Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

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:

  • 2005: We switch over to FOXSports.com, the first site to run more than one article per week by Football Outsiders.
  • November 8 2005: The day that Falcons fans brought on the Football Outsiders message board curse.
  • 2006: Football Outsiders content appears simultaneously at FOXSports.com, AOL Sports, and ESPN.com.
  • 2007: Football Outsiders content moves exclusively to ESPN.com, where it has been ever since.
  • 2008: Bill Barnwell becomes the second full-time employee of Football Outsiders.
  • 2009: We move into the world of self-publishing with the end of Pro Football Prospectus and the beginning of Football Outsiders Almanac.
  • 2011: ESPN puts Football Outsiders on television on a weekly basis with Numbers Never Lie.
  • 2012: ESPN takes Football Outsiders off television on a weekly basis and replaces us with Jalen Rose. Hey, you can't win them all.

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:

  • A really great new writer for the 2013 season.
  • 1989 and 1990 DVOA numbers.
  • A "Best of Walkthrough" book, so you can give the gift of Mike Tanier this Christmas.
  • The long-awaited, twice-aborted (by tech guys quitting on us) back-end redesign that should solve a ton of our server issues and clean up all the weird stuff that makes our store process SO FREAKING ANNOYING for everyone.

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

4 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Congrats Aaron! I know it hasn't always been smooth sailing, but it's been fun to see the site and writers develop over the years. Hoping for many more.

5 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Thanks to two of our originals right there... Al's the original writer for Scramble and Bruce (who runs Boston Sports Media Watch) helped out early on with Extra Points.

6 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Congrats Aaron! You are proof that good work will always be successful and recognized. I couldn't imagine following the NFL without this site, and I think about football and sports drastically differently and better because of Football Outsiders. To many, many more years.

7 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Congratulations to Aaron, many thanks to him for this site and for all the writers he has set lose upon the internet to fight the waves of stupid that constantly threaten to engulf the NFL media.

I haven't given the slightest thought to yardage based rankings of offenses and defenses in years, DVOA has taken over for me and football makes more sense as a result.

Viewing the NFL from the UK I can say that without this site I'd be reduced to discussing the NFL on SB Nation and my brain would probably melt. Three cheers for FO!

9 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

I came across FO about 8 year ago, when someone on a fan message board was dissecting how awful FO's predictions had been and how clueless they were. WHen I read predictions and based of stats...my eyes lit up and I clicked my way to the site. Naturally...at the time, DVOA was a scary concept and so it took some time to sit down and read it through. By the end, FO had become THE SITE for football for me. It's amazing how well its matured and developed and I especially also love the other commenters who come here too. In a sense, we've become a kind of unofficial brotherhood of football aficionados where Footballoutsiders is our meeting ground.

Congratulations and we do all appreciate it very much.

10 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Congratulations Football Outsiders and Aaron Schatz!

As a long time reader and former game charter, I'd like to recognize FO for expanding my football intellect and making the game much more interesting. Thank you.

11 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Thanks Aaron and Congrats.

But I think you left two important events off the timeline (and I don't know them, so could you fill them in).

- first appearance of Catholic Match Girl
- first comment by RaiderJoe.

Both as important as that other fluff you put up there.

12 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Among the important events not mentioned in Aaron's fine list is the birth and glorious career of robo-punter in May 2006, which thread convinced me that FO was home to a community with a intelligence-humor combination rarely equaled.

Congratulations, FO! And thank you.

13 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Congratulations, as another UK based reader I'm just happy to have a site to read analysis about the sport rather than players as celebrities. There have been a number of columns here that I've sent link to friends to try to get them to see why I find this kind of Football so interesting.

I'm also with Karl in finding the community you've got here to be fun without being juvenile, things like the zlionsfan template and the whole robo-punter thread just wouldn't happen elsewhere.

Thanks, and I hope to still be reading 10 and more years from now.

14 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Congratulations Aaron. Wow. Can't believe it's been this long. Have to say many thanks for the site, statistical explanations, and football applications. Wouldn't have been able to slough through my stats classes without it.

