We’re 20 years old today

USA TODAY Sports

Twenty years ago today, my life changed. Not immediately. But the wheels were put in motion when we flipped the switch, on November 1, 2001, on ProFootballTalk.com.

I had no idea where it would go at the time. There was no master plan or mission statement. It was fun. And, at $500 to set it up and $50 per month, it was a lot cheaper than, say, playing golf.

I’d been on the fringes of the business since June 2000, from writing on a part-time basis for the long-defunct NFLTalk.com (and making not a penny) to landing at ESPN.com’s Insider service on a six-month contract in May 2001 (I still don’t think they knew I was moonlighting with a full-time law practice) to deciding in lieu of signing on for another year at a salary of $36,000 (I still have the document) to launching my own thing. Something that I controlled. Something that I edited. Something that could instantly go live without layers and levels of approvals.

The post-9/11 soul-searching in which so many of us engaged also was a big factor. Life is short and uncertain. I was working 18 hours a day. I decided to forgo the 36K sure-thing and take a chance on something new. My only actual goal, frankly, was to eventually make the money I’d turned down on the one-year ESPN deal.

The search for available domain names almost immediately landed at ProFootballTalk.com, one thing led to another, and we went live the day after my ESPN.com contract expired.

The Internet was different then, in every imaginable way. I connected to the web through an old-school modem. It took forever to download stories and even longer to upload content.

We found an audience early, with a surprisingly high concentration of people in the football business (Amy Trask can confirm this). We built the audience gradually but consistently. The only problem, however, was that we didn’t make any money.

Over time, the money began to trickle in. Ever-increasing traffic helped. In 2006, Sprint showed up out of the blue and became our first major partner. That was the moment I knew that, before too long, I’d exit the practice of law and devote my full time and focus to PFT.

That moment came three years later, when Rick Cordella of NBC proposed a partnership. I resisted, demanding full editorial control in the hopes of scaring him away. It didn’t work. After a few months (which included outages fueled by traffic demands that had exceeded critical mass), we reluctantly did a deal with NBC.

That was the moment everything changed. No more law practice, at NBC’s request. My arm did not need to be twisted. My hobby had become my job.

My fear was that it would start feeling like a job, not a hobby. Sometimes it does, especially as we’ve found our way onto multiple platforms. It can be a little stressful at times. But it’s never as stressful as having someone else’s interests hinging on whether I make the right move at the right time, either in writing or during a deposition or while stumbling around in open court. Litigation consists of constant conflict, and plenty of hard feelings.

That’s what made it easier for me to be a bit of a disruptor, an agitator. An instigator. As I told someone years ago, when practicing law half the people I dealt with hated me and the other half loved me; the biggest challenge was to keep the half that was supposed to love me from hating me. In this business, any day in which less than half of the people I deal with hate me is a good freakin’ day.

So here we are, 7,305 days later. The thought actually crossed my mind last week of shutting it down and walking away today (many of you would act like you’d like that, but I have a feeling that deep down you wouldn’t). That flicker of a crazy impulse instanty was snuffed. I love what I do. I still enjoy it every day. I’ve got at least another 20 years in me. Maybe 20 more beyond that.

Even if it goes back to the days of little or no revenue, I’ll keep doing it. Because I’ve already done it for no money. In whatever forum, form, or format, I’ll keep doing it until I no longer can.

So, basically, you’ve been stuck with me for 20 years. And you’ll continue to be stuck with me.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t use this opportunity (HERE COMES THE PITCH) to point out that: (1) I’ve got a book coming out in March regarding the last 20 years in the NFL; and (2) you can, if you are so inclined, preorder Playmakers to show your appreciation for 20 years of always-free content.

After you read the book (or if you never do), you can put it on your shelf, use it for a paperweight, or (as Big Cat suggested last week) use each page as rolling paper. Whatever the case, you’ll get value if you buy the book. And if you buy it now, you’ll get exclusive access to the weekly Playmakers podcast.

