Wednesday, October 17, 2018

My secret life as a Redskins writer lived through Rich Tandler.

There was a lot to like about Rich Tandler. I had the pleasure to meet him in 2009 when blogging was the next big thing. A community of DMV Redskins bloggers gathered at for a meet-up at Nationals Park, organized by Ben Folsom, the very talented writer behind The Curly R blog. 

All the best blogging talent was there, including Mark Newgent, Washington Examiner, me, Running Redskins and Hog Heaven, along with Hogs Haven writers Ken Meringolo and Kevin Ewolt.

And Rich Tandler. 

Newgent was established as a writer. The rest were serious hobby bloggers or fresh faces launching careers. But Tandler wrote a BOOK, The Redskins Chronicle: A Journey Through the History of theWashington Redskins 1937-2008. That made Rich the Dean of Redskins bloggers in my eyes. He was kind enough to autograph my copy, now a cherished possession.

Sports teams then were unsure how to approach blogs as a marketing channel. Professional writers were snooty about it. But the Redskins announced a vacancy for a team blogger. Both Rich and I responded to what we knew to be a forlorn hope. (The ‘Skins hired Matt Terl.)

We spoke of our shot during that summer gathering. Rich wondered how he would pull it off if the Redskins hired him. He lived in Richmond where he managed restaurants. I looked dead at him and said what I was thinking to myself; "If the Redskins chose him, he would figure a way."

Indeed, Rich got that dream shot through news outlets closely affiliated with the team. His career was my sweet success story lived vicariously through him. As Potter was “the boy that lived,” Tandler was the amateur that made it.

Rich passed away today, unexpectedly. I’m going to miss him. 

Redskins bloggers in 2009 at Nationals Park, l to r, Ben Folsom, Mark Newgent, Anthony Brown, Rich Tandler, Kevin Ewolt, and Ken Meringolo.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Top 5 Redskins Hog Heaven posts from November 2012

November 2012 was the pivot point in the Washington Redskins 2012 season. It was perhaps the pivot point in the modern history of the 'Skins, but we didn't see it at the time. The Redskins sat 3-6 going into the BYE in week 10. The seven-game win streak to win the division was but a gleam in Robert Griffin III's eye. Perhaps that why the most read stories on Hog Heaven in November had little to do with upcoming games. Even a story about why the Redskins would feast on the Cowboys drew fewer eyeballs than these stories shown below.

November 22, 2013 -- Washington Redskins 2011 team roster.
This one has me stumped. Why on earth would anyone look at the 2011 roster in 2012? The page drew a few hits daily through the month, but on November 22, Thanksgiving Day, Hog Heaven drew a one-day spike of 165 views to this page. I think some other web page linked to it without my knowing about it. Thank you, whoever you are.

Photo: John Beck attempts pass to Donte Stallworth in game against Philadelphia Eagles, 2011. Photo by Anthony Brown, Master4Caster & @SkinsHogHeaven

May 23, 2012 -- A quick look at the Redskins in 2013 without, you know, $18 million in cap space.
This is amazing. Web pages have a typical life cycle of 36 hours, meaning that 98 percent of all the visits to a blog post occur within a few hours of publication. This May 2012 story by Hog Heaven contributor Greg Trippiedi continued its renewed popularity of October into November. And it was steady readership throughout the month.

We covered this post in depth last January. Read about it here.

November 23, 2012 -- 10 cool thoughts about the Washington Redskins over the Dallas Cowboys.
This was more like it. The third-most read post was about a game played in the current month. It's no surprise that it involved a win over the hated Cowboys. However, it is surprising that readership did not exceed the looks at the 2011 Roster.

And I tried so hard to apply Search Engine Optimization principles to the headline. I've learned that blog readers respond to lists and that headline must show the team name. This headline is missing a player name. I should have worked "RGIII" into the title even if though it would have been clunky.

Blog writers must hit the reader's interest to draw them to the story. Readers are receptive to players and team, in that order, before anything else.

Writing about sports and sports teams are actually limiting for SEO principles when you are an independent blogger writing only sports topics. The SEO anchors are players, specifically named teams, and " tickets." Media giants, like ESPN, and sites like Bleacher Report that are long on high volume content fluff draw big traffic. Some of their SEO techniques work for sites like Hog Heaven. Some do not. Even when it works, the scale is not as great.  

The win over the Cowboys in Dallas was the second of what became a seven win streak to close the season. We rejoiced that the 'Skins looked as good as they did on the opening day against the Saints. They escaped division last place. NOBODY knew what was coming.

November 10, 2012 -- Football players going broke, 5 big names, 5 bad investors.
This story was actually an infographic offered to Hog Heaven by the talents behind in return for a plug of their web site. Why not? It was on a Saturday, when blog readership is light. It was good work. Infographics condense complex stuff to easy to follow visuals and was made for this story about the how some Sunday's heroes become Wednesday's child when their NFL days are over.