15 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us


I can't say I've been here from the start but ever since I stumbled upon you guys this has been my go to site for top of the line football anaylsis and even when its not here - its often people who have formerly been here like Doug and Tanier.

16 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Congratulations for the 10th anniversary.

I've been around here since 2005, when I bought Pro Football Prospectus 2005. Always wanted to learn the game, and always looked for some cutting edge analysis which was already common in baseball then. Your book and this site fulfilled my wish, and it still does.

As a football fan living outside US, I can't imagine how I come to understand the game better without FO. Your annual book is my personal 'Most anticipating book of the year' for 8 straight years, hands down.

Thanks for everything you guys have done, and hopefully this runs of excellence continues for a long time.

17 Thank you

I've never written for the site, but I feel like I owe much of my career to FO as well. You gave me the hooks to hang my analysis of the Manning-era Colts on. Thanks for being a voice of reason in a din of insanity.

Here's to ten more.

20 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Congrats to the site. I've learned a ton about football, satisfied my baseball nerd side's love of stats, and laughed at Tanier's writings.

21 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Congrats! You (and your alumni) are literally the only reason I haven't been able to quit following the NFL to protest their treatment of concussions (you haven't kept me from quitting college football for their treatment of labor). I pretty much won't click any football link that isn't here or to someone who used to write here.

22 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Have been reading since 2005 I think, another Brit here as well (although one now living in Hong Kong), just received an email to say my PFP 2013 has been shipped, this is my wife's least favourite time of the year, as she will lose me to 'that bloody geeky book', as she calls it

Just wanted to say thanks, can't wait for the Walkthrough book as well

24 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Thanks, Aaron, for bringing me years of a better way to enjoy football. I remember the first time I visited the site, and was thrilled that there was finally a forum to read about and discuss the sport that went far beyond the usual tiresome nonsense. It's only gotten better. Congratulations.

26 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

I don't think I was here from the very beginning, but I have been here certainly from before SB39. Can't believe it's been that long already.

Basically echoing what everyone else has said. It's great to have a place for intelligent analysis and a place that has developed the best football commentariat around.

30 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Also, whatever happened to the FO podcast? Fantasy or otherwise?? I think you would be great when not cutting off Simmons all the time... -Jere

32 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

I remember stumbling across the site, I believe via a link from Brad Evans in a fantasy article, and immediately being in love with the idea of being able to go to a football site and read about football instead of the then-unfolding Michael Vick dogfighting case.

Being a skeptic, I was always drawn toward analytical approaches to sports, so the site was a perfect fit for me.

I'm glad you pointed out how you have launched so many football writers. Truly the most consistently impressive part of this site to me has been your ability to find excellent writers again and again. There are lots of sites that do interesting football numbers work that are completely unreadable, but FO is a joy to read, and I think that is your finest accomplishment.

Congratulations and here is hoping for continued success!

33 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Congratulations. I've been following you since the 1st season. You owe my bosses many lost work hours and later, after I started doing my own business, many hours of my free time.

Keep up the great work, it's been a blast. And thanks for developing a reader base that adds intelligent discussion to the fine articles.

34 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Congratulations, Aaron. And congratulations to the other people who've written for the site, whether or not you're still here.

Thanks to Gregg Easterbrook for pointing me here originally. It's good to know that folks like him and Peter King will continue to say nice things about the book and the site.

And thanks to everyone who makes the comments what they are. Without FO, it would be easy to forget that even teams I dislike have good fans who I can carry on good conversations with.

Here's to celebrating the 20th anniversary, even if we need to get there one day at a time.

35 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Congratulations to Aaron and the FO staff! I've been a loyal reader since 2006 and can't imagine going through the season without your analysis: the weekly FO rhythm of Audibles, Quick Reads, DVOA, and the rest is as much or more fun than watching the games on Sunday. You guys do a fantastic job, and I hope you keep it up and continue to get the more mainstream attention you deserve. Here's to ten more years!

36 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Congrats, Aaron. It's amazing how the site and the FO presence has grown over the years. And while those Schatz-MDS-Tanier times remain my personal favorite, the content over the past couple of seasons has never been better.

FWIW, it was the New York Times Magazine's "Year in Ideas" 2003 edition that initially brought FO to my attention.

