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Mike Florio Is Busy Even During The Slow Times

“I still try to get them to pay attention to the issues associated with off-field misbehavior. That often causes some to ask whether I have a problem with the league I cover for a living.”

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Mike Florio has been covering the NFL for 20 plus years. He does phenomenal work with his daily show PFT Live and his website, ProFootballTalk.com continues to be the source of tremendous content.

Mike Florio’s path should be a source of inspiration for us all. After working with ESPN for less than a year, Mike started his own digital platform and would Trojan Horse his way into national relevancy. The best part is that it worked. 

His background in law also helps him cover the ever-controversial NFL through a lens that’s unique from others in the sports media. Mike has also found himself smack dab in the middle of America’s favorite Sunday NFL pregame show, Football Night in America on NBC. 

His journey and perspective on a league that gobbles up the majority of our headlines has now been covered in great detail in his newest book, Playmakers: How the NFL Really Works (And Doesn’t). I discuss that venture, NFL scandals, and how he got started in the industry in this Q&A with PFT Live’s, Mike Florio. 

Brandon Kravitz: What has the NFL done to create this Teflon coating? As you point out in your book, TV networks are paying more and more for NFL rights, despite countless scandals.

Mike Florio: The fans disconnect the scandals from the game. No matter what happens, people continue to watch live NFL action like nothing else. As consumption habits continue to splinter, the NFL continues to prove its ability to pull 20 to 30 million people together simultaneously, multiple times per week.

It’s even easier to get fans to look past the scandals during football season. A bright, shiny object is never more than two days away, pushing any drama aside and replacing it with a football game that many want to watch and/or bet on.

Is there a scandal that would get fans to not watch? Maybe, especially if it went to the heart of the integrity of the game. Even then, the impact possibly would be temporary. The league would say whatever it had to say, do whatever it had to do, and the stream of bright, shiny objects would make everyone forget.

BK: Does it ever bother you on a personal level how much fans are able to overlook the transgressions of their favorite teams/players?

MF: I’m not bothered that fans are able to overlook it. I still try to get them to pay attention to the issues associated with off-field misbehavior. That often causes some to ask whether I have a problem with the league I cover for a living.

I don’t have a problem with the league itself. I have a problem at times with the people who are running it, the stewards of the sport.

I became brainwashed by the mythology created by NFL Films as a kid in the early 1970s. I put the NFL on a pedestal, as a shining example of American excellence. That kid has grown up (mostly), and he expects them to live up to the image they created. 

BK: Does it amaze you sometimes to think about how much the coverage of the NFL has changed over the years? This has truly become a 12-month sport, and it wasn’t always like that.

MF: The arrival of (mostly) true free agency and a (mostly) hard salary cap created a much more compelling offseason than the league ever had. By the time I got into the business 20 years ago, the NFL had become a sport that generates news and interest for most of the year. It seems to attract even more attention today, even during the slow times. On very few occasions when I sit down to write a blurb for PFT, I find little if anything to write about or discuss.

BK: What do you make of all the movement we’ve seen from the networks in terms of play-by-play and color analyst, and the money these broadcasters are now pulling in to call games? Is it worth it, in the end, to pay play-by-play announcers north of 10 million a year?

MF: It started with Tony Romo and CBS. Some would try to brush that off as an aberration, but when the rest of the market moved in the same direction, it wasn’t. With the ongoing influx of gambling money, it will continue. That said, no one watches a game because of the announcers. Certain announcers, however, make the game feel bigger. The more money that the announcers make, and the more everyone knows about the money they’re making, the bigger the game will feel.

For some in sports media who are now making money that seems objectively obscene, and I have no problem with that development, making sure everyone knows how much money is being made becomes a marketing tool of sorts. “Hey, if we’re paying so-and-so ‘X’ million dollars per year, then so-and-so must be great, so if you don’t tune in, you’re really missing out.”

I also think the league expects the networks to spend the money necessary to create that vibe, even if Rams owner Stan Kroenke may not have been thrilled that Amazon provided Rams coach Sean McVay with the kind of leverage that forced Kroenke to dramatically increase McVay’s pay.

