Interview with David and Joe
By Clayton Gray
July 18th, 2011


Last week, we started a thread in our message board allowing board members a chance to ask our owners (Joe Bryant and David Dodds) questions. The topics were quite varied. We pulled some of the questions and sent them to Joe and David to be answered. Simple enough, so let's get to the answers.

From Polish Hammer: First off, how are you two?

David Dodds: Doing pretty good here. Obviously I would have liked to seen NFL labor peace earlier, but considering the number of great years we have had without strikes/lockouts it's really hard to be that frustrated. I like the reports out about what I am hearing. It sounds like the kind of deal that could give us another 10 years of labor peace. On a personal level, I have a girlfriend that is making life a lot more enjoyable. My daughter is driving now and will be a Junior in high school. She has had to deal with a lot (the death of her mother), but it's been amazing watching her blossom these last few years. I just became the owner of a Golden Retriever (named Red) who is awesome in every way. The more I think about things - I am doing a lot better than good. Doing great here.

Joe Bryant: Doing great, nice of you to ask. More evidence we have the coolest and most polite customers out there. You guys rock.

I've felt the exact same frustrations as many of you have over this labor unrest. It's been goofy on that end. Plus we have the added layer that it's our business. Losing a season is one thing. Losing your job is another. It sucks to see friends like Ian Allan's Fantasy Index Magazine lose a whole season because the owners and players couldn't get it worked out in time for the magazine deadlines in May. But hopefully we'll have this wrapped up here soon and we'll have a full regular season. It'll be far from normal though with the speed rush version of Free Agency. It's going to be wild. Other things I'm into are doing fine. The boat business is flat but rocking along. We continue to have fun with Black Eyed Joe's BBQ doing our downtown gig and also some catering stuff. My four children are ages 10-18 and each is really diving into different things from music to sports. Not many dull moments and I'm feeling very fortunate and blessed. Thank you for allowing us an opportunity to make a living this way. We obviously couldn't do it without you.

From valence: You guys are hands down the best fantasy football site on the internet, but what new features do you have planned to stay ahead of the curve?

DD: This year is kind of weird. We opted to mostly play defense in 2011 (with the NFL lockout hanging over our heads) and preserve what we have built. We have a lot of fixed costs and expect 2011 to be a down year because of the lockout. The magnitude of how far down the year in remains to be seen.

We have mapped out 14 phone/tablet apps in an all-in strategy to be the major player in mobile, but the majority of those won't be seen until 2012. They will be game-changers in this space though. For this year, we have these things that will debut: FBG Mobile 1.2, FBG Mobile Preseason, Cross-Platform Draft Dominator, Wisdom of Crowds (In-season feature where subscribers choose who they would start. These get tracked so you can get advice from the best experts, etc). We will be debuting full site search to author, player, type of article, etc (Coding has been done and are in the last phases of testing). We also will allow people to comment on all articles (Using Intense Debate) and that will happen very soon as well.

JB: Most of it won't be seen until next season but the thing David and I are most excited about is the way everything is moving at light speed toward mobile. Whether it's phones or tablets, it's an exciting area for growth and change for the way people receive and consume our content. It's a major shift though as the drastically smaller screens have us revamping everything. For years the goals were bigger and more elaborate and now a small screen is forcing conciseness and cleanness. (One can make the case those should have been the goals all along). Regardless, we see the future there.

For this year, I'm stoked about something I'm calling "Wisdom of Crowds". James Surowiecki's book of the same name fleshed a lot of that out but even intuitively, we've realized over the years the truth behind a large number of smart people putting their opinions together. I get excited because I don't think there's a group in existence any smarter than the collective wisdom of the Footballguys crowd. Our Math / Stat Wizard Dr. Doug Drinen is creating the guts of the thing. We've still got bugs to work out as to exactly how the data is gathered (and even exactly what data is gathered), but I'm really excited about the "big pictureness" of it. Harnessing the collective brainpower of you guys is going to be a beautiful thing. I'm most excited about that for this season.

From Ian F: Any plans to have PPR vs non PPR dynasty rankings? (Currently that split only exists for redraft).

DD: No plans to do that in 2011. Dynasty rankings are already so subjective that I don't think this would all that much difference in the rankings.

JB: Not this year. Although I hear what you're saying - PPR is definitely not going away. But I don't see us changing what we're offering there for this season.

From MrTwo94: How independent or closely tied are the projections from the staff members? Some numbers are far to similar for them to be 100% independent.

