The following is a quick peek into my football related bookmarks…
Ask Vic column at Jaguars.com - It’s rare to find candid commentary on an official team website, but Ask Vic is exactly that. The idea is brilliant: an old curmudgeon football guy writing an online column in a wired age far removed from his old-school roots. Although ostensibly a Jaguars Q&A column, the focus of the articles tends to drift away from the Jaguars and spend a lot of time on general NFL topics. Common themes include the ‘70s Steelers, running and stopping the run, intricacies of the salary cap era, building through the draft, Vic’s disdain of newfangled things like video games and fantasy football, lots of old players that today’s young fans have never heard of, quality of the hot dogs in various teams’ press booths, and many more. I don’t doubt that Vic hams up the cranky old pigskin writer role a bit for effect, but there’s an undeniable character there that makes it a favorite of NFL fans, not just Jaguar fans.
ProFootballTalk.com’s Rumor Mill - This has been a very interesting site to watch over the past few years. It has become a forum for leaked stories from league insiders, the kind of stuff that rarely ends up in an official press release. Although some stories end up being firmly the stuff of rumor, a lot of real stories end up breaking here long before the “real media” gets on them. The Vick dogfighting story, for example, was tracked there for weeks before anyone else started even whispering about it. The real value, though, are the NFL insider rumblings that never turn into substantiated reports. Despite the “dirty laundry” type of content that is often a staple of the blog, the site manages to maintain a light tone thanks to a self-deprecating quality. The reports aren’t always correct, but they’re right more often than they should be, and they’re always a good read either way.
FFMastermind’s NFL Quick Bits - FFMastermind has been around since 1996, and frankly the site looks almost the same as it did back then. FFMastermind.com offers a lot of premium fantasy football content, but the wonderful NFL Quick Bits page is free and has been a staple of my bookmarks for over a decade now. Despite the complete lack of technical progress (it’s just a big fat heap of static content, no RSS feed to be found), it’s still the best collection of one-stop NFL news around. All of the stories that appear in a team’s local press clippings end up collected on this page. It makes it easy to keep up on the kind of news that local beat writers dig up, without having to actually follow 32 different local newspapers' sports sections. Did you know who Marques Colston was before last season started, and were you aware he was the team’s starting WR2? I was, and it was thanks to the reports that local Saints writers wrote, which ended up being quoted on NFL Quick Bits.
Football Outsiders is really a gem. In an Internet era of everyone echoing everyone else’s content and calling it “news”, it’s rare to see a site doing the kind of unique, original content that Football Outsiders does. From their “Play of the Day” breakdown of specific NFL plays (the kind of actual X’s and O’s breakdown that is nearly impossible to find online), to their deep statistical analyses (some of which may be of questionable value, but all of which are highly interesting), to some slightly more traditional NFL and fantasy football breakdowns, Football Outsiders is just brilliant. It’s the kind of in-depth football content that nobody else is out there providing. These guys also put out the annual Pro Football Prospectus publication, which I ordered for the first time this year. I can’t wait to get my hands on it.
Dr. Z’s NFL Mailbag - A lot of NFL writers are total hacks. Paul Zimmerman, however, is one of the truly knowledgeable ones. His NFL Mailbag is somewhat similar to Ask Vic, if a bit overly wordy. Pretty much all of Dr. Z’s columns take 3 pages to say what should fit into 1, but the content that is there is usually worth the digging.
Pat Kirwan at NFL.com - Another NFL writer worth reading. Kirwan is excellent on SIRIUS NFL Radio, and he’s great on NFL.com as well. His coaching & front office background shines through in his league knowledge, and he provides a nice perspective on current situations that goes above just re-telling the daily league news.
Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback - This column doesn’t get archived into its own page, so the link goes to King’s entire SI.com archive. Thankfully, King has some good stories outside of MMQ, but be sure to check out MMQ every Monday.
Gregg Easterbrook’s Tuesday Morning Quarterback - ESPN.com fares no better than SI.com in organizing content, so here too is a link to an archive of all Gregg Easterbrook writings at ESPN.com. It works out better here, though, as TMQ is basically all Easterbrook does. :) TMQ is a more humorous take on the week in football, sneaking in a bit of insight wrapped in all that irreverent chatter.
No direct link for this one since it’s part of a premium service, but the training camp reports at FootballInjuries.com are my top source of information during July and August. They are wonderful, “boots on the ground” detailed reports of what is going on at all 32 NFL training camps. During the season, the service is also the best source of injury information, letting you know exactly how much a particular player participated (or didn’t participate) in each practice session of the week. A great deal of the site’s content is fantasy related, and although I’m not a big fan of their player rankings (partner site FantasyGuru.com is much better in this regard, IMO), I do find great value in their ADP (Average Draft Position) reports, incorporating that information into my personal fantasy draft sheets.
NFL Draft Countdown - From February through April, this is the place to be. Best draft info you can get without paying out the nose for a premium service.
Finally, this site isn’t for reading, but pro-football-reference.com is an excellent one-stop source of stats, standings, Pro Bowl rosters, etc, going as far back as 1920. Defensive stats, sadly, only go back to 2002, which may be a function of the puzzling approach the NFL takes toward defensive stats (sacks weren’t an official stat until 1982, and tackles are still not an official stat). Outside of that, this is a fantastic reference site, and something I constantly refer to.
Anything I missed?