BK: When you started doing PFT Live, what was your vision for the show and how has that shifted over time?

MF: PFT Live launched in 2011, as a digital-only production of NBCSports.com. It started at noon ET and lasted roughly an hour, and some of the clips would land at our web destination, ProFootballTalk.com.

It changed when NBC Sports Radio offered to make it a three-hour show. We continued to stream the video of the first hour. After a year, the show moved to the 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. ET slot and we persuaded NBC to televise two hours of it. When Westwood One shut down NBC Sports Radio in early 2020, the show became primarily a TV vehicle with a SiriusXM 85 simulcast. A lot of the viewership continues to come from clips of the slow that are embedded into stories posted on the PFT website since our traffic at PFT continues to grow.

The vision for the show has always been the same: to talk about the news of the day in a candid, honest, smart (hopefully), thought-provoking, and entertaining way, and to periodically have some interesting interviews.

When we added Chris Simms in 2017 as a co-host, the show began to evolve. We instantly had great chemistry. Our styles and approaches and backgrounds complement each other very well. We don’t create phony debates. We agree most of the time, and we talk through most of our disagreements in order to find a middle ground. We rarely have a serious disagreement. When we do, it’s memorable — and it makes some of our friends and family members wonder whether we’re actually mad at each other. We never are.

BK: What do you miss about traditional terrestrial radio that you don’t get from your PFT Live show?

MF: I don’t miss long breaks and hard outs, that’s for sure. PFT Live currently has seven segments spread over two hours. Some mornings, we’ll stretch the first segment for nearly a full hour, without a break. That kind of loose, open-ended format has resulted in some very meaningful conversations and discussions as to the top stories of any given day since there’s no urgency to take a break.

We also have become a little looser with our language, since we’re not on any FCC-regulated platforms. The censors at Sky Sports in the UK may not appreciate that. Our show airs there later in the day. Sometimes they’ll bleep words that shouldn’t have been bleeped. Sometimes they’ll fail to bleep words that definitely should have been.

Also, instead of three straight hours in the morning, we now split the day into two hours early and one hour in the late afternoon. Having that 5:00 p.m. ET window for PFTPM often can be very useful, given the amount of NFL news that often breaks after we wrap the morning show.

Still, I enjoyed knowing that people who were driving in their cars and who didn’t have satellite radio could listen to the show. I’d hear from truckers on the West Coast who’d listen to the show at 3:00 a.m. local time. Under the right circumstances, I’d be interested in another terrestrial radio show. However, removing all those long breaks from the equation has helped improve the quality of the show. It would be a challenge to return to segments that range from only seven minutes to 15 minutes.

BK: What piece of advice would you give to an aspiring sports broadcaster, who’s just looking to get their foot in the door? What should be their first move?

MF: My experience was unique. I developed a digital platform, and I started doing free radio spots anywhere and everywhere I could, since making your brand part of the content is much more effective than any advertising that ever could be purchased. I did spot after spot after spot after spot, with the goal of getting more people to visit PFT. Eventually, I decided to start asking the stations that were having me on regularly to pay me for those spots. I thought they’d all say no, but almost everyone said yes.

I never would have developed any sort of hosting skills in broadcasting if Dan Patrick hadn’t made me a regular guest on his show starting around 2007 and then trusted me to guest host during a vacation week in 2010. I remember getting the call. “Dan’s off next week, and we were wondering if you would do the show,” they said. “Sure,” I replied, “just give the guest host my number and let me know when the spot will be.” A few seconds of silence. “No, you’re the guest host.” 

I freaked out, I was overprepared, and I got myself twisted up several times during the first effort. I also learned the hard way that the hard break means you don’t stop talking until the music bed begins to play. I tried to throw to break at the end of the first hour of the show, proud of the fact that I’d gotten out with a minute to spare, like a department head coming in under budget.

The engineer said to me, “Um, you have to keep going.” I was more rattled than Chris Rock after the slap. But it was a learning experience. Through more and more experiences (fortunately, few like that one), more and more lessons were learned. That’s the key for anyone who (like me) isn’t naturally skilled at this. Get reps. Get reps. Get reps. You’ll eventually be as good as you possibly can be. You may end up being better than you ever thought you could be.