Whether you buy it or not, I appreciate the fact that you’re here, that you’re reading these words. I could say that PFT changed my life, that Sprint changed my life, that NBC changed my life. The truth is that you changed my life. Without each of you, we never would have gotten to the point where someone with a lot of money would have decided to give us some of it in order to serve you.

I could (and probably should) thank many people right now. Today, I’m only thanking you. None of this would have happened if you hadn’t decided to make us part of your daily routine, to welcome us into your homes and onto your phones. You’re been there with us and for us for two decades, and we intend to be there with you and for you for many years to come.

On behalf of myself, my family, the entire staff, and everyone connected in any way to the operation, thank you. I could never do for you what you’ve done for me.

93 responses to “We’re 20 years old today

  1. Mazel tov! I believe I was around for those early days. It was a good career move, counsellor.

  2. It’s a great place to be! And so glad you decided to keep the comments 🙂

    How about bringing back the Turd Watch and Standings! LOL

  3. The good old days with the “Days without an Arrest meter” “Taco Bills horrible photo shopping” and the Dumpster (which I think should be brought back). Congratulations on a long road to get here. I liked it much more pre-NBC but you have to make a living!
    Great job Mike and team!

  4. As the originator of “______ on line 1” I am proud to say I was there since day 1. Loved private emails with Mike during the Monday night football wise crack sessions.

    Keep the royalties coming!

  5. As a reader from way back in 2001, PFT has been go-to since the beginning. It’s almost always the first to break news and provide the real story behind the headline. Congrats and looking forward to decades more of clicking on PFT to get my NFL news fix!

  6. I remember the days before the partnership with NBC. Congrats to you for following your passion ad finding a way to get paid for it as well.

  7. Congrats Mike. I’ve been following your site for a little over 12 years now, maybe more. Right around the “move on or move out” era I guess you can say. Loved every minute of it even though I don’t think our politics completely align. You even answered an email or 2 of mine back in the early days. Glad to see the site still going and glad you’re not muzzled by NBC with your stories. I land here 3 or 4 times a day. Congrats again!

  8. Is that when ESPN.com was part of the GO network?? LOL
    Wow – time flies.
    This site is clearly the definitive site for football content.
    Happy birthday, and you’re welcome.

  9. Your site is the only one I go to each and every day. The only one ever that is part of my day. Congratulations on 20 years PFT! Now get back to writing about how Gruden got screwed by the league or someone with a grudge, and how the NFL needs to release the 650,000 emails.

  10. People love to complain, but even so, I don’t think remotely close to half the people who deal with you hate you. Occasionally they might not share your opinion and may be vocal about it, but that’s not hatred, that’s everyone’s right to view things differently. If anything, to have this many people who read your stories and engage with them is impressive, special, and shows that those people appreciate you and PFT or they wouldn’t be coming back here. There will always be the occasional nutjob that will send nasty messages for no reason just like there is everywhere, but in general, you’re not hated by anyone, you’re very appreciated.

  11. Happy 20th to both my fave football site and PTI.,.
    “That’s all for this time, we’ll try to do better next time”.,,

  12. Happy birthday PFT!! I can’t resist visiting multiple times a day. You do great work!

  13. I joined on sometime in 2004-2005. I had a laptop and got a plug-in card modem from T-Mobile and lived on the road, practically. Thankfully, your site was a few stories a day on a basic web platform, so my ancient cell based internet service couldn’t handle much. I remember the venture with Sprint and then NBC. NBC feels like a couple years ago.

    I did stop coming here for awhile last year due to the pervasion of politics into the commentary and how badly slanted the moderation is on comments.

    But I do value the strictly football content here and that keeps me coming back.

  14. Congratulations. Interesting to read the backstory which I didn’t know. Only six more years to catch up to George Blanda!

  15. Glad you’re still going and enjoying what you do. I do as well.

    I hope some of the background about the site is included in Playmakers, including who are the background readers of the site.

  16. I’ve been coming to the site a long time (prod around mid 2000’s). It’s been fun to see the site and crew grow from web based articles, to full blown podcasts and live segments on Sunday night football. I am proud to be a part of you and your teams success!