DD: We pretty much do our numbers independently, but we do go through the same logic. We attempt to predict what we expect the team numbers will be (past history, coaching tendencies, etc). We then fit those curves to the players and their expected roles (looking also at history of individual players). The staff also has the same tools you guys have (Projections Dominator, etc) which highlights major differences. That likely also has us all looking at major differences closely which could lead to changes.

JB: That's a great question, and it's one David and I struggle with. It applies to the staff rankings where a bunch of guys are doing rankings as well as the detailed stat projections that just a few of our staff guys do. The struggle is finding the balance between independent thinking and putting out numbers that ultimately have mine and David's name on it under the Footballguys logo. What we basically settle on is encouraging independent thought but keeping that within some guidelines. For instance, I don't think you can completely ignore historical norms. If you come to us with a set of projections and the 4 running backs total yardage is 30% more than the team has put up in the last 5 years, we'll have to talk. And a "gut feeling" isn't enough. We want every staffer to be completely able to convincingly defend every position.

With that said, the absolute last thing in the world we want is for staffers to be so gun shy of going out on a limb that they just play it safe with every player. In my opinion, that's just about as bad as throwing out wild numbers. So the key in my opinion is to have a balance. Every staffer knows they have the complete freedom to project and rank players where they truly see them. But they also understand that if they want to go out on a limb, they are going to have to support it. I think it's worked reasonably well over the years.

In a bigger picture, that same principle applies to our weekly rankings and projections. If my goal was to never receive a "these projections are terrible, there is no way this guy is going to do that" email, I could do that very easily. We'd simply always keep our projections in the "conventional wisdom" range and never go out on a limb. Nobody ever criticizes the guy who plays it safe as he stays out of the fray. But I think if we did that to our Footballguys readers, that would be like stealing your money. We owe you something better than that.

Every week, I get lots of "what is David smoking?" emails when our projections come out. The truth is we project these guys where we see them. We're not trying to win popularity contests or keep our heads down and not be noticed. We're trying to help you win your league. If that means we have a player ranked out of the conventional wisdom, so be it. We saw that last year multiple times. One subscriber even cancelled his subscription over how highly we had Mike Vick ranked early in the year. It wasn't popular to have him at the top early. But it turned out to be right. Of course we miss guys too. Sometimes we rank guys highly or way low and it's not popular. And we're wrong and then I really hear it. That's the nature of this business. What our pledge to you though is that we'll continue to project these guys where we see them and not let the pressures of conventional wisdom rob you of what we really think on a guy. Right or wrong, that's how we'll do it.

From Captain Hook: When is there going to be announcements regarding the FBG Players Contest - other leagues at FFPC are already taking signups but I haven't seen anything about your contest.

DD: The second the CBA is a go, we will announce this. We opted not to announce it yet, because at $350 (or 3 teams for a $1,000), providing refunds would be extremely costly (we would eat the credit card transaction). And even though we were always quite confident a deal would get done, we weren't sure when we should start drafts. Last year we started drafts on August 1st. This year's start date will depend on when we think most of the free agents are signed. This event is a go though. We will announce the guaranteed prize pool and all the details as soon as we can.

JB: Absolutely. The FBG Players Championship was a huge bright spot for 2010 and we expect 2011 to be even better. We've simply been waiting on the CBA to get finalized and know that everything is in place before we start taking money. We couldn't be more stoked about this for 2011 and building on the 2010 season.

From Tchula: Is Rodgers a QB you will be avoiding due to concerns over his concussions? Also, why is Brady ranked so highly among QBs? NE has done nothing to improve their WR corps, and seem to want to run the ball more as indicated by their drafting two RBs.

DD: I think Rodgers is the best fantasy QB in the game. I likely won't be drafting him though because the price for a top 3 QB is usually too high a price to pay for my particular drafting strategy. I think Brady is slotted correctly. The Patriots got two TEs involved in last year and I expect bigger things from both of those players. I also think the Patriots will make a move for a veteran WR once free agency opens up. Their line continues to improve and I suspect we will see Brady air it a bit more after averaging 7.9 yards per attempt (and throwing 36 TDs against just 4 interceptions) in 2010 despite Deion Branch and a less than 100% Wes Welker being their main weapons. Brady looks like a solid value pick to me in 2011.

