10 People ESPN Should Have Fired During Their Mass Layoffs

In case you’ve been living under a rock, ESPN recently let go of over 100 on-air personalities as part of a massive cost-cutting measure. Some people agree with the cuts they made. Most don’t. Either way, here are ten candidates who should have joined their brethren on the unemployment line. It doesn’t mean they’re bad people or that we’re cheering for them to get fired, just that they would make sense for ESPN to get rid of, from a content/finance perspective – probably more sense than some of the people who did get axed.

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Just Missed the Top 10

Kasey Keller

Kasey may be the least exciting announcer on the face of the earth. In the history of the network, no one has ever tuned into a game because he was calling it. Not even his family. We’re assuming the only reason he was hired in the first place was name recognition, but that’s becoming less and less relevant with the new generation of soccer fans. It’s time for him to hit the curb.

10. Mark Schlereth

Considering how much he’s on the air, he must make a decent chunk of change. He also feels like one of those guys who has more job security than he should because he’s friends with all the bro-y on-air football talent. Chop his salary off the books and give his reps to Tedy Bruschi, a younger, more likable commentator who can provide the same exact product.

9. Nate Silver

However many years you go into the Silver phenomenon, three things stand out: he is still at core an election predictor (who just got the biggest one very wrong); has failed to develop any personalities beyond him; and Disney and ESPN have done a very poor job acclimating him into the larger company (the same is true for analytics in general). If FiveThirtyEight is somehow generating massive traffic and secretly driving a huge part of ESPN’s core revenue, then we apologize. However, we can’t imagine that’s the case. If closing Grantland saved the company money, the same is likely true for FiveThirtyEight, and since ESPN sucks at integrating them into the rest of their content, why not just admit the whole thing was a mistake and move on?

8. Merril Hoge

This one is simple: ESPN could save money because the wardrobe department wouldn’t have to special order his ridiculous short ties anymore. It’s also the right time – more recent players with a more recent perspective on the league, like Ryan Clark, could fill his role for (probably) less money.

7. Michelle Beadle

What would ESPN do without Beadle and Sage Steele? How would they ever find a host for their precious NBA Countdown? Easy, have Rachel Nichols do it. She’s vastly superior to either and could host from the same studio complex as her show The Jump. Or cancel or re-arrange The Jump. She should be able to do both, though. We’re all for more women on the air at ESPN, but Beadle’s contract is almost certainly a bad value.

6. Chris Connelly

In case you’ve been living under a rock, SportsCenter has changed and so has the nature of TV. As far as we can tell, Connelly doesn’t contribute much beyond his sappy SportsCenter segments that are always good for a few tears and a few more eye rolls. Those aren’t the future of SportsCenter, and if they are, someone else could do them. Connelly also makes enough coin that they asked him to run Grantland for a while after Bill Simmons was bounced. The return just isn’t there.

5. Darren Rovell

His inane Tweets draw lots of eyeballs – and ironically, all the hate pieces about him probably drive lots of traffic toward his stories – but he’s almost too arrogant to feature consistently on TV (which is saying a LOT) and “the business of sports” is always sort of a weird fit with the traditional sports fan. He’s also widely reviled, for what that’s worth.

4. Sage Steele

ESPN is already pushing her out of NBA Countdown into some vague, undefined new role. Probably not a great sign. Then it appeared that the vast majority of the internet was cheering for her to be fired during the layoffs. To top it off, she offends both sides of the ESPN culture war, offending the younger, more liberal side by being unapologetically conservative and offending the older, whiter, more conservative side by being a double minority.

3. Mark Jackson

Jackson probably makes enough money to employ 20 writers and he doesn’t even talk that much on the air anymore. Here’s a radical idea: you don’t need a three man booth. Here’s another: you don’t need an ex-player either. If for some reason you insist on both, there are better candidates than Jackson. Jalen Rose, Grant Hill, and Greg Anthony would all be preferable if they insisted on sticking with convention, but they would be better off sticking with Breen and Van Gundy and pocketing Jackson’s salary. Jackson clearly plans on coaching again, so he usually pulls his punches, except when it comes to ex-players that he hates like Andrew Bogut, in which case he’s transparently biased. You obviously wouldn’t do it during the playoffs. Wait until the title is crowned and then do it quietly.

2. Mike Golic

His future seems to be up in the air as the long-awaited Mike Greenberg morning variety show comes together, but ESPN recently signed him to a new contract, so they must have something in mind for him. Most likely continuing to host the 6-10 morning show, possibly with his son, Mike Golic, Jr. A better idea would have been not signing Senior and replacing him with Junior, who’s more talented and obviously far cheaper. Then they could have paired Mike Golic, Jr. with someone like Ryen Russillo (if they were firing Danny Kanell and blowing up that show anyway). They wouldn’t get the ratings Mike and Mike did, but if Greenberg is leaving the show anyway and whatever magic they have comes from their chemistry, how many people would stick around just for Mike Golic?

1. Mike Greenberg

Mike Greenberg recently signed a massive deal that will pay him over $6 million per year to host a morning variety show (think Good Morning America for sports) to replace the morning SportsCenter. It isn’t actually the worst idea, but what if ESPN had done this instead: let both Greenberg and Golic go, replaced them with Golic Jr. and Russillo, and had Tony Reali host the variety show, with Erik Rydholm of PTI fame (and Around the Horn, etc.) coming in to produce?

Reali currently does occasional work for Good Morning America while hosting Around the Horn at night. This would be a similar schedule, but a much bigger deal. This way ESPN sheds both Greenberg and Golic Sr.’s salaries while still launching their new morning venture with a qualified host and getting younger, hipper, smarter, and more digital across the board. Reali gets a pay bump, but way less than the combined Mike and Mike salaries.

It’s as simple as this: if ESPN is considering a break-up of Mike and Mike, then chances are it isn’t as profitable as it used be. If they’re open to a change, they’re better off just cutting loose and shedding the massive salary numbers.

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