    Keep using the platform to bring difficult discussions to the forefront and continue the great work covering the NFL!

  17. Congrats on 20 years. Great site. Surprised some are voting down wishing you a happy birthday. Those voters must be miserable. Why are they even here? They need to get a life.

  18. Watch out. That lifespan corresponds directly with the construction of the New England Patriots dynasty.

    Surely, there will be conspiracy theorists that will believe you were a plant by Kraft and Goodell to cover up for all of the Patriots misdeeds, real and imagined.

    No doubt, they will view your initial Deflategate reporting and recent calling out of Goodell’s role in covering for Snyder mere head fakes.

  19. My dad (RIP) sent me a link to the site in the early 00’s and I’ve probably been trolling for 15 years or so now. I love this site and check it multiple times a day for updates. I don’t even really care too much about the NFL anymore, but checking in with this site is a 15 year habit.

    This site is greatly appreciated and enjoyable, but PLEASE be impartial and leave politics and SJW stuff out of it.

  20. I love how you’ve added one more pop-up ad to the screen each year!
    Kidding aside, I’ve always maintained that you, Mr. Mike Florio, would be the perfect replacement for Roger Goodell.
    Don’t look for proof that I’ve maintained that, I’ve gone through about 40 screen names after being black-balled on 39.
    Nice job, Mike!
    Oh, but who is that sunglassed, hippie-freak that you have on the videos now? He’s gotta’ go!

  21. Wow! Been following this site since 2005. I remember the good old days of Turd Watch! I remember when the servers for PFT initially crashed and you enlisted a friend from NBC Sports to help with hosting some web traffic… which eventually led to PFT.NBCsports.com I’m getting old.

  22. Happy 20, I for better or worse… am a big Paul Allen from KFAN listener and Purple Pride Lover. Years ago he told me about your website. I love how up to date on info your site is. You do your best to only post factual news (unlike ESPN some times, who is trying to sell ads or something) I also love when you break down the contracts. Keep doing what you love (hopefully this)!
    B Ware

  23. I know exactly when I started coming around here. It was 2007, just before Terry Bradshaw died.

    Happy birthday PFT!!

  24. Congratulations! Your site is the first one I read every day and it keeps getting better and better. Here’s to 20 more!!!

  25. Florio, I’m one of those half hating, half loving what you do. But that’s why I keep coming back. You’ve got a great gig going and are one of those lucky individuals who happens to love what they do for a living so good for you. So please do keep it going even though I read a lot with a grain of salt, it still is the first place I go for NFL information. Yes, please, another 20 years would be nice.

  26. Congrats on 20 years! My only source for football info. I read it everyday all the time when i should be working, so you must be doing a lot right!Happy Birthday!!

  27. Happy Birthday PFT. I love the site, Mike and enjoy the daily TV show, although the irregular bleeping out of Simms’swearing when it’s shown over here in the UK drives me nuts!
    Really enjoying your ongoing campaign to get the oligarchs to come clean over the WFT stitch up.
    Keep up the great work and here’s to many more years.
    Cheers

  28. PFT is the first site I visit each morning, ahead of any site pertaining specifically to my favorite team, of which I am a season ticket holder and shareholder (that ought to quickly settle any guesses). Congratulations on the first 20 years and I’ll be reading (God willing) past your 40th anniversary!

  29. Congratulations, Florio! From someone who has been along for the ride from the get-go (and one of the donators when you were asking for donations early on) and censored more than most, I still think you have done a fantastic job and am glad you’re still going strong. Even though I do not understand your political leanings, nor do I hope I ever will, your football knowledge is beyond compare. You have banned my comments for years but it never stopped me from reading the site multiple times a day! So my clicks have been consistent and continuous for the entire 20 years. I’m glad you are able to do what you CHOOSE to do (it took me until I reached 63 to find my dreamjob that I would do for free!) and are finally compensated handsomely for it. Hope we’re both here in 2041 to celebrate another milestone.