JB: I won't say the concussions are no worry at all. History has shown that once a player has a concussion, future worries are justified. But I'll also say this isn't a significant worry for me with Rodgers. I absolutely love everything I'm seeing out of this guy and think he's got a chance to put himself way up the chain among great QBs. Obviously, he's got to do it for many more years to get into that company but what I'm seeing thus far, I love. The trouble with him is that virtually everyone else thinks the same thing. There is just no way he'll be available at a value in leagues this year. I'd rather take a less heralded guy at a much better value. Plus, it's the "show me multiple years of doing this" thing I mentioned earlier. As great as Rodgers is, he doesn't have the track record yet. Which leads to your second question - Tom Brady does have that track record. I feel confident the Patriots will address their WR situation and we'll see Brady at the top tier again. He's shown repeatedly he can do it with a variety of supporting casts.

From comfortably numb: With many leagues and commissioners taking advantage of the FF community, what part (if any) do you think FBG should take to help the fellow FBG community be aware of the potential dangers of signing up for leagues either started or endorsed by members of the community.

DD: This is a hard one. Companies like WCOFF had a history of paying out prize money on time, but have now failed to do that regarding the 2010 winners. It's a serious thing (companies defrauding players), and unfortunately the players don't have a lot of recourse. They can sue, but when you are owed a few thousand that also is a losing proposition.

It's the main reason we created the Footballguys Players Championship. We fully escrow the ENTIRE PRIZE POOL. Our friends at the FFPC also escrow prizes for their contests. I can't play in the FBG contest so all my high stakes dollars will be with the FFPC in 2011. There just aren't that many other contests that we feel comfortable endorsing here. Most won't escrow their prize pool. Many have defaulted on players in the past. Some have prize pools that seem entirely too lofty based on expected sales, etc. My advice would be to play in the Footballguys Players Championship or FFPC for medium and high stakes and then just play with friends for everything else.

JB: I've struggled with this on our message boards. A few years ago the AFFL troubles were aired in the Shark Pool forum where we try to keep the content tightly focused on player news, opinion and strategy. I moved the thread over to Looking For Leagues forum as I didn't want the Shark Pool to be the place for "Company XXXX sucks" stuff. What I realized is that a lot of people rely on the Shark Pool for information about all things fantasy football related. So I've changed my stance on that and now we allow the Shark Pool to be a place where people can discuss stuff like this as long as they can be cool. I don't want a zillion "Company XXXX's servers are down and they suck" threads. But there is also great value in the community talking. So to answer the question, I believe that whether we like it or not, the Shark Pool forum (and Footballguys.com by definition) has become a part of helping get the word out.

These contests have become all about credibility. That's why we escrow the entire prize pool for our FBG Players Championship. We don't get into a "Football signups help pay the Baseball prizes" thing. Your money is right there and stays there until the contest is over and then it goes to you quickly.

From Stinkin Ref: Is there a way to give even more of the "from the gut" type of stuff? I know you usually do one "from the gut" article before the season, but honestly it is the best piece of information I get here and I would love to see more of it from all of the staff.

DD: Sure thing. I agree it's some of the best stuff we do. We had Jene Bramel do similar for IDP. We will get some of our other staff doing more of this as well. In this shortened pre-season, these types of articles will likely be even more needed this season.

JB: I agree these are great. David's done a fantastic job with these, and I may even get in on the action this year with them.

From AngryPatriot: What do you see in the evolution of FF's future? Like the trend toward PPR, dynasty play etc... what possibly minor or major sea changes; new directions do you see FF possibly heading toward?

DD: PPR is definitely here to stay - I think the majority of leagues now seem to be play some derivation of it. I also think it's rare to play in leagues without some kind of flex used. The people that love Dynasty and IDP are some of the biggest fans of football around. But I still doubt it ever becomes the norm. I think with more and and more info, I see more and more players playing in weekly games (where an injury or misstep just costs you the week and you redraft all over again the following week). As I have gotten older and have other responsibilities, I actually like the draft and forget it style leagues (survivor, best ball, etc).

JB: This is another really interesting area. And for full disclosure, I've been way wrong here before. Years ago, I truly thought that auctions would catch on in much bigger way than they have. I guess because I came into Football in the late 80s from Rotisserie Baseball which was all auctions back then. The reality is though is that the straight drafts still rule. I think PPR is no fad and is definitely not going away. It's just a gut feel, but I don't see Dynasty and IDP changing a lot from where they currently are. Dynasty and IDP leagues often have the most intensity and sophistication around their leagues and owners. But I don't really see the market share for those leagues changing that much from where they are. I've been hesitant in embracing the weekly games but I realize they're very appealing because of the minimal time commitment. If anything "big picture" is there, it feels to me that things are trending toward that lower commitment. And I think that's just part of society in 2011 where people are spread thin. But that's ok too - a huge part of what we offer folks is that we'll do the legwork in gathering and sifting through tons of information to distill down the really important stuff for folks that are busy.

