On the third episode of Bill Simmons’s podcast, Simmons had former Grantland movie critic Wesley Morris on. They talked about movies in a particularly Simmonsy way (there was an extended De Niro vs. Pacino passage), and, more intriguingly, got onto the topic of Simmons’s rise and fall at Grantland. The host had sharp words for ESPN, claiming that they never pushed traffic his way and that the site was chronically understaffed.
Both former Grantlanders, though, waxed nostalgic about the site’s culture, and Simmons said he would miss working with all his Grantland pals. Lo and behold, he may get his wish. On Friday night, James Andrew Miller tweeted that four Grantland staffers had handed in resignation letters and were headed off to join Simmons ... somewhere.
There’s been precious little revealed about what Simmons will be doing now that he’s landed at HBO. So far, he’s hosted a few podcasts with his buddies like Jack-O and House and he’s mentioned that he’ll be getting a TV show sometime next year. But as far as any kind of publishing platform, there’s been no word.
Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch reported this evening that the four staffers leaving for the mystery Simmons project are Sean Fennessey, Juliet Litman, Mallory Rubin, and Chris Ryan. Going by who he poached here—not all that great a thing to be going on, admittedly—Simmons would seem to be setting up a more pop culture-based site than a sports-focused one.
In another big loss for the site, Deitsch also revealed that Grantland’s editorial director, Dan Fierman, is leaving the site to take up a position as vice president and editorial director of MTV News. Fierman was Simmons’ number two and helped found the site.
ESPN recently announced that seven staffers had renewed their contracts with Grantland; according to Deitsch that number is high. With all these defections—and we hear more may be on the way—and constant reports that Grantland is a financial black hole, it’s fair to ask if we’re seeing the death of Grantland.
On the other side of things, Simmons at least seems to be putting together a sort of Grantland 2.0, well, somewhere. He presumably isn’t poaching his old employees just to have them write his TV show for him in a few months.