BSM Writers

Colorado Hiring Deion Sanders Will Be Constant Gift for College Football Media

“If Coach Prime achieves the same sort of success that he did with the Tigers, he will be far more than a curiosity. Sanders will be a disruptor.”

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Deion Sanders quickly made it clear why the University of Colorado chose him to be its next head football coach.

Coming off a weekend in which the four College Football Playoff teams were announced and all of the other bowl-eligible teams accepted their invitations, Colorado — which went 1-11 this past season — made news for hiring Sanders, the former NFL star who was phenomenally successful at Jackson State.

The media that covers college football and sports as a whole should be thrilled that the Buffaloes program decided to take a big leap for attention and notoriety. Sanders is a bold, risky hire. But he’s also been successful in virtually every venture he’s taken. “Primetime” had a Hall of Fame NFL career and also played Major League Baseball. And he’s a master at drawing attention to himself.

During his first meeting with his new team, Sanders made sure to mention that he has Louis Vuitton luggage to make the point that some of his Jackson State players are coming with him to Boulder — including his son, quarterback Shadeur Sanders. Nick Saban and Kirby Smart probably don’t cite luxury fashion when explaining to their players that they’ll have to compete for starting positions.

Coach Prime will not be boring to cover. (That self-appointed “Coach Prime” title, which was on his name plate at his introductory press conference, is a big clue there.) He never has been. This is a man who said during the 1989 NFL Draft, after being selected No. 5 overall by the Atlanta Falcons, that if the Detroit Lions had selected him at No. 3, he “would’ve asked for so much money, they’d have had to put me on layaway.”

Even if he doesn’t win as much as Colorado hopes, Sanders will pursue top talent — players who want to perform on a larger stage than the FCS-level Jackson State allows — and impact athletes will be attracted to him. He got the No. 1 recruit in the nation, cornerback and wide receiver Travis Hunter, to play for him. (Hunter is following his coach to Boulder.) Now that Sanders is at an FBS school in a Power 5 conference, more stars will surely come.

But if Coach Prime achieves the same sort of success that he did with the Tigers — going 27-5 in three seasons, including a 12-0 campaign in 2022 — he will be far more than a curiosity. Sanders will be a disruptor. And he’ll get the attention that such figures typically draw from media and fans. According to the Denver Post‘s Sean Keeler, at least 400 people attended what felt more like a celebration than a press conference.

Coach Prime wasn’t going to just win the press conference, which is what any school and fanbase want when a new coach is introduced.

If Colorado wanted someone to sit at a podium, and give platitudes like “We want to win the Pac-12 and get to the College Football Playoff,” “We’re going to build a program with young men you’ll be proud of,” or “It’s time to restore Colorado to the football glory we remember,” Sanders isn’t the guy for that.

“Do I look like a man that worries about anything? Did you see the way I walked in here? Did you see the swagger that was with me?” Sanders said during his introductory presser. “Worry? Baby, I am too blessed to be stressed. I have never been one for peer pressure. I put pressure on peers. I never wanted to worry, I make people worry. I don’t get down like that. I am too darn confident. That is my natural odor.”

To no surprise, Sanders announced his presence in Boulder with authority. He had cameras following him as he met with Colorado players for the first time. How many other coaches would have recorded what many would see as a private moment for posterity and post it online?

Sanders caused a stir by putting his players on notice. He warned them he was coming, telling them they’ll be pushed so hard they might quit. He told them to enter the transfer portal and go someplace else if they don’t like what he and his staff are going to do.

That candor, that brutal honesty surprised many fans and media when they saw it Monday morning. For some, that message might have felt too familiar. How many in media — or many other industries — have worried about their job status when a new boss takes over? What may have seemed secure days earlier is now uncertain.

But how do we know other coaches haven’t said something similar when taking over at a new job and addressing their team? We just hadn’t seen it before. But Sanders has been in the media. He knows social media. He understands controlling his own message and telling his story.

Sanders also knows what kind of value he brings to any venture he takes on. How many people would have left an NFL Network gig for Barstool Sports? But Sanders went to where his star would shine, where he was the main show, where he could be Deion Sanders. Maybe he’ll have to turn that down just a bit at Colorado. But athletic director Rick George knows who he hired.