37 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Congrats, Aaron. It's amazing how the site and the FO presence has grown over the years. And while those Schatz-MDS-Tanier times remain my personal favorite, the content over the past couple of seasons has never been better.

FWIW, it was the New York Times Magazine's "Year in Ideas" 2003 edition that initially brought FO to my attention.

39 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Well, I think the duplicated comments above are a good reminder of how badly that back-end code and server upgrade is needed around here, sigh...

40 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Thanks to the FO team, past and present.

Thanks to all the commenters who have been engaging in debate here for a decade. That discourse is what keeps me here. This might be the only site on the interwebs that is worth leaving comments on.

41 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Wow, this makes me feel old. I discovered this site while looking for TMQ during his brief time in the desert. I never would have guessed that was 10 years ago. I stopped reading TMQ a long time ago, but I've stuck with FO. It's the best sports site on the internet, in my opinion.

And I'll second those who have said that FO really should be proud of its message boards. Creating an atmosphere that encourages civil discussion on the internet is a very rare accomplishment. The ROBO-PUNTER thread (which I can proudly say I participated in) would never happen on any other site.

42 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Congrats to Aaron and FO on 10 great years. I've been reading and commenting on this site since the TMQ link, and I've learned a ton about football (and from Tanier, about life as well). I'd also like to congratulate Aaron on leading the wave of advanced football analysis along with guys like Brian Burke and the old Pro Football Reference blog crew, and for gaining mainstream attention for stat-based analysis from guys like Bill Simmons.

Finally, I'd like to congratulate the FO commenter community for creating one of the most intelligent, rational, and educated forums for NFL fans anywhere.

43 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Aaron - Congratulations and Thanks to you and all the other great writers who've been involved in putting together the best football site in the world.

Thanks to the readers providing fantastic viewpoints on a team by team level that you can't find anywhere else.

I can't believe Raiderjoe's first comment on the message boards isn't listed on other important events in FO history.

55 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

I have to admit that the irrational Vikings fan in me hugely enjoyed the run-up to the playoffs in 2011, when the "Ted Thompson makes Steve Hawking look like a shoe repairman" crowd, with foam rubber cheese on their noggins, came forth. Short of a miracle, and the confetti falling on joyful horned heads one day, I suspect the Giants winning in Lambeau that January will remain a favorite playoff memory. I know this does not speak well of me, alas.

66 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

That's ok, Will. Gary Anderson's missed FG in the NFC Championship against Atlanta and subsequent collapse of the Vikings in OT remains a guilty pleasure of mine, so we're even.

And Aaron (and the rest of the culprits who got me hooked on this site), Congrats on a fantastic 10 years.

68 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Eh, that loss is a mere pinprick compared to the gaping wound left by kicking the snot out the Saints up and down their field for 4 quarters, only to fumble the game into overtime, with a little late assistance from Stubbleface, who actually greatly outplayed Brees that afternoon. I'll never get over that one.

44 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

I started watching American football somewhat seriously during the 2002-2003 season, as yet another British expat spending a lot of time socializing in American bars. Prior to that point I had been vaguely aware that the sport involved large men running into each other, and afterwards I was certain of the fact. Eventually, a desire to figure out the difference between run plays and pass plays led me to TMQ, at around the same time Easterbrook first linked to FO, and so it is that pretty much my entire understanding (such as it may be) and appreciation of the game stems from this site's excellent writing and analysis. Congratulations to all involved, and here's to many more years of success.

45 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Congrats! Been coming here since almost the beginning. "Establishment Clause" hooked me, the non-idiotic comment section kept me coming back.

46 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us


I'm late-arriving to the party (midway through 2010 season), but it has been worth coming and worth staying.

47 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Holy Moses! You guys are, like, really old! For the better part of ten years most of my pop culture references have come via FO (now they come from my embarrassed 12 year-old). Wow, in those early years did this Colts fan feel like road kill at a buzzard family reunion when discussing Colts/Pats on the message boards. But the great thing was, everybody was pretty smart and fairly rational and the debates actually WENT somewhere, as opposed to schoolyard name-calling. (The ugly flip-side is that I was often up past two a.m. debating and had to get up in fours hours for work... ugh.) And Aaron, thanks for calming the waters back then, saying (as a Pats fan and the site boss) "hey, this Manning guy is pretty darn good, you know...."

