Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen once described a teammate of his in a memorable way. Allen said that although former Los Angeles Raiders tight end Todd Christensen was very well read, he also had the ability to come down to a locker room level. That skill is very useful for a sports radio programmer to possess as well. It’s a skill that Scott Shapiro has.
Scott is one of the brightest minds in sports radio, but he doesn’t sound like he’s constantly giving a dissertation on the migrating habits of the Arctic Tern. Scott has the ability to teach and inform while sounding like one of the guys.
The Minneapolis native eventually landed a gig as Program Director of ESPN Radio in Bristol. Scott worked closely with some of the biggest names in the business including Mike & Mike and Colin Cowherd, and continues to work with Cowherd now as the Vice President of FOX Sports Radio. Other top talent in the industry have also been under Scott’s careful watch at FSR. It isn’t shocking that a man who has presided over some of the sharpest minds in the business sounds like he has one of the sharpest minds himself. The top-shelf insight that Scott offers below is second to none.
One of the best compliments I can give a sports fan is