Three Questions with Brian Floyd

Happy Thursday to you, Followers!  Hope you are having a great week!

Today, we continue our world-wide renowned mini-series, “Three Questions.”

In the event that you missed a previous installment in the series, you can find previous episodes, as well as future special guest stars in the space below.

Also, please note that the schedule has CHANGED ONCE AGAIN since last week.  In fact, we are very proud to announce that CHRISTIAN CAPLE of the Spokesman Review will wrap up this series during the first week of fall camp.

Isn’t that special?!

June 14th: Brock Huard

June 21st: Bob Condotta  

June 28th: Ted Miller

July 5th:    Howie Stalwick  

July 12th: Cindy Brunson  

July 19th: Brian Floyd  

July 26th: Doug Haller

Aug. 2nd: Bruce Feldman

Aug. 9th:  Christian Caple

Today, our special guest star is yet another sterling graduate of THE Washington State University.  So, as you click on the jump, please give a very warm WSUFB Blog welcome to SBNation/Cougcenter Editor and overall super swell guy, Mr. Brian Floyd (read on)


Followers, those of you who frequent these very humble pages know that I am a man of many mysteries.

But beyond my super cerebralness, there are a few things you can count on with me. And one of them is that I know when to call a spade a spade.

And so, when I declared last January that the Cold War was over between and the WSU Football Blog, it meant that the Cold War was over.  PERIOD.

Since that time, Cougcenter has continued to rule the Cyber Universe.  What’s more, in view of yesterday’s news that they added THREE new authors to the fold—one of whom had the best Cougar Hoops Blog ever—a good case can be made that they now represent the WSU Blogosphere version of the Brady Bunch.




And truly, who in the world can beat THAT?????

Anyhow, back to Brian……

Brian recently covered his professional bio here in a really clear and powerful way.  And in case you haven’t read it, it is a really terrific story. In fact, it is so good, we even plugged that piece on this here blog establishment a few weeks back.

And me?  Well, Sean and I always have felt that Brian was a game-changer for the Cougar Blog universe.  I mean, not only does he write as well as Jeff Nusser (a high compliment, by the way), but like within minutes of landing at Cougcenter, the dude was up in the press box DURING games and doing real player interviews following them.



What a country, right?

And for me, well, the thing that was so fricking extraordinary about Brian’s ascendence to Superduper Blogstar extraordinaire is that Brian seemed to accomplish all of that in spite of being born with only about 3/4 of a head.

Laugh all you want, but I NEVER get hat hair 

Anyhow, since his initial start at Cougcenter, Brian’s career has really taken off, including landing the role as lead nighttime Editor for SB Nation.  And thankfully for him and for them, so has his head.   Now, in addition to adding a full scalp/skull to his arsenal, Brian now sports a solid, nicely trimmed man beard to go along with his considerable acumen as a blogger and sports journalist.

In fact, and in all seriousness, it is my humble opinion that Brian Floyd is well on his way to become the next Celebrity sports journalist to come out of WSU.   He’s that good, folks. So remember, we interviewed him FIRST.

Let’s get to the interview, shall we???


Victory Bell: As most Cougar fans are aware, your work at Cougcenter includes a dual role. Not only do you write for Cougcenter, you are also a National Editor for SB Nation.  As a part of those twin responsibilities, at times you are asked to assume the role of “blogger”—including the creation and promotion of funny GIFs and other novelties.  But in other instances, you are asked to act as a journalist, as manifest in your work with WSU Athletics (including participation in weekly conference calls) as well as your excellent recent coverage of the US Open.  So, here’s our first question:  How do you approach your job with respect to the inherent tensions between providing ready-made entertainment (e.g. blogging) and sound, ethical journalism? Inquiring minds want to know!

Brian Floyd: It’s been a learning experience for me as a whole. I’m not a trained journalist. In fact, I’ve never taken a journalism class. The closest thing to it was probably a basic English class I took while doing running start in high school. Instead of training to enter the wonderful world of reporting, I studied computer science and wrote in code. So yeah, I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants for the last two years and have learned some valuable lessons along the way.

This was one of those lessons. It sucked. It was something I won’t forget, and something that’s shaped how I work. It’s an extreme example, but a reminder that it’s absolutely better to get things right — even holding off until you’re sure — than being first. That goes for pretty much any kind of news, from small tidbits to huge stories. As for the balance, the beauty of my job is the freedom to play around and stretch out. I’ve covered Washington State football in person for the past two season, been to the U.S. Open as a reporter and done some basketball coverage along the way. At the same time, there’s freedom to write something quick about a funny GIF, quote, video of photo. At times I feel like I’m walking the line between the two. There is something to be said for practicing sound journalism no matter what — be it when calling out something stupid or reporting on an arrest or otherwise. I’ve learned to always double- and triple-check everything, because the Internet is forever. And while I’m free to be voice-y and pick apart anything, I’ve learned to be thorough and work to find the whole story before rushing to put something out. That goes for everything, including WSU news.