Did I say folks were smart? Well, there WAS that guy in '04 or so who used to threaten to meet those he disagreed with at bars and pummel them. Not sure anybody actually showed up. Strange, but I don't think he's been around in a while... Probably running a Fortune 500 company and too busy for FO. That or jail. Either way, he's got other stuff on his plate. But I digress...

Congrats to Aaron and crew.

53 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Adding to the accolades and congratulations. I've been reading since the first TMQ mention, and it says a lot about this site that it introduced me to not only some of my favorite football writers, but my favorite sports writers, period. The NFL and sports media worlds would be less fun and less intelligent without FO's influence over the past decade.

I *do* miss the heyday of the Brady-Manning Irrational Thread, though . . .

56 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us


I've been following the site since 2005 and I can say that it probably had the biggest impact on me becoming an NFL fan. I'm a stats geek and it wasn't until I found FO that the NFL really "clicked" with me.

57 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

I still have my signed copy of '05 from your (near)Dallas signing stop. While the digital copies are convenient in so many ways, they do lose out in that regard.

59 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Congrats, and THANK YOU for all the good stuff!!

I got started when looking for a fantasy football magazine in Barnes and Noble, and this THICK-AS-HELL phone book with NO PHOTOS OR FANCY GRAPHICS caught my eyes. I really loved those articles in the beginning (and I really miss them in the current version). Anyway, bought the book, and hid in the bathroom for 6 hours straight until my wife wondered what happened to me.

Oh I forgot to say I made mucho money from that first book! That year you liked the Seahawks, so I went to ticketreserve.com and bought 2 super bowl futures for $32 each (one of my proudest moments), then sold them right before the NFC Championship game for like $800 each :> (I wished I had held onto them and gone to the Super Bowl though...)

The next year I joined the office pool and came 1st out of 120 people. I chalked that up to footballoutsiders too! You made me $2000 bucks!! :>

Then I went from fantasy wimpy kid to super mario, i chalk that up to you too!

Enough bragging. Just really thankful for your funny & excellent reporting. You are the reason I dream about quitting and joining some NFL team as a stats geek.

61 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Another Easterbrook referral. You've done good, Aaron.

I was going to make a snarky comment about ego inflation,
but you beat me to the punch.

69 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Hi. Another uk reader here. Found my way here via a comment made by Mike Carlson (our Tanier). Love the throwback web design and the strong community, here's to another 10 years!!

73 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Congrats all... including the 72 notes above representing the best comment-strings on the web (certainly of any sports site).

I'm almost embarrassed to admit glossing over the TMQ and PKing links for years, before finally coming over to check out the 2006 or 07 Prospectus that Simmons was pimping as required pre-season reading.


74 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Feliz Cumpleanos, Football Outsiders! I have to credit Gregg Easterbrook for directing me to this site as well. TMQ may have become bloated and repetitive, but it was a pioneer in presenting new ideas and humor to football writing. I know that everyone hopes to cash in, but I hope that FO avoids the Disney/ FOXification disease, or at least doesn't sell out to Facebook.

76 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

Herzlichen Glueckwunsch und alles Gute fuer die Zukunft!
Another stroke at 'Easterbrook escape passer-by' on the tally sheet for me. All I can add to this thread is to note that the last three almanacs were at my home within one week of publication, even the one that was sent from New Zealand. I guess that speaks to your importance in the book market at least as much as to modern publishing methods.

77 Re: Happy 10th Anniversary to Us

I'm a bit late to the party on this (been backpacking in Canada for a few weeks), but congrats. And thank you. I wasn't one of those first 738, but I suspect I wasn't too far behind. Reading about those halcyon days of MDS, Tanier, Jason B, TMQ, and Robo-punter has brought a smile to my face today. I've never hesitated to be critical over some of the details (Me? Nah!) but in the big picture, the site and the community it has spawned are unrivaled anywhere. So once again, thank you.