  30. Mike, love the site and love your appearances on WSCR 670am in Chicago twice a week. They are appointment radio. Daily visitor to your site and also enjoy you on SNF. Congratulations and keep it up. Waiting for the next WFT email dump where they find hate emails towards PFT & Mike Florio 😉

  31. I found PFT during the CBA talks in 2006. This was the only site that was covering it hour by hour. Been here daily ever since.

    I only have good things to say, but if I had constructive criticism it would be this: I’d take fewer stories if they were all written by Mike. I understand that’s not realistic — a website needs lots of content. I have nothing against the other contributors, but Mike’s peculiar blend of analysis and snark is inimitable, and paired with consistency, has made PFT what it is. Cheers.

  32. Congrats Mike! PFT has managed to weasel its way into my daily routine and I’m too old to change that now. See you at the next milestone!

  33. Okay! Okay! I bought a Kindle copy!!!

    Been with you since NFLTalk.com…even if I disagree with a lot of what is posted here, thank you for taking a part in exposing the B.S. of the Wells’ report…

  34. Great site. Best sports site on the web. ESPN stopped postings because they couldnt handle the heat. Never miss a day of this site Mike, good work.

  35. Mike, thank you for your service over the years. I have ~5 sites I check over the course of the day – important things like news, weather, and of course profootballtalk. Love the content ease of use. Here’s to another 20 years sir, and I did indeed preorder the book from Amazon, can’t wait to read it!

  36. PFT was the first real NFL insider site I’d ever seen. Covering the stories and angles they never did on TV. I started following PFT with the Ron Mexico story and have been here ever since. Great story is Florio & PFT on perseverance. Congratulations Mike Florio!

  37. I found this website in 2007. Easy to remember as I was studying law at the time and was fascinated by legalities of the Michael Vick dog case. Florio laid everything out so clearly that I kept coming back. A football fan AND a lawyer? Sold. So I can say I knew you when….! Congrats on 20 years Mike and here’s to the next 20

  38. HB PFT! Have really enjoyed the posts and really the comments. There are some very interesting opinions out there and great to see a place where it can be moderated IMHO, pretty well.
    Here’s to 20 more.

  39. Congratulations from a fellow miserable Viking fan and a dedicated PFT reader. There is a reason why this has been successful, great content and fan interaction. Cheers to 20 more!

  40. Mike, congrats on this long but rewarding journey. I don’t mind the inexplicable fact that my comments go unpublished, probably of because of “Blue Check Brigade” kind of requirements, but must acknowledge the game-changing aspect of the emergence of PFT. Many more happy returns.

  41. I remember the early days. I wasn’t one of the lucky ones, but way-way back PFT invited a few fans to join your fantasy football league. Eventually traffic got so crazy during free agency that your servers would crash. It’s pretty cool that you and this adventure have become so successful.

    I appreciate the legal expertise we get with PFT. It’s a POV we really don’t get elsewhere.

  42. Long live PFT. My uncle told me about this site on Christmas Eve in 2002. Read this site on 3 continents and it’s part of my daily life.

  43. Been along for most of the ride, way before NBC and when we could swear. I still like that Mike is largely an outsider, not tied to the teams and doesn’t hesitate to criticize — may not result in scoops, but it provides more even content. The only thing I really miss from those days is the swearing. . . .

  44. It’s interesting that you can go back and read every post. Currently there are 14,843 pages going back to October 24, 2007. I still love your editorial style of writing and keep up those Seinfeld references and I’m glad you haven’t completely sold out since moving to NBC. This and the Athletic are all I read for football.

  45. Congratulations Mike! You are a lucky man doing what you love each and every day. Not many, unfortunately, can say that. How you were able to take that “face for radio” and turn it into a regular spot on National television every Sunday is a testament to how good you really are at this gig. I’ve loved this site for almost 15 years and it is nearly my exclusive source of NFL news. I love your perspective, analysis and humour. I will admit that there have been many days recently where I vow to quit your site forever given you love of a soapbox and to be defender of the “treat of the week” cause. But ultimately, I end up coming back. I come back because you do such a great job! Thank you for all the stories you bring to live each and every day with passion and intellect.