The question you asked hits on the changing landscape of journalism and news. Everything is instantaneous now, either by way of social media or quick-hit blog posts. The news cycle moves at an incredibly quick pace, and breaking news is passed around in the blink of an eye. I’m a part of this, and I take pride in speed and accuracy. No matter what the subject is, it’s important to be sound. All of us — CougCenter, WSU Football Blog, Cougfan, etc. — have a large platform. Parents, players, coaches, administrators and the like read what we write. Having to face the music if I’m off the mark isn’t fun. But this isn’t meant to be preachy. We all do serious and not-so-serious posts. But for me, it pays to be measured and to make sure I’ve covered my bases before publishing. I’m certainly not perfect, but finding the right line between bloggy and journalism is an overarching goal in everything I do. And, unfortunately, it’s been a case of trial and error as time has passed.

Victory Bell:  As Cougar fans know, providing “evidence-based analysis” is a big part of the Cougcenter “brand.”  To what extent do you think stats help or hinder your evaluation of the Cougar Football team?

Brian Floyd: At CougCenter, we’re definitely the stat geek crew. Oddly, though, I’m not necessarily focused on stats, especially when it comes to football. I do look at things like yards per play — both on offense and defense — and yards per target — to evaluate receivers — but nothing is the end all, be all. And I still firmly believe in marrying stats with observations.

For me, it’s important to see what’s going on and to look at the bigger picture. Instead of watching the ball, I tend to peer out into the secondary during games and even in practice. Watching the safeties to spot coverages, the receivers to see routes and the cornerbacks to see coverage skills are a few of the things I track during games. This, more than anything, leads to a greater understanding of the process behind why a play may or may not work. Football stats have a ways to go. There are some smart being doing some very smart things, but the game itself is difficult to simply quantify with numbers of the advanced variety. There’s a wonderful element of unpredictability and so many things going on at one given moment that it’s hard to make evaluations based simply off a spreadsheet or piece of paper. But it does help.

To that extent, I think stats do help me as a fact check. I may think I see something, but taking a look at the numbers help me understand if my eyes are playing tricks on me. This is where outliers are important: If a team has exceptionally high turnover numbers — on either side of the ball — odds are something fluky is happening; the same holds true for players. If a quarterback is dinking and dunking, the numbers will bear this out. I can’t, however, rely simply on numbers to make any sort of prediction. Every year is like a clean slate, and blindly following the numbers is akin to treading in dangerous waters, I think. Some of the predictive numbers do align well with what I thought the team was last year, but I honestly don’t have a clue what’s to come this year.

For those that want the short answer: Stats are good if used correctly, but not blindly.

Victory Bell:  You and your good colleague Jeff Nusser have openly questioned the prospects of this year’s Cougar Football Team, with the Offensive Line representing a particular area of concern for both of you.  Without cutting into important content for in the coming weeks, what do you think is the ceiling for this year’s team with respect to wins and losses?  What is the floor?

Brian Floyd: I think the hire of Mike Leach has created a bubble, so to speak. Each year, the season rolls around and every WSU fan — hell, every fan in general — has high expectations. It’s a fresh start, and hope springs eternal. I’ve fallen into the same trap.

It’s not that I’m low on the Cougars in 2012, though. It’s just that some tempering of expectations needs to occur. Leach probably isn’t going to lead the Cougars to the Pac-12 Championship; the talent-level still isn’t high enough to compete with the big boys. Yes, there are some very good players, but plenty of question marks to go along with them. And if the injury bug bites — it always bites — depth is a concern.

But, WSU fans should expect a bowl game. Paying a coach $2-plus million a year breeds expectations of consistent bowls, and rightfully so. But it’s by no means a guarantee, and Leach isn’t necessarily a magician.

The floor and ceiling for this team are basically smushed together. There just isn’t many “swing” games on the schedule, though there are quite a few “nope” and “yep” games. Coupled with a manageable non-conference schedule, the Cougs may start well and hang on for dear life.

The floor is probably five wins with a ceiling of seven and a realistic expectation of six. Even with Leach, six wins seems about right, and I’m sure WSU fans would be ecstatic to get back to a bowl for the first time in forever.


So, there you have it, another fantastic episode of Three Questions.  Special thanks to Brian Floyd for giving us such an in-depth and thoughtful interview.  Be sure to follow Brian on Twitter as he is ON the beat 24-7 and provides up-to-the-minute links to all things Cougar.

We’ll be back next week with a terrific interview with ASU beat reporter Doug Haller. Until next time, GO COUGS!!!!!!!!