From Faust: With the ongoing NFL labor issues is there any chance that the early bird subscription could be brought back for a mid- to late-July deadline?

DD: Kind of. Usually we keep the free content until July 15th. This year we will keep that content until July 30th. usually we offer the early-bird (at $23.95 this year) until May 15th. We offered it until May 30th this year. When the CBA gets announced (hopefully in a few days), we will roll back the subscription price to $24.95 for 5 days. Anyone that bought at $27.95 (after the early-bird) will be reimbursed this $3.00 savings as well. It's not as cheap as the $23.95 early-bird, but we agree that we need to do something to the many people just waiting to make sure we have a season in 2011. Look for the announcement in the daily email we send out.

JB: Keep your eyes on the Daily Email Update I send out. I've got something I think you'll like. Assuming these owners and players don't screw the deal up...

From Ian F: Any plans for draft dominator to have excel type export ability?

DD: It exports CSV now. These files can easily be imported into Excel.

JB: Yes - the files can be exported via CSV files.

From AmosMoses: Will the RSP always be sold separately?

DD: Unknown right now. FBG paid Matt Waldman a fee to carry the content exclusive in 2009 and 2010. With the lockout and NFL uncertainty, we opted not to make a similar deal in 2011. Additionally, Matt wanted to test how the product would sell on it's own, because the price we had paid wasn't very much money compared to the many hours he put into the product. We have not had any discussions with Matt regarding the RSP for 2012 or beyond.

JB: Nothing is set beyond this year but I'd say it's likely it'll remain a separate product. For the simple reason that it's worth way more than we can afford to pay Matt for it to give to every Footballguys customer. The RSP is a specialized product that not every single reader is into. For the guys into that subject, it's a gold mine. But part of the reason it's so good for some (detailed and exhaustive) makes it too much for others. It's a fantastic product and I can't recommend it highly enough. It's a steal for what Matt charges for it.

From AmosMoses: How long until Android App?

DD: http://footballguys.com/m - This will work from any smart phone and is the mobile version of footballguys.com. You can add an icon easily from any Android phone to connect to that link. Even though this is super simple, we know most of you guys want the actual app to reside in the Android App store. But just to warn you, it's basically just going to be an icon that sends you to the mobile link. That is coming soon.

JB: I love my Droid X phone. We hope to have this right away. The hard work is essentially done as we created the www.footballguys.com/m mobile site. All that really remains is the formal process of having the app in the Droid Market and getting the icon onto your phone. I love this on my Droid X.

From Tackling Dummies: Any plans to acquire a league provider (myfantasyleague, etc.)?

DD: Probably not going to do this. The free products of ESPN and Yahoo are already robust. Sites like My Fantasy League already do a great job in this space. The advantage of owning a league service would be more vertical integration, but we already will be doing more of that with My Fantasy League soon. We see this as a very established space and are more excited about mobile and social gaming areas for our company.

JB: It feels like the time to have done that would have been several years ago. For now, it feels like the smart move is to continue to work closely with the league providers. It makes sense for both sides and benefits us both.

From fridayfrenzy: When will the Draft Dominator be available for Mac computers (without other 3rd party software having to run it)?

DD: We have a version of the Cross Platform Draft Dominator out now for the Mac. It's not yet as robust as the full-scaled Draft Dominator, but it's close.

JB: The Cross Platform Draft Dominator is our answer for our Mac guys. I'm a Macbook user so I'm with you there. Obviously, it's not going to be as fully featured as the PC version that we've been polishing and adding to for years. But it's a great addition I think.

From elbowrm: Similarly, how about a Draft Dominator for the iPad?

DD: 2012. We have a lot of stuff planned for mobile in 2012 that we have already begun working on. We expect to make some big splashes in that space by May 2012.

JB: Not this season but it's part of the next year onslaught. Clearly iPads and tablets are hugely popular. We're embracing those as quickly as possible.

From Lehigh98: How do you plan to improve on meeting promised deadlines for content publication?

DD: Personally I hate promising deadlines. Things do come up and we are a small business that works very hard to get everything done. A lot of things require input from multiple staffers, etc. But that said I get wanting to know when things will get released.