It was the fourth-most read story on the site, so readers found it interesting, too. No apologies for running it.

September 4, 2012 -- Finally, the words to the NFL Play60 Commercial.  
The league is on a big kick to players safety with it's "Heads Up" campaign, but going into the season, they were all in on physical activity for kids. Play an hour a day, chirped the NFL to future player prospects and their parents. A track by a British band became the iconic background track for the commercial ... that I couldn't get out of my head.

Thanks to the technomagic of Google, I found both lyrics and video of the Go! Team band playing The Power Is On. Love it or hate it, there are advocates on both sides, the song draws the curious and is still a source of low-level traffic to Hog Heaven. I love it, but it has grown tiring.

There you have it. Twenty-two stories posted to Redskins Hog Heaven in November 2012, but three of the  five most read stories that months had nothing to do with the events of November. That's quite the contrast to December when interest in the Redskins and traffic to Hog Heaven exploded.

I'll post the top five Hog Heaven stories from December 2012 sometime between the May OTAs and the end of June. For current contest about your Washington Redskins, check out


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Top 5 Redskins Hog Heaven posts from October 2012

The man once known as Master4Caster now delivers Washington Redskins commentary on the Redskins Hog Heaven blog. Go there to see current commentary about the team.

Below are links to the top five Hog Heaven posts from October 2012. By then, the football world was fully aware of Robert Griffin III's super powers. However, October was a bad month with the Redskins going 1-3.

Oct 22, 2012 -- Skip Bayless and every Redskins fan reacts when Eli Manning cancelled RGIII's TD pass.  Bayless reenacted his reaction when Manning completed a 77-yard catch and run by Victor Cruz for the Giants' winning touchdown over the Redskins with about a minute to go on the game. New York's play came 20 seconds after Griffin III's pass to Santana Moss gave the Redskins a 23-20 lead.

"Sign of depression – when you resort to quoting Skip Bayless."

May 23, 2012 -- A quick look at the Redskins in 2013...without y'know, $18 million in cap space.  Hog Heaven contributor Greg Trippiedi wrote this piece in May, but it mysteriously got a lot of hits in October. I never figured out why, but some credible site must have linked to it. I wished I knew who it was so that I could thank them for the traffic. 

Trippiedi goes into deep detail the front office's action that incurred the wrath of the NFL Management Council. Then, he takes a long look at possible roster moves to save 2013 cap dollars. Do you release veterans like Santana Moss and DeAngelo Hall on March 1 to create cap room? What about Brian Orakpo who is entering the last year of his contract in 2013? should you extend his deal now, or defer by franchising him in 2014?

Football isn't like baseball. A tight salary cap demands owners and their front offices have a strategic plan to sustain a winning team. NFL teams do not get to hoard the best players. Teams win from the middle of their roster with players on their first contract. Arbitrage positions that are undervalued in salary and make the most of it. 

That's why receiving tight ends are all the rage now. They are cheaper than wide receivers, but can improve your pass game while saving cap dollars. 

Trippedi tries to channel Redskins GM Bruce Allen to map out all the options. You'll have to read this two or three times to "get it," but getting it is key to understanding the motives behind the Redskins' 2013 off-season moves.

Oct. 1, 2012 -- This just in, Robert Griffin III is amazing, Billy Cundiff is not. The Redskins shocked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with three rushing touchdowns. Billy Cundiff, future ex-Redskins kicker, shocked the Redskins with three missed field goal attempts.   

Oct. 2, 2012 -- And now, a word from a Cowboys fan [Bwahahaha]. This YouTube video of a rant by a Cowboys fan is your laugh of the day. No other words required.

Oct. 9, 2012 -- Redskins sign guy off the street to replace Billy Cundiff. Admit it. You never heard of Kai Forbath before the Redskins signed him. If the scouts were good enough to know this guy, why wasn't he in training camp in August? Just askin'. 

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Top 5 posts from Redskins Hog Heaven, September 2012


Although this is a retired Redskins fan site, you people are still showing up here -- 164 unique visitors and 247 page views in the seven days around the Cowboys at Redskins game when the Washington clinched the 2012 NFC East championship. HAIL!

Running Redskins is still retired. The man now known as SkinsHogHeaven posts new content on the Redskins Hog Heaven blog, part of the Bloguin Network. As a service to those who still visit here, -- thank you for that, by the way -- we will post links to the top five most visited Hog Heaven stories of a past month, starting with September 2012.

Here ya' go:

Sept 11, 2012 - Josh Morgan was right about RGIII, but real test is last half of the season.

"Everyone gasped a little when Washington Redskins receiver Josh Morgan compared rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III to a near-great and two great veteran quarterbacks. It sounded a little too over-the-top."

