Former NFL linebacker Tom Jackson has retired from broadcasting, ending a 29-year run at ESPN as part of its NFL coverage.
ESPN announced the news on Wednesday, noting Jackson's last broadcast will be at the Pro Football Hall of Fame weekend.
Jackson gave his thoughts on his retirement in ESPN's release:
I have been blessed in my adult life to work for two companies, the Denver Broncos and ESPN, to do two things that I love – play football and talk about football. ...
... Having joined in the early stages of ESPN and remained with the same company for 29 years is especially gratifying. The friendships made are too numerous to mention but I know that many of them will last a lifetime. I also want to thank all the fans who supported me over the years and made my job so enjoyable. This move just comes at a time when the priority of my life is spending time with my family.
Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News first reported on July 26 that Jackson was likely to depart the network. Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated confirmed the longtime analyst's decision on July 27.
Jackson came to the conclusion a couple of weeks ago and was not asked or forced to step down by ESPN management, according to Deitsch. The report also noted that he joins Cris Carter, Keyshawn Johnson, Ray Lewis and Mike Ditka as former Countdown panelists who won't return for the 2016 campaign.
The widespread changes to the Sunday pregame staple don't come as a major surprise. Sean Keeley of Awful Announcing, citing Bloomberg, noted in December that ratings for the program were down 13 percent as competition increased across the sports media landscape.
Furthermore, Jason McIntyre of the Big Lead reported in May that ESPN isn't expected to renew the contract of host Chris Berman after the season ends. Deitsch noted this fall would have marked 30 years of Berman and Jackson working together.
So it seemed like the longtime one-two punch of ESPN's football coverage, which also worked together on the wildly popular NFL Primetime, would stay together one more year. However, that's not in the cards.