For the weekly schedule, I think we crushed deadlines last year. We changed over a lot of our processes so that weekly projections beat every other site out there. That meant getting the Top 200s, Lineup Dominator, etc all out before our competition.

JB: We struggled in 2009 with meeting our promised weekly deadline items. We made some changes in our processes that radically changed that for 2010 where we did a great job of hitting deadlines. We got content out not just on deadline, but earlier than we had in years past. So I feel extremely confident about meeting what we promise for weekly deadlines (where deadlines are so important). What we still have to do better with is being realistic for one off projects. For instance, this article was promised earlier and we're late on it. The truth is that we never should have given an early deadline for this. This isn't time sensitive material. As we started taking questions, we should have said the article would be ready some time this summer. It would have come out in mid July and everyone is fine. Instead, we say a date and then it comes out in mid July and it's bad because we're late. All that could have been easily solved by just not creating a deadline. We'll do a better job of that in the future. But I agree 100% - when you give a deadline you have to meet it.

From Raider Nation: Who would emerge victorious in a MMA-style cage fight between the two of you?

I am certain Joe would kill me in a fight. I saw him run 26 miles (Death Man March in New Mexico) carrying an 80lb pack while competing with a bunch of Marines (and yes Joe beat most of them too).

JB: I've no doubt David would pull out some kind of James Bondesque move and I'd be toast without ever having seen it coming. The only thing I'd have going for me is that he's old like me (we're both 47).

From higgins: The two of you and the rest of the FBG staff are having a meeting in a random building. A monster earthquake occurs, and all of you are trapped, with access to water, but no food. Which of your fellow staff members do you choose to eat first?

DD: I am one of the heavier guys on staff. I think I could be in trouble. The beauty of our staff is that everyone has a role. Nobody could do what Bruce does with the apps. Nobody would want to tackle what Keith does for us with the servers and software. and on and on. What makes our site special is we have a lot of guys very good at the pieces they do. I think our company would be next to impossible to recreate without using substantially more people/resources.

JB: Yikes - A real Survivor league. I don't know who would go first but I'd put my money on Mark Wimer being the last guy standing. He's the most prepared and resourceful guy I know. We have our staff retreat at my house and there aren't enough beds for every guy. That's no problem for Mark as he shows up ready to camp and cook for a week on his own. Bigger observation to your question is that one of the most satisfying (and honestly unexpected) thing about assembling this staff from a bunch of people most of whom we hired before meeting in person is what a fantastic team they are. We have all kinds of diverse backgrounds and interests with the common bond of loving NFL Football. Probably not that unlike many of you guys and your leagues. David and I always have made it very clear that the non starter trait for us in hiring a guy was they had to be a team player and a "good guy". Life's too short to have to work with people you don't get along with. I'm really proud of the team we've assembled at Footballguys.

From nittanylion: Oh, so it's "Dave", now, is it? Discuss.

DD: Sometimes it's David. Sometimes it's Dave. Others call me DD. D Squared used to be the name. 50% D's was also popular (David Dodds has 50% D's). I usually respond to just about anything.

JB: My kids call him Mr. David and I think he kind of likes that...

From comfortably numb: Can you two guys have a quick three-round mock draft of the available staff at FBG?

DD: There are at least 8-10 guys that would really hurt if they ever left. We think we have enough files from our detectives though that they should not be leaving anytime soon.

JB: Couldn't do it. There are just too many key people doing jobs that we all depend on. What I will tell you in a "behind the curtain" thing is that for whatever reason, David and I have had staff guys that were "our" guys. In the sense that I wanted to hire this guy and David wanted to hire that guy. And no, I won't tell you who was who's guy. We've always 100% agreed on each hire but in the early years, it was sort of fun internally to see how "my" guy was doing compared to "his" guy. Now they're all "our" guys though.

From HellToupee: How come we never hear you guys as guests on the Audible?

DD: Joe and I used to be on it in the beginning. I promise I will do the Perfect Draft on there this year. I actually love doing radio so I will try much harder getting on the show more this year. I always enjoy it when I do.

JB: Like too many things, it seems the busyness of life keeps me from it. That and the fact that Cecil and Sigmund and their guests are so knowledgeable that I honestly don't know how much I'd add. I'd like to do it just to be on the Audible but the Audible certainly doesn't "need" me. Those are some really smart guys. I'm going to try more this year but like with the deadline thing earlier, I'm not sure if it'll happen much. It's always a blast to talk football with Cecil and Sigmund though.

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