Rising ESPN NFL Reporter Dianna Russini Predicts the 2017 Season

Dianna Russini’s journalism career has taken her to many fascinating outlets —ABC with Diane Sawyer, Comcast Sports in Seattle and NBC in D.C. But it was in the nation’s capital where her name truly started to rise.

Russini’s Redskins reporting was dogged and well respected. In addition, she often broke stories that transcended her market, a rarity for local reports.

Her reporting prowess caught the eye of ESPN, which scooped her up in 2015. Russini was a SportsCenter anchor for the past two seasons, and has now transitioned to a new, prominent role within the network’s NFL coverage. Russini’s duties include hosting NFL Live, reporting on Sundays for NFL Countdown, working as an insider on ESPN’s NFL shows and crafting stories within the features department unit.

“The past few years my passion for covering the NFL has grown and now I get to cover it every week,” said Russini, 34, who has been in the television business since she was 20 years old.

Competition is fierce in Russini’s line of work but she said ESPN has a “team mentality” on major stories. She often works closely with Adam Schefter as well as their nation reporters when reporting a story. As a woman in the television sports business, Russini has never felt at a disadvantage.

“Do I deal with some sexism here and there? Absolutely,” she said. “I have learned that viewers want one thing—information. Male or female, give them what they want and usually they don’t care.”

Russini cites ESPN personalities Jemele Hill, Cassidy Hubbarth, Jen Lada and Julie Stewart-Binks as well as ESPN executive Stephanie Druley as women whom she has relied upon for support.

Given Russini’s rising prominence in NFL circles, we wanted to get her take on how this NFL season will shake out.

Who is this season’s most compelling player?

Not only is he [J.J. Watt] the hometown hero after his incredible effort in his Harvey relief fund, but the three-time defensive Player of the Year is back after missing most of last season from his back injury. Watt never had missed a game in his first five NFL seasons and I believe a little time off will help him reach his full potential, perhaps reignite that fire. At 28 years old, I think this is going to be his most dominate year. The “Watt-less” Texans led the NFL in total defense last season, can’t wait to see what is in store for them this year.”

Who will be the first coach to be fired?

Chuck Pagano

New GM Chris Ballard has already shown patience building this team; unfortunately I think Pagano is in panic mode. Considering this team already has a weak offensive and defensive line and won’t have QB Andrew Luck for the first few weeks, Indy is in trouble and so is their coach.
The Colts head-coaching job will be the most sought after head coaching job in the league.

Who will win the MVP?

Aaron Rodgers.

I believe this is will be ARod’s year. Everything I have read during this offseason tells me he is locked in and ready to go. Green Bay’s biggest weakness has been their secondary but they loaded up on the defensive backfield during the offseason. On offense the addition of tight end Martellus Bennett is going to upgrade the offense and give Rodgers help. The Rodgers we saw at the second half of the season is who we will see all year.

Your Super Bowl pick?

Green Bay and the Patriots [Ed. Note: Russini’s answer came before Thursday’s Pats loss.]