Why Mike Ditka Is Leaving NFL Countdown

Mike Ditka is making a big move. The former NFL player and coach has spent a lot of time on NFL Countdown, but coming up, he’ll be quitting the long-running series to take on a new role with the network. Instead of appearing on NFL Countdown on Sundays and Mondays, he’ll be popping up on SportCenter, instead. Here’s why the man says he is making the big switch:

This new role is really a blessing. It’s something I asked for. After many years of weekend travel, I’m thrilled I’ll get to watch NFL games on Sundays and Monday nights in the comfort of my own home. I enjoy being part of the game and part of ESPN. I really do. So this is a great solution.

Changes happens in sports commentary about as often as they happen on actual sports teams, and Ditka’s announcement comes after NFL Countdown had a down year in the ratings. Still, Mike Ditka’s move also comes with a 2-year contract renewal and his decision to hop to SportsCenter seems to be working for him. Besides, working on NFL Countdown seems to have been a fairly rough position, mostly because it required travel to shoot the series in a studio with the other commentators. His new role on SportsCenter will often enable him to shoot remote segments from his two homes in Chicago and Florida. Mike Ditka will join the SportsCenter team this coming September, shortly before his 77th birthday. When Ditka leaves NFL Countdown, he will be replaced by Matt Hasselbeck, who up until recently played for the Indianapolis Colts but has now retired from the game.

Travel can be a burden, even if it’s only a few days a week, and no one is going to accuse Mike Ditka of having the youthful energy to take on such a strenuous gig. The man is 76 years old and probably doesn’t need a schedule as demanding as ESPN’s NFL Countdown can be. Remember that time, for instance, when he fell asleep in the middle of a live broadcast?

As noted by the Chicago Tribune, Mike Ditka has spoken out in the past about enjoying the actual commentator portion of his position but disliking the travel. He even has gone so far as to call the travel “the hard part” of his job.

The work of being an analyst is not hard. The hard part is getting there. If I had a way to get there instantly, on a private plane or something, it would be different. Going through the airports kind of gets old.

So, after retiring from football and then retiring from coaching, he will now be retiring from NFL Countdown. Sans the travel, though, his new gig should be easier to bear.

Jessica Rawden
Managing Editor

Jessica Rawden is Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. She’s been kicking out news stories since 2007 and joined the full-time staff in 2014. She oversees news content, hiring and training for the site, and her areas of expertise include theme parks, rom-coms, Hallmark (particularly Christmas movie season), reality TV, celebrity interviews and primetime. She loves a good animated movie. Jessica has a Masters in Library Science degree from Indiana University, and used to be found behind a reference desk most definitely not shushing people. She now uses those skills in researching and tracking down information in very different ways.