ESPN’s NFL coverage is going to look a lot different next season. After taking veteran Chris Berman off the pro football beat, the Worldwide Leader today laid off John Clayton, who had been covering the gridiron for the network since the first Clinton administration:
The bespectacled insider known as “The Professor,” who was inducted into the writer’s wing of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007, had been with ESPN since 1995 as a senior NFL writer and commentator. He was a regular guest on the network’s TV and radio program and will continue to host his daily radio show on ESPN’s Seattle station.
Although ESPN last month hired veteran NFL coach Rex Ryan for its NFL pregame show, the Clayton move is the latest in a long line of big-name talent to exit ESPN in the past couple of years. Last month, veteran NFL analyst and Super Bowl-winning quarterback Trent Dilfer was among dozens of on-air personalities to get a pink slip. Longtime First Take co-host Skip Bayless skipped last year and landed at rival Fox Sports.
Colin Cowherd left the company in 2015 and also alighting at Fox Sports. Just before that, Keith Olbermann left ESPN — for a second time — a once-Golden Boy Bill Simmons’ comments about NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in 2014 paved the way for his departure from the Bristol campus. He went on to sign a big deal with HBO.
A few weeks ago, ESPN missed its quarterly revenue forecast due to lighter-than-expected cable growth. It also is revamping its signature SportsCenter program as the sports giant boosts its TV and digital news updates. The company also plans to launch an ESPN-branded direct-to-consumer streaming service later this year with niche sports events it doesn’t offer to pay TV customers.