Colorado could have made a safer choice, including previous head coaches Tom Herman, Bronco Mendenhall, or Gary Patterson. A top assistant from one of this year’s Playoff contenders — such as Georgia’s Todd Monken, USC’s Alex Grinch, Alabama’s Bill O’Brien, or Michigan’s Sherrone Moore — could also have been an option.

But what fun would that have been? What kind of tremor would Colorado have created in the college football news cycle? How much attention would a more conventional hire have received? Yes, Sanders has to recruit and win. However, if the objective was to make Colorado football a talking point again, that’s been accomplished.

There could be some friction too. Sanders has already been criticized for being a champion of HBCUs, only to bolt for a mainstream Power 5 program when the opportunity opened. (To be fair, other columnists have defended the move.)

At Jackson State, Sanders tried to control local media when he didn’t like how reporters were addressing him or covering a story. Last year during Southwestern Athletic Conference Media Day, he balked at a Clarion-Ledger reporter addressing him as “Deion,” not “Coach,” insisting that Nick Saban would’ve been shown that respect. Earlier this season, Sanders admonished a school broadcaster (and assistant athletic director) for speaking to him more formally on camera than he did off-camera.

Will that fly among Boulder and Denver media, or the national college football press? It’s difficult to imagine. Maybe Sanders will ease back on his efforts to control reporters within a larger university environment, metropolitan area, and media market. But we’re also talking about Deion Sanders here. He doesn’t bend to outside forces. He makes them bend to him.

Sanders’ stint in Boulder — whether it lasts the five years of his contract and beyond, or less than that — will not be dull. There could be no better gift for the media covering Colorado football. Or college football, a sport already full of bold personalities, eccentric to unhinged fanbases, and outsized expectations. Coach Prime will fit right in.

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BSM Writers

The Media Is Finally Strong Enough To Take On The Rose Bowl

“The whole Rose Bowl organization is stuck in a black and white TV world. The future playoff is Marty McFly stepping out of a Delorean and the Rose Bowl is the Enchantment Under the Seas Dance.”

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I am a sucker for packaging. Take me to a grocery store and show me a uniquely packaged sauce or condiment or waffle syrup and I’ll give it a try just based on bottle size or design. The one packaging ploy that has vexed me is the “biggie size” at the local drive through. I’m always interested in the largest drink possible but don’t necessarily want a grain silo full of fries passed through my window. The College Football Playoff is going “biggie sized” in 2024 and I’ll take all of that I can get.

The College Football Playoff Committee made official last week what had long been speculated, that the four-team playoff field would increase to 12 teams starting with the 2024 season. This was an inevitable move for money and access reasons. The power conferences and Notre Dame stand to gain significantly in TV revenue and the “non-power” conferences finally get the consistent access they have long craved.

What may have finally pushed the new playoff over the finish line was the end of an ultimate game of chicken between college football powers and the Rose Bowl.

There is a scene from the movie The Hunt for Red October when the rogue Russian nuclear submarine is trying to avoid a torpedo from another Russian submarine. The American captain, aptly played by Scott Glenn, tells Jack Ryan; “The hard part about playing chicken is knowing when to flinch.”

The Rose Bowl finally flinched.

The only thing that delayed an earlier move to this new world was the insistence of the Rose Bowl Game to cling to the bygone era of the antiquated bowl system. Only in college football could an organization that runs a parade hold such outsized influence but, until recently, the Big Ten and PAC 12 gladly enabled their addiction to a specific television time slot.

Dan Wetzel is a Yahoo! Sports National Columnist, he also wrote the book Death to the BCS which laid out a very early argument for dumping the bowl system for a Playoff.

“The single hardest thing to explain to people is that the Rose Bowl and its obsession of having the sunset in the third quarter of its game was a serious impediment to a billion dollar playoff,” Wetzel wrote. 

