Recently the NFC East blog at ESPN has been taken over by Dan Graziano. We've been noticing that he's been linking to some of our stories here at BTB, as well as some other blogs around the Internet, including other SB Nation blogs. We always appreciate when members of the "mainstream media" (I'm beginning to hate that term) recognize and promote the job that those of us in the so-called "new media" are doing, mainly fan-centric communities and other non-professional types.
No longer are they turning their noses up at our contributions, but are now seeing that we have a lot to offer to the discussion about sports teams and leagues. So when I saw Dan linking to BTB over the last few weeks, I sent him a note letting him know I appreciated it. After that, I decided to find out more about him and what he's doing over at the NFC East blog for ESPN.
The result is the following Q&A. It's not every one's cup of tea, so if you're not interested in this type of thing, feel free to skip on by. Otherwise, check it out below.
Blogging The Boys: Give us a brief history of your sports writing and how you ended up at ESPN as the NFC East blogger
Dan Graziano: About six months after graduating college, I got a paid internship at The Palm Beach Post. It lasted four months, after which they hired me for a full-time general assignment position. In that capacity, I worked as the backup Dolphins and Marlins writer, and in doing that I learned how to cover a beat. In October 1996, they made me the Marlins beat writer. I covered the Marlins through 1999, then moved back home to New Jersey in January 2000 to cover the Yankees for The Star-Ledger. I worked there for nine years, leaving at the end of 2008, and soon after got a job as a Senior NFL Writer for AOL FanHouse. I spent two years at FanHouse as an NFL writer and online TV host across multiple sports -- MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL before FanHouse went kerplooey in March.
Having spent some time doing on-camera work for First Take and other ESPN programs over the years, I had got myself on the radar there, and so once I knew I'd be out of a job, I made sure to let folks at ESPN.com know I was looking and that theirs was the place I most wanted to be. Once Matt Mosley left, there was an opening for an NFC East blogger. I felt it was a perfect opportunity for me, given my background and location (NJ), and fortunately, after much discussion, they felt the same way.
BTB: You've been on the NFC East beat since May 18th, a little over three weeks. Have you had a chance to meet any of the NFC East team coaches or players yet?
DG: During my time covering the league for FanHouse, I traveled to many games, practices and training camps. I have met and interacted with all three head coaches except Jason Garrett, and have spoken with many players and assistant coaches on all four of the teams in the process of doing stories over the past two years.
BTB: You get to have dinner with one player, one coach, and one owner from the NFC East. Who would it be and why?
DG: Justin Tuck, because I find him both hilarious and insightful. Jason Garrett, because I know the least about him. John Mara, because no matter who I pick for the other two spots, his presence would be the best way to make sure everybody got along.
BTB: When you look at the NFC East right now, before free agency and training camp and all of that, how would you rank the four teams for the 2011 season? Who wins the NFC East, and who makes the playoffs?
DG: Man, I get this question a lot. How can anyone possibly rank the teams "before free agency and training camp and all of that?" If they all had to go into the season the way they're constructed right now, I'd say Eagles, Cowboys, Giants, Redskins, with at least two and maybe three making the playoffs. But there's no way any of the four teams will remain unchanged between now and the start of the season.
BTB: For the Cowboys to rebound from the dismal 2010 season, what else do they need to do?
DG: It's all defense for me. The secondary, of course, needs to be fixed. I think it seems pretty clear now that they'll pursue a safety in free agency, and they should do that and maybe also add a CB. I know people are worried about the pass rush and beefing up the D-line, but I think a rebound year from Anthony Spencer would address most of those concerns. And as long as Ratliff is in the middle, I don't know that their 3-4 DEs need to be a huge priority.
BTB: Do you play Fantasy Football and if so, would you give us one fantasy sleeper for each team in the East?
DG: I'm a maniacal fantasy football player. I even wrote a weekly fantasy football column last year for FanHouse, focused on trades, which are the main source of my fantasy sports obsession. I'm not sure each team has a sleeper, though. I mean, everybody knows about Dez Bryant, right? Roy Helu could be the starter in Washington, and Jeremy Maclin and Hakeem Nicks could be as productive as any WRs in the league with the right kind of health and opportunity. But those guys aren't really sleepers. I think, with the exception of Washington, the NFC East teams are all pretty well established at the offensive skill positions.
BTB: How much time per day do you spend blogging and keeping up with the blogosphere, and what would your typical day of blogging look like?
DG: I get up at 6 am and do everything I can to make use of that first hour, hour and a half while my house is quiet. Once the kids are up, I take a break to make them breakfast, help get them off to school and go for my morning run. Then I work into the late afternoon, surfing, reading, writing, mixing it up with the readers in the comments sections of my posts and/or on Twitter. Early afternoon is when I put out most of my phone calls and e-mails to sources and people who help me write with informed perspective. My goal each day has been 5 or 6 posts, some of which are links to other stories with short analysis, others of which are more like columns or my own perspective. That first hour in the morning is dedicated to my "breakfast links," which is the daily post devoted to two news story links per team. The job has a lot of variety and, by its nature, can basically be what I want it to be. But it's a slow time right now, as we all know, so I fully expect this routine to change and evolve once the labor deal gets done, the preseason starts and especially during the regular season when I'm traveling to games and other places.
BTB: What are the most fun parts of blogging, what are the most frustrating parts?
DG: I haven't encountered anything truly frustrating to this point. Maybe I'm still too new! The fun parts are the freedom to be yourself in your writing, the ability to make the blog a running conversation with readers and fans and the very basic knowledge at the heart of it all that I'm being paid to write about sports. That's always blown my mind, for 17 years and counting.
Borrowed from BTB member tdships: Assume you have 15 minutes of quality alone time at a bar in a busy, but not crowded restaurant with Stephen Jones, the Cowboys COO, Executive VP and Director of Player Personnel. Assume that a few, but not too many beverages have/are being consumed. Three questions, with a chance for related follow-up/discussion. Go. What would you say?
DG: 1. What would you be doing if your dad didn't own the Cowboys? i.e., is football really your passion or do you ever imagine what it'd be like to be doing something else?
2. We know so much about your father's personality. What's the biggest difference between his and yours?
3. How often do you and your father disagree on personnel moves, what's a specific example and who usually wins?
Thanks Dan. Appreciate the time and look forward to reading your stuff in the future.