs stands as the classic Edna lede. I line up with the fried-chicken faction. The fried-chicken story was about a rowdy ex-con named Gary Robinson, who late on a Sunday night lurched drunkenly into a Church’s outlet, shoved his way to the front of the line, and ordered a three-piece box of fried chicken. Persuaded to wait his turn, he reached the counter again five or 10 minutes later, only to be told Church’s had run out of fried chicken. The young woman at the counter suggested that he might like chicken nuggets instead. Robinson responded to the suggestion by slugging her in the head. That set off a chain of events that ended with Robinson’s being shot dead by a security guard. Edna Buchanan covered the homicide for the Herald—there are policemen in Miami who say it wouldn’t be a homicide without her—and her story began with what the fried-chicken faction still regards as the classic Edna lede: “Gary Robinson died hungry.”

e. Wish I could write like that.

f. Had another “wish I could write like that” moment when I read Ben Solak of The Ringer on the Buffalo Bills after the disastrous home playoff loss to Kansas City. Wrote the young Solak: “Sisyphus looks upon Buffalo football and wonders what it’s like to suffer like that.”

g. Beernerdness: After years of fun experiments with beer, you’ll never guess which I’ve settled on now. I actually bought a six-pack of it in bottles on Wednesday. Budweiser. I found myself jonesing for it after having a tall boy at the Vegas Golden Knights game during Super Bowl week. Reminds me of a hot day at the ballpark.

h. Coffeenerdness I: Big mug every day when I’m home, without fail, of Starbucks Italian Roast. I’ve got no use for mild coffee anymore. It’s been that way for years now, and most days (no caffeine after noon at my age) I get my caffeine fix with 16 ounces of this pure gold.

i. Coffeenerdness II: I was in Ithaca, N.Y. Saturday, and fortunate enough to find Hound and Mare, a coffee shop downtown. First, because of the whole refuge thing on a 14-degree morning. Second, because of the New York Maple Latte. Mainline that into my veins, please. Fantastic drink, lovely atmosphere.

j. Winenerdness: Cabernet Sauvignon of choice now is Robert Mondavi 2021 Cab. Not much better than a plate of pasta and glass of the Mondavi.

k. Story of the Future: Katherine Sayre of The Wall Street Journal with the ultimate cautionary tale of how gambling, and the addictive nature of it, ruined the life of a Pennsylvania psychiatrist: “A Psychiatrist Tried to Quit Gambling. Betting Apps Kept Her Hooked.”

l. This story details the stark reality of how online sports gambling derailed the life of a professional woman who should have known better—the same way alcoholics should know better. And Kavita Fischer could not stop. Even as I step away from this column, I find myself wanting to shout from the rooftops about the dangers of what the NFL has embraced so cravenly.

m. Wrote Sayre:

Looking back, Fischer said she became a psychiatrist to understand the mysteries of the human brain. Over the course of about 11 months, she became a mystery to herself. “You know you’re wasting your life or time or money,” she said. “You just can’t get out.”

… On Jan. 9, 2023, Fischer emailed her DraftKings host to say she was “doing terribly” at Slingo and should try a different game “or quit gambling completely.”

“In the meantime, is there any way you can send me some VIP love?” she asked.

The host added a $500 bonus to her account. “Hope you can get hot!” he said. Later that month, he asked Fischer to check in once a week to see if she was eligible for promotions and credits.

… “I’m hurting this week—would you please be able to do one more bonus so I can try to turn my luck around tomorrow?” Fischer said in a March 8, 2023, email to her VIP host.

The host credited her account with $500. “Hoping this will get you on the right track!” he wrote.

“I would have stopped a long time ago,” Fischer said. “Those VIP bonuses would get me back in.”

She took out a $243,000 home-equity loan to pay off credit cards and personal loans at a lower interest rate. It will cost her $2,400 a month for 15 years, she said. That is on top of her monthly mortgage payment of $3,600 a month. To settle another $120,000 in credit-card debt, Fischer has payment plans that cost $2,500 a month. She has picked up shifts with a local healthcare provider for extra income.

In August, Fischer attended her first 12-step meeting for gamblers at a local church. She felt afraid and alone, thinking there might be only a few people there. Instead, there was a group of 25. One group member told her not to feel lonely anymore. She cried.

“I was, like, ‘I can’t believe there are so many people here,’” she said.

n. The bonuses are like drugs. They keep problem gamblers hooked.

o. Drug Scourge Idea of the Week: Brian Mann of NPR traveled to Portugal to see why there are so few overdose deaths in that European country. Here’s what he found.

p. The bottom line, Mann found, is deaths are way down there because Portugal treats addiction “as an illness, not a crime.”

q. Reports Mann: “No one has to pay for addiction care, and no one scrambles to navigate a poorly regulated recovery system.” A very interesting 10 minutes of your time.

r. Per Mann, people in Portugal are 45 times less likely to die from overdose than in the U.S. Health care is the reason.

s. Protest of the Week: You go, Kansas City moms. Per Lawrence Brooks IV of KCUR radio in Kansas City, a core of moms demanding common-sense gun reform rallied after the senseless post-Super Bowl celebration shooting.

t. I love what Sarah Deeder, a Navy vet who attended the protest, said on the sign she carried: “We are not KC Strong until we change our gun laws.”

u. I’ll miss the Combine this week, but I hope you’ll support the annual Combine Meetup/Fundraiser at Sun King Brewing Friday, 135 North College Avenue in downtown Indy at 6 p.m. Kalyn Kahler of The Athletic takes over for me as host, and she’ll have an assortment of plugged-in media people (and one special guest) for you to ask all your Combine, draft and NFL questions. Get your tickets here.

v. I love this event, and I’m happy to see Kalyn, local organizer Angie Six (couldn’t do it without her), Sun King and the Colts get behind the event and make it happen again. This year, the nonprofit partner is Million Meal Movement. Event proceeds will benefit deliveries of meals to Indiana food banks and food pantries.

w. RIP, Flaco the owl. The New York City owl, zoo escapee a year ago, was in this column a couple of weeks ago. Flaco evidently crashed into a building on the Upper West Side the other day. Cool owl.

x. Thanks, Annie Koeblitz. You’ve been invaluable since the day I went full-time to NBC in 2018.

y. It’s hard knowing something you love is over. But it’s exciting knowing there’s a mystery out there, and the future is unknown.

z. Thanks for reading. I mean, thank you, thank you, thank you. And thank you.

training camp.jpg

The Adieu Haiku

It’s been rewarding.
The future? I do not know.
But for now –30–

Peter King’s Lineup