  46. Hey Mike. This is the first time I’ve commented on a story, and I’ve been an avid reader since the early days. Logging into the online chats during MNF, and helping to crash the servers long before NBC came around.

    Congrats on all the success, but more importantly, loving what you do and living what you love. Looking forward to reading on for the next 20 years (and the next 20 after that).

  47. I remember being in grad school in Tennessee back in 2000 and reading NFLTalk.com and then subsequently PFT. Florio was a lot more irreverent and funnier (I remember his Michael Vick and Santonio Holmes jokes) before he linked up with NBC, but I’ve stuck around regardless, and twenty years later PFT is still my go-to site for NFL news and commentary.

  48. Huge Congratulations!
    PFT is the only thing that carries me through the unspeakable off-season.
    Very happy to see that you enjoy it!
    Here’s to another 80 years!

  49. Happy birthday to PFT, I’ve remember stumbling upon your website almost 20 years ago and always coming here as soon as something major breaks out to read your take on the situation.

    Thank you for the great and free content, a reader from France.

  50. What?! You haven’t reached drinking age?! You’re grounded!

    Happy anniversary! It’s been fun!

  51. I found this site in 2005 while working in a cube farm at My first post college ” big boy” job. I hated my job. it was boring. I usually had PFT open and my trigger finger could ALT + F4 and close the page faster than the boss could see it.

    the days of taco bill photos, nfl news,and unedited ruthless insults in the comments got me through some long days as a young man in the working world at a job I didn’t like.

    the live chat during the big games was my favorite, and you can tell Florio enjoyed bantering back in the chat, and it was allways hallarious.

    I’m now a 40 year old dad w a job I like, and this is still the first thing I read in the morning while I eat breakfast.

  52. Thank you Mike. I read every word and I am buying your book.
    It’s inspiring .. seeing somebody take a chance on themselves and finding fulfillment. Keep up the great work. I’m here reading every day until I can’t.

  53. Been getting my NFL news here for almost as long. Love this website and love watching on the app every morning ! Congrats !!

  54. I well remember the beginning of PFT and the days of the old ’68 VW Van. Congratulations and well done Mike! Looking forward to many more years of my home page remaining unchanged.

  55. Congratulations, Mike!

    I’ve often wondered how PFT began. This is an interesting and inspiring story- thank you for sharing it.

    Looking forward to the next 20 years.

    Cheers,

    -Rick

  56. Well done Mike. I have been reading your content and following you since the NFL.talk.com days. I was glad you bailed from the four letter network and launched PFT. You are correct, the Sprint deal was huge. The podcasts with Dante were funny stuff. You have approached the NFL as a true lawyer and skeptic, but you have kept it fun and exciting. The “days without an arrest” counter and other quirks were fun.

    Well done Mike Florio, Esq.

  57. I appreciate the unique insights of the business of football you illustrate by asking the appropriate questions. Congratulations and many more to you.

  58. It was really cool pre-corporate.
    I’m right wing and quit watching the game, but I’m glad it worked out for you.

  59. Love the site Mike. Thanks for all you do. I’m not exactly sure when I stumbled across your site, but I think I was one of the early ones. I hit you up at least 3-5 times per day, even in the off-season.

  60. Congrats, Mike! I found your site early on and glad I did! As a West Virginian, a Wvu law grad, and a long suffering Vikings fan we have a lot in common! West Virginia is proud of you.

    P.S. Do more episodes of 3 guys with Tony, Hoppy, and Brad!

  61. Really the only place to go for NFL news. Been here so long my username is actually diealreadyralphwilson but it’s very dated and moderated into something else entirely.

    Mike does it right. Opinion is there, but not dressed up as something else. He’s usually right, and moral without moralizing. Kudos man

  62. This is an all-American success story. A simple idea, a passion, a market need. This site is every bit as good as any site that charges for premium content. I’ll buy the book — it’s the least I can do.

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