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30 Jul 2013
by Aaron Schatz
As of today, Football Outsiders has been covering the National Football League for exactly 10 years. Our site was launched on July 30, 2003 with two articles. The first one was the famous Establishment Clause article about how establishing the run didn't mean anything. As many people know, that's the question that started me looking at football stats and doing this stuff in the first place. The other article introduced the idea of Pythagorean wins for football. It sounds so commonplace now, but prior to that it had been written about by almost nobody, the exception being Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey when he worked for STATS Inc.
Those two articles are listed as being posted on July 14 because that was the day we put them into the original WordPress content management system. (You remember the original WordPress design, with the dual scrolling windows in frames, don't you?) The site itself was announced to the public on July 30, with a link on Boston Sports Media Watch. Immediately, we became one of the least-visited football sites on the Internet. 738 people came the first day. We didn't get that many visitors in one day again until October 14, the day we were mentioned in Gregg Easterbrook's last-ever ESPN.com Page 2 Tuesday Morning Quarterback column. (Which actually didn't end up being his last-ever TMQ for ESPN, but that's a whole other story.)
And then things blew up. As many of you know, we ran a "write TMQ because Gregg Easterbrook can't" contest after ESPN suspended him for the Kill Bill incident. That brought us a ton of new readers. Then Easterbrook wrote the TMQ column for FO for two weeks before moving it to NFL Network. That brought us even more readers. Then Peter King mentioned us. That brought us even more readers. Some of you are even still around from that first year.
When the site launched, it consisted of just the Extra Points blog and two columns: my DVOA ratings and Scramble for the Ball by Ian Dembsky and Al Bogdan. Jason Beattie did cartoons. Benjy Rose did the tech and design. Eventually, for the site to grow, we were going to need someone who wasn't one of my fraternity brothers. Once people started noticing us during the 2003 season, writers started to crawl out of the woodwork, guys who had been looking for an intelligent place to write about football for years. By the end of our first season, we had Michael David Smith and Russell Levine on the staff. In September 2004, I hooked up with a gig writing for ESPN Page 2 and another writing for The New York Sun, went off unemployment, and made this my full-time job. Our second season brought new writers like Ned Macey and Mike Tanier. (Here's some classic early Tanier; thankfully he came on board just before the Eagles went to the Super Bowl.) After our second season, we wrote our first full book, Pro Football Prospectus 2005. I negotiated the contract for that one with some stat geek in Chicago who ran the finances for Baseball Prospectus. Whatever happened to that guy? Just totally disappeared.
Some of the other important events in Football Outsiders history:
Since I'm busy blowing sunshine up my own ass here, I would like to say that I am most proud of two things. First, that we really helped spread the idea of advanced stats for sports other than baseball. Second, that we either launched or played an important role in furthering the careers of a lot of good football writers. Bill Barnwell is probably the most-read guy at Grantland other than Simmons. Mike Tanier anchors the Sports on Earth site. Michael David Smith is at Pro Football Talk. Ryan Wilson is at CBS. Brian McIntyre is at Yahoo. Doug Farrar and Andy Benoit will now be at SI.com and/or Peter King's special MMQB.com site. SB Nation gave Bill Connelly a whole website of his own to write about college football stats. I also get to take credit as the person who suggested to Will Carroll (now at Bleacher Report) that he branch out into other sports besides baseball.
Back in the day we used to put together these annual pages with links to the best articles of each season. I can link to that, but unfortunately a lot of the links are broken. Alas.
Going forward, I can't promise big huge dramatic new features or anything, but I can tell you a few things that will be coming to Football Outsiders in the next few months:
I'll leave everyone with a big thank you to all our readers. Thank you for caring enough about football and enjoying our writing enough that I can actually make a living covering the NFL. It's a dream job and I have no idea what the heck else I would do for a living. Now, let's see if we can make it another ten years.
77 comments, Last at 09 Aug 2013, 8:53am by Dean