Wetzel makes the point that simply moving the game up one hour would’ve helped the playoff TV schedule immensely, “They were adamant that they get to have an exclusive window on New Year’s Day, the best time of all, not only would they not give that up but they wouldn’t even move it an hour earlier (to help Playoff television scheduling) because then the sun would set at halftime.  It was so absurd but for a lot of years they got so much protection.”

We may never know what it was that finally forced the Rose Bowl to play ball with the rest of the college football world. There are many possibilities, not the least of which was the presence of SoFi Stadium just down the road. The College Football Playoff committee could have always taken the bold step of scheduling games at SoFi, in the Los Angeles market, opposite the Rose Bowl TV window to try to squeeze them out.

It is also possible the Rose Bowl scanned the landscape and realized that, if a 12-team playoff already existed, their 2023 game would’ve been Washington (10-2) versus Purdue (8-5). That shock of reality came with the understanding Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Utah and USC would enthusiastically choose a 12 team playoff bid over a Rose Bowl invite. That was the future the Rose Bowl faced with the departure of USC and UCLA to the Big Ten and the 12 team playoff gobbling up the top remaining PAC 12 teams.

I have proposed that theory to many people in the college football world and have received some version of this response from many of them: “They really wouldn’t care who is playing as long as they can still have their parade.”

That is one of the issues at play here; in many ways, the whole Rose Bowl organization is stuck in a black and white TV world. The future playoff is Marty McFly stepping out of a Delorean and the Rose Bowl is the Enchantment Under the Seas Dance.

One other possibility is that the television executives of the major networks, primarily FOX, may have put the pressure on the Big Ten and Pac 12 to have a little less interest in keeping college football stuck in the late 1970’s. It makes sense, FOX has nothing to gain by the Rose Bowl keeping influence. Fox may have everything to gain by getting a media rights cut of the future playoff. Many believe FOX was a driving force behind USC and UCLA bolting to the Big Ten. If that much is true, pressing for less Rose Bowl influence is child’s play.

No matter what was the catalyst to the expanded playoff, it worked and the fans benefited. College football is moving into a brave new world all because the college football powers finally stood up to the old man yelling at the clouds.

Turns out, it was all a game of chicken. And the Rose Bowl flinched.

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BSM Writers

Andrew Perloff Learned From The Master of Sports Radio on Television

“I think I’m really lucky because I went from a really fun and supportive place in the Dan Patrick Show and have now transitioned into what I would also call a very fun and supportive place at CBS Sports Radio/Audacy.”

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It’s a fact of life that not everybody loves their job. To have a job that you love and have fun at is pretty special. For Andrew Perloff, life is good.

“I’m just watching so much sports during the week,” said Perloff. “I don’t come up for air watching sports and I love that.  And the fact that we get paid to sit on the couch for 72 hours…oh my God…it really is the best job in the world.”

That job is being the co-host of Maggie & Perloff weekdays from 3pm to 6pm eastern time on CBS Sports Radio and simulcast on CBS Sports Network. Perloff was an on-air personality on The Dan Patrick Show beginning in 2009 before making the switch to CBS Sports Radio for the new show with Maggie Gray that launched this past January.

And so far, the move has worked out.

“I’m really happy,” said Perloff. “I think I’m really lucky because I went from a really fun and supportive place in the Dan Patrick Show and have now transitioned into what I would also call a very fun and supportive place at CBS Sports Radio/Audacy. I miss the DP Show but I love my new co-workers. (Vice President of Programming) Spike Eskin and (New York Market President) Chris Oliviero have been great. We get a lot of support and a lot of help from those guys and they’ve made the transition so much easier.”

When a new radio program begins, chemistry between the hosts is vital to the success of the growth and success of the show. In the case of Maggie & Perloff, they had an existing friendship from their time working together at Sports Illustrated. 

And that relationship is certainly evident to the listeners.

“I’m having a great time with Maggie,” said Perloff who was an editor and contributing writer at Sports Illustrated and SI.com. “We knew each other pretty well at Sports Illustrated. We’ve been friends for a while now. I have gotten to know her a lot better through the show. It took a couple of months to really find our rhythm and get the show to where we wanted to get it.”

