Mike Florio Talks About PFT History, His Deal With NBC, and if He Regrets the Dez Bryant Story


This is the second part of the Glass Half Empty podcast with ProFootballTalk founding editor Mike Florio (listen to the first part — where he asserted that Goodell underlings were out to get the Patriots — here). In this installment we shifted from league-specific dialogue to a conversation about his career, which has blossomed from writing for free on the side of law practice, to turning down a one-year offer, to write daily for ESPN to launching his own site, to licensing it to NBC, and also doing radio and television for them. Here are a few key passages:

On when he started to feel like PFT might make it.

Nick Saban was in his first year with the Dolphins, and he personally reached out to me because he was irritated by all of the stuff I was reporting about him. I was getting a lot of stuff from beat writers and other people connected to the Dolphins organization because they didn’t like the way he was treating people — all sorts of little things that just made him look bad.

They just built up over time and it irritated the hell out of him, so I guess someone down there just decided the best thing he could do was give this guy some credence and sit down with him for an interview. That was the 2005 preseason, and that was kind of the moment where it was like, “Oh crap, this thing is really starting to take on a life of its own.”

On building momentum on the Mike Vick story (which is when I started reading PFT regularly).

I think the Mike Vick story really put us on the map — because I knew from the start that something stunk there, and I knew in my heart that he knew what was happening. How do you not know what’s happening on property you own? I had a very strong feeling that this was gonna stick to him, despite all the denials. It smelled bad. I felt like the prosecutor in Surry County, Gerald Poindexter, was trying to brush this thing under the rug. […]

That was the moment where I had a strong hunch, I went with it, we beat the hell out of that story. I know there are some people who believe that Vick never would’ve been prosecuted federally if we hadn’t pushed it the way we did. I’m not willing to take that credit — I don’t think it’s accurate, but I know there are people in the media who believe that.

On whether NBC has nudged PFT to use auto-play video.

Nudge? I don’t know if nudge is the right word. It’s been a topic of discussion from time to time, and I had consistently refused using auto-play. Because, any time that we have inadvertently had an auto-play video posted on the web site, I get flooded with complaints from people about how this video starts playing and they’re at work and the audio’s on and they’re gonna get in trouble. “I don’t want to hear this. I don’t want to deal with this.”

I think through the passage of time, because more and more people use auto-play now, the disdain for it has dropped. I just have a philosophical problem with it. If you could opt in to auto-play, then I think I’d be okay with it. I don’t like it being automatically on, and I know with a lot of them you can opt out if you can navigate your computer well enough to find the spot where you turn it off. I probably wouldn’t have an issue with it if the reader can opt in, although I don’t many people that would do that. […]

There’s definitely a business reason for doing it. As you know, the CPM’s that are available — I don’t even know what CPM means [cost per thousand impressions] — the ad rates are a lot higher for video than they are for static internet ads. And, I don’t know why that is, because I think a lot of those ads don’t get seen. You either have people who are clicking out, or have their audio off, and they’re not paying any attention to it. So I don’t know that the advertisers are really getting the bang for their buck with that, but that’s the trend now.

We’re trying to find the way to strike the right balance with NBC. I remember when I started there back in 2009. Jay Glazer called me and he said, “Hey everything’s great now, but eventually there’s gonna be issues. That’s just the way it works. There’s always issues.” We’ve never really had any issues. Any challenge that comes up from time to time, we find a way to work through it. One of these days we’ll probably come up with a better strategy for dealing with video. But I know it’s important to NBC, and it’s important to me, to ensure that the user experience is as good as it can possibly be.

On if he regrets breaking news of the possibility of video existing for a Dez Bryant incident on a Dallas radio show where he is a regular guest (which has drawn ample criticism).

I don’t know if I’d use the word “regret.” I think I would’ve done it differently if I hadn’t been on a radio station with a couple of guys — Shan and RJ — I’m very comfortable with. I’m not blaming them. One thing that we all learn when we speak extemporaneously in any setting is you have to always have that filter up. We usually have it up for the George Carlin seven words you can’t say on TV, but there are other things you  need to have it up for, and that morning I was at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

I was getting ready to go over for a three-hour radio show with however many interviews we were doing with coaches and GMs that day, and I was on with a couple of guys I was comfortable with. They said, “We’ve heard that the Cowboys are concerned about one specific incident involving Dez Bryant” and I just blurted it out. Would I have done it differently with someone else? I probably would have. Do I regret that it happened? No, because I really think it helped push the story toward some sort of resolution, although I still think it’s not fully resolved for whatever reason.

I think there are a lot of loose ends out there that haven’t been properly explored. But, I understand that a lot of people are still upset about it. What I said was ultimately accurate — for months there had been an open secret within the NFL media that there was a video potentially out there involving Dez Bryant in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart. That police report that Ian Rapoport eventually tracked down confirmed the idea that something involving Dez Bryant and three vehicles registered to him happened in a Wal-Mart somewhere outside of Dallas.

When you read that police report, there’s some gaps there. There’s some weird stuff there that I don’t know why that officer who explored that incident didn’t go in and immediately demand to see the footage of any and all surveillance cameras that were pointed in the direction of that parking lot. One thing that I know about Wal-Mart — I had plenty of clients that filed lawsuits against them — they have video cameras everywhere. They don’t let anything that happens on any inch of their property not to be fully monitored.

Whatever happened with that video — whether it was naturally erased, whether it exists somewhere — who knows. But, everything I had heard was accurate, and I still think that there are some odd aspects of that story that haven’t been fully fleshed out