Welcome to The Read Optional
Smart Football. Explaining Why. NFL/CFB Newsletter and Podcast.
Welcome to The Read Optional!
If you’ve read my stuff before: Welcome back.
If this is your first time: It’s great to see you.
I’m a former scout turned writer who’s worked in and covered the NFL and college football for a decade. I was — once upon a time — a Senior Football Analyst for Cox Media.
Now, I’m trying this whole substack thing, looking to bring you the best possible independent analysis of the NFL and the wider football world.
I’ve started this (restarted the Read Optional, really) because I think there’s a space out there for people who like detailed analysis, who want to understand more about the Cowboys’ Tite front, the evolution and future of the RPO, and why Jeff Okudah struggled in his rookie season. Who interested in the details of the game — and would like it to arrive with some zest.
Doing that independently gives me more scope. We can spend a week on eight-man coverages if we want, rather than having to force it into the narrative of the moment.
I enjoy that stuff, too — I must point that out. My background is scouting and coaching. That’s the prism through which I view the game. It’s where, I think, I’m at my writing and yapping best. But it will not be all X’s & O’s all the time. There will be other features; there will be some off-the-wall things.
I’ll try things — and that’s the point, really.
At the start of my writing career, sat as a stereotype in my bedroom, I did the daftest thing: I fell in love with the writing style of Dan Le Batard. (I’ve told this story before. If you’ve heard it, skip to the end). And when I say love, I mean L-O-V-E.
Back then, the Miami Herald’s archives were so prehistoric that you couldn’t just click on a tab and pull up Le Batard’s archives. You had to call or email. You had to request each specific article and then pay (a good chunk of money) for the privilege to read.
But I had to. And so I read. And I read. And I did little else.
Oh, I copied. I did that, too.
I would — literally — mimick Le Batard’s style: I would take his column, change the subject matter, and then copy his tempo. If Dan used a two-word sentence, I used a two-word sentence. If he took a paragraph break, I indulged myself with one, too. If the piece that ran in the Herald wound up at 1,208 words, then so did the word count in my word document.
It was weird. It was dumb. It didn’t work — obviously. It made no sense. And yet it still has an impact on me. I used to think I liked the tempo — the construction and rhythm of the words; the analysis — but I’ve come to figure out over time that it was about something more. I enjoyed the freedom.
Le Batard’s work was littered with talk about freedom and free-DOM and freedumb. He cared about serving the audience, nothing else. Not always what they wanted, necessarily. But what they needed. Anyone who has enjoyed his Radio Show/Podcast since his fingers stopped working will know what I’m on about.
Le Batard recently left the World Wide Leader in sports media to go out and set up his own venture: Meadowlark Media. Freedom.
There is, y’know, a couple of difference: Le Batard and co. create — in his words — theatre of the mind. He also just so happens to be a singular writer and a generational radio talent. I write about the differences between Matthew Stafford’s ‘levels’ concept and Peyton Manning, the impact of cone coverage, and breakdown the good, the bad and ugh of the top NFL Draft prospects.
But the same sensibilities are there. Those same ideas that drew me to Le Batard’s column ten years ago before I could even identify what they were: writing to serve no one but the audience; writing for a community.
So that’s the plan. To write for you, the audience. Not to generate ad revenue or clicks or whatnot. To give you the very best independent analysis and information possible, and to give you a community to converse.
That’s the plan, anyway. Below is everything you need to know — the how; the what; the why.
I hope you enjoy,
If you’re interested in all things football – the X’s & O’s, evaluating players, the salary cap implications of signings and trades, the relationship between the NFL and the college game, and everything in between – then The Read Optional is for you.
Who is this newsletter for? And why should you subscribe?
🏈No Clickbait. Ever.
🏈Just. Smart. Football.
If you want coverage of one specific team, this newsletter is not for you.
If you want in-depth analysis of the league’s biggest storylines, then this newsletter is for you.
If you’re interested in schematic trends, if you’re wondering what the Packers are up to with their tilt front, how the Patriots’ double-motion works, why a play run by UCF on Saturday could help Trey Lance and the Niners on Sunday, then this newsletter is for you.
If you want to be part of a football community. If you want to laugh at Nick Sirianni’s Nick Sirianni-ness while debating where your team’s top pass-rusher ranks among the league’s best, then this newsletter is for you.
If you want…
To know whether or not Josh Allen’s game is evolving or if Lamar Jackson’s contract makes long-term sense
To join live tape-watching sessions
To keep up to date with the little details that could you an edge in your fantasy league or office pool
To keep tabs on which of the top college prospects will make an impact in the NFL
To learn more about the past, the present, and the future of the league
To support independent writing that prioritizes what’s best for the reader and not the best click-generator
...then this newsletter is for you.
As a member of The Read Optional, you’ll be part of a passionate community that loves football and is as interested in its intricacies as you.
Why pay $7 per month or $70 per year to access the content?
For one, to support a writer in an industry where it has become increasingly rare to have the freedom to create beyond sensationalism. There are no ads or sponsorship deals. Just informative, creative, interesting football stuff.
Mainly: the fee is about allowing us to produce the content that you want. It also gives you membership to a community of people that are just like you: People that live and breathe the nuances of football and want to meet others who feel the same.
🇺🇸 What will I get?
🏈 Three pieces of content a week, including the return of the weekly columns “The Read Optional” (analysis of the weekend’s games) and the “Film Room Five” (five takeaways from a week of studying tape).
🏈 High-quality storytelling and analysis through long-form written features, covering the past, present, and future of the game.
🏈 Exclusive access to The Read Optional NFL Podcast, including a two-part Moore & Connolly Football Show special. Hear some of your favorite analysts, coaches and players discuss plays and players with a level of depth that is unavailable in the mainstream media.
🏈 A monthly, exclusive, ‘Live Film Session’ via Zoom – come and join fellow subscribers as we watch and breakdown All-22 film from the NFL and college game. Have any scheme-based questions you’ve always wanted to ask or want to grasp the basics of studying film? Then come and join our monthly zoom sessions, available to all subscribers.
🏈 Access to an exclusive Discord channel to chat with other subscribers.
All that for the price of a drink a month?