There has been a fun and evolving dynamic to the on and off-air chemistry between the hosts.  Perloff is from Philadelphia and a die-hard Eagles fan while Gray is a fan of the Buffalo Bills.  The Eagles have the best record in the NFC at 11-1 while the Bills are among the best teams in the AFC at 9-3.

Perloff has come to understand just how much Gray loves the Bills and there is a chance that their two teams could meet come February 12th in Arizona for Super Bowl LVII.

“She’s a very passionate Buffalo Bills fan,” said Perloff.  “I always knew that, but to actually sit there on a daily basis and see her sweat out every detail about the Buffalo Bills has been a lot of fun.  We’re keeping our fingers crossed that we’re on a collision course for the Super Bowl and we’re already trying to figure out a Super Bowl bet.”

The easy wager to set up would involve food.

If the Bills win, Perloff would have to give Gray some Philly cheesesteaks.

If the Eagles win, Gray would have to furnish Perloff with some Buffalo Wings.

But it appears as if management wants there to be more at stake for the potential bet.

“Our boss wants us to do something more severe,” said Perloff. “The truth is I’m an Eagles fan so I’ve already won my Super Bowl. Maggie, on the other hand, has no idea what that feels like. I almost feel sorry for her because it’s tough being a Bills fan.

“We have a pretty big rivalry with our team because she’s a Mets fan and I’m a Phillies fan. We get along great expect for those areas.”

The Maggie & Perloff chemistry extends throughout the show and that includes producer Michael Samtur who has his own rooting interests.

Samtur is a fan of the New York Jets who are having a better-than-expected season.

“When the Jets win, I don’t want to see Mike on Monday mornings because he’s smiling so much,” said Perloff. “He’s an unbelievably cynical Jets fan…it’s hysterically funny.

“Mike is doing a great job. It’s really an all-hands-on deck show. I think we all sort of kind of wear each other’s hats at certain times.”

An added element to the show is that it is also simulcast on CBS Sports Network. If there’s one thing that Perloff learned from working with Dan Patrick — who also has a simulcast on television — is that the program is a radio show that just happens to have cameras in the studio. At the end of the day, it’s a radio show on television and not a television show on the radio.

“That’s also my philosophy,” said Perloff. “From a logistical standpoint, to do a good radio show you can’t really focus on the TV side of it. For us, the foundation of the base is to really focus on the radio show and the TV and video comes naturally after that.”

Perloff’s resume also includes writing and co-writing an assortment of magazine stories, books, and television shows while also hosting his own weekend show on NBC Sports Radio from 2016 to 2019. But it was working on The Dan Patrick Show where he learned an important aspect of being a talk show host that he continues to live by at CBS Sports Radio.

What he learned was that you just have to be yourself.

“Dan always wanted us to be authentic in the sense that don’t try to be someone you’re not,” said Perloff. “Don’t try to come up with hot takes just for the sake of hot takes. When you listen to Dan Patrick on the radio, you’re really hearing Dan. He’s not a radically different person off air.”

This is a huge time of the year for sports radio. 

The NFL’s regular season is winding down and college football is heading towards bowl season and the College Football Playoff. Throw in the NBA, college basketball, NHL, and the World Cup and there’s so much going on in the sports world to talk about. 

Perloff can’t get enough of it.

“I love it so much,” said Perloff. “College football is just huge right now. When we bring up a college football story, the phone lines just light up which I think is a reflection of the growing interest in that sport. This is the best time of the year. It’s incredible.”

As Maggie & Perloff head towards their first anniversary on the air, there are goals and expectations heading into 2023. The show has grown tremendously over the course of the first year and while that may have occurred faster than expected, the hope is that the trend continues.

“I’ve been a little surprised by how fast the audience has grown and our connection with the audience,” said Perloff. “One of the great things about The Dan Patrick Show was the community feel with the show and all of the listeners. That’s definitely growing with us and I’d like to see that really take off next year. It makes it so much more fun when you’re doing the show and everybody is along for the ride.”

It’s been a great ride so far and it should be interesting to see what happens if that ride includes an Andrew Perloff vs Maggie Gray Super Bowl matchup in February. It’s not even because the breakdown of Eagles vs Bills would be fascinating but the audience wants more.

That Super Bowl bet would certainly be intriguing.   

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