Sept 05, 2012 - Bet on it -- Robert Griffin III will pass for 3700 yards and 22 touchdowns.

"The gambling sharps expect a very Andy Dalton-type year from Robert Griffin III, and they expect a typical performance from Pierre Garçon. That expectation for Griffin is exciting; for Garçon, it's rather ho-hum."

May 08, 2012 -  Is RGIII the 6th best QB Draft pick of all time? Expert says yes.

This post from May 2012 was still getting traction in September. Excitement over RGIII was just that high. Given what we know about Griffin III's rookie performance, the expert assessment might have been too low.

September 14, 2012 - 15 smart guesses about Redskins at Rams, beginning with Alfred Morris.

"Let's call them hunches more than predictions (to eat less crow. If I get three right, send me a contract...).

"1.  Alfred Morris will break 100 yards, probably by utilizing more outside tracks to the left behind LT Trent Williams. He will score twice again." Author: Scott Hirsch

Sept. 21, 2012 - The GOOD NEWS hidden within the Redskins' season start.

The Redskins just lost Adam Carriker and Brian Orakpo to injury, but we noticed Mike Shanahan's commitment to the youth movement and had an inkling that would pay off big -- not quite as fast as it did, I will admit.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Good news in a slow week for the Washington Redskins

We had a light week over at Redskins Hog Heaven with only three stories posted. February 12 marked the 75th anniversary of the day the NFL chartered the Washington Redskins, making official George Preston Marshall's move of the team from Boston. 

Marshall bought the franchise in 1932 when it operated in Boston. The story as told in Wikipedia:

"The team originated as the Boston Braves, based in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1932. At the time the team played in Braves Field, the home field of the Boston Braves baseball team. The following year the club moved to Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, whereupon owners changed the team's name to the Boston Redskins. The Redskins relocated to Washington, D.C. in 1937. In their early years in Washington, the Redskins shared Griffith Stadium with the Washington Senators baseball team.[8] The Redskins played and won their first game in Washington D.C. on September 16, 1937, a victory against the Giants, 13–3.[9] On December 5, 1937, they earned their first division title in Washington against the Giants, 49–14, for the Eastern Championship.[9] The team then proceeded to win their first league championship, the 1937 NFL Championship Game, on December 12, 1937, against the Chicago Bears, their first year in D.C."

The Hog Heaven story is Feb 12: The most important day in Washington DC sports history and is shows an image of the 1937 championship team and a neat photo of a 1937 traffic jam on 14th Street at The Mall.

There were automobiles back then?!?

If I learned anything about sports blogging it is that fans are not attracted to impartial assessments of their team's strengths and weaknesses. They want to now why the team is going to win its next game. If they are mad enough, they want to know why the team lost the last game and who should be benched, kicked from the team or fired for it.

Your Hog Heaven writers are not given to rants or pandering and yes, we pay a price for that in page views. So it's really good when we can write one of those "why the Redskins are going to win" stories in genuine thoughtful analysis. 

The Redskins are on the verge of great offseason success was that story this week. For once, we are not speaking of a Snyder Special when the team signs and overpays an over-glorified, sometimes over the hill, from some other team. (Personal philosophy: Stars emerge from teams, not the other way around.)

This story notes that the Redskins are close to $50 million under the salary cap and can e aggressive in signing up free agents without crippling its future. Mike Shanahan has much to prove about his coaching and use of talent, but Shanahan and GM Bruce Allen have made "smove moves" since their arrival, except for that whole quarterback thing.

Greg Trippiedi's story Revisiting the Redskins Draft Conundrum is another of his special deep dives assessing the team's moves. 

"The Redskins are between a rock and a hard place heading into a do or die year: the Shanaplan essentially dictated that a year of having no long term quarterback could necessitate a team-wide improvement at other key areas to put the team on the fringes of the playoffs.  The problem was not the design: the design was fine.

"The passing offense performed better than expected under Rex Grossman, but the rest of the team failed to live up to expectations.  That was the big problem in the 2011 season that got glossed over.  Having no long term solution at quarterback was a highly publicized issue, but not one that was unaccounted for."

Greg's story includes a list of NFL free agents aged 25-26 who should be prime targets to add to the team. 

This lengthy story is worth a read by fans who want to understand how winning teams are built.  

Did I mention that I was a contributing writer and associate editor of Bloguin's NFL site This Given Sunday? Writing stories for TGS burns cycles that I would have spent on Redskins Hog Heaven. So check that second site from time to time so see how I spend my blogging life. This week, I wrote tow stories:

Greg Schiano the the Buccaneers? Bill O'Brien to Penn State? What's wrong with this picture? and,

Burning question; How do the Cowboys fix their defense and conquer Texas?

Check these stories out. We'll be here when you get back.