"88 days ‘til 2014 #NFL Draft. And # TD rec of @ProFootballHOF WR Don Maynard (all w/#Jets), 11th in @NFLhistory (drafted by #Giants)"
It’s a coincidence that I got to interview Mr. Russell Baxter the same week that Russell Wilson won the Super Bowl. It wasn’t the Super Bowl of our dreams for fans of evenly-matched football games. He calls himself the guru, but what’s going on behind that big brain of his? Let’s find out.
How does one become a Pro Football Guru? How’d you start the site and get to where you are today? I’m a longtime football fan who parlayed a hobby into a career. My first national writing job came in 1989 when I was with College & Pro Football Newsweekly (hired by Howie Schwab). Eventually I wound up at ESPN for 22 years and was eventually named NFL Research Coordinator. I used to do a segment on ESPN Radio with Mike & Mike and Mike Greenberg would affectionately refer to me as “the dean, the guru of the NFL research department.” When I left ESPN in 2011 and we went searching for web site domains, Pro Football Guru was available and it seemed like a natural.
I’m not really sure where I am today. I just know I work as hard as I can on the craft I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of for more than 30 years. And embracing social media and all that emcompasses today’s NFL coverage is a challenge I’m still trying to master.
Have you ever won free beer at bars by knowing literally everything about the National Football League? I’m not a big drinker but a long time ago I helped parlay my NFL knowledge into some enjoyable evenings (and rough mornings) for my friends. [Zach note: How refreshing it would be to sit next to Bax at the bar because my experiences with random fans on NFL Sundays have required much beer to wash away.]
You’re very interactive on Twitter and in the comments sections of your Bleacher Report articles, where decorum usually goes to die. How do you stay so polite? Sometimes it is a little difficult because you sometime find out that the person commenting didn’t read the piece, just the headline. I have my moments in terms of getting a little frustrated but all in all, it’s great to talk to fans of the game, as I am. I think Twitter can be even better than it is with interaction and my goal there is to create a community of football fans. And some of my best conversations were ones that started out a little rough and morphed into good talk.
How fun is it to compare current NFL players to players of the past? It’s a tremendous amount of fun but you also have to be careful with it. Still, it’s more about style than numbers when comparing. I had the good fortune of doing a 12-part series for Bleacher Report and it seemed well received.
Connecticut guy, so Pats fan? How does Pats nation deal with this loss, especially after the Broncos crashed and burned in the big game? C. None of the above. Covering the NFL as a whole is something I really enjoy. And I like to think it was more Seattle excellence than Denver ineptitude in Super Bowl XLVIII. [Zach note: It’s been a while since we had a Super Bowl stinker. Seattle played a “10” and Denver played about a “4.5”.]
How did this supposedly great Super Bowl matchup go so wrong? When one team (Seahawks) plays arguably the most complete game in the 48-year history of the series, it’s hard to beat them. Offense, defense and special teams, it was a great performance by Pete Carroll’s team.
Do you have a super-early prediction for who’s going to the Super Bowl next year? Yes. Me.
Do you have an offseason, or will you be going into draft mode soon? Free agency, draft, etc. The beauty of what I am able to do today is aided by the fact that the NFL is now 365 days a year (366 in leap years). So many people cover it 24/7. I like following it 26/9 (nothing like overtime).
Are you a fantasy footballer? It seems like that would appeal to your stat-heavy nature but you write about football apparently 27 hours a day so I could see that you might not have not that much free time. I participate in one league all season. The fun for me in the WFFL league is the draft itself. I usually don’t fare very well once the season starts. [Zach note: Check out the league setup. It’s interesting with “Team OL and ST” and IDP.]
You’ve written for NFL Female and The Football Girl. How do you keep in touch with your feminine side? My association with NFL Female came via Twitter. Melissa Jacobs (The Football Girl) and I worked together. Anything to do with the NFL appeals to be and love to be involved. Passion for what you do is the most important thing to me and I like what both stand for.
Where’s your “command center” or “man cave” for watching the NFL games on Sunday? Sometimes simply at home or sometimes at a local establishment. I like to keep an eye on everything.
Is there a better job than being a full-time football writer/radio guy? An even fuller full-time writer/radio guy. Even with all the websites I work for as well as my other responsibilities I am always looking for more. And there’s also no better job than being a full-time father.
Which football writers are on your must-read list? I have never been a big reader of other’s work. I am a gatherer of information and I rely on people like Chris Mortensen and Mel Kiper, Jr. and many other draft analysts to fill me in on what I don’t follow. I am more in the fact business than the opinion business. That being said, I have enormous admiration for those in the business that get to cover the game and love it as much as I do.
Is there anything I failed to ask that you’d like to address? I could write a book about just saying thank you to all the people who have been a big part of me being able to do this. My wife, Janette, is the ultimate football widow. My eight brothers and sisters and their families have had to deal with sometimes fashioning their schedules around their oldest brother who disappears into the NFL season. People like Howie Schwab, Chris Berman, Tom Jackson and Chris Mortensen have played major roles in my career and my life. Other people like Peter Hayes, Kil-Jae Hong, Cameron Penn and Justine DeLuco (and so many more) have done more for me as a person than I could ever list. It has been a great ride and continues to get better.
Tell me about any plugs that you’d like. Sites, podcasts, radio shows, projects, anything. The website is www.ProFootballGuru.com. It’s one-stop shopping for my work on Bleacher Report, Yahoo, Cold Hard Football Facts, Pro Player Insiders and so much more. Also fortunate to be on so many radio stations across the country, which includes 13 seasons with Patriots Playbook with John Rooke. And my Twitter account is @BaxFootballGuru.
Follow the Guru, go to his site, buy his grill (OK, there’s no grill). Thanks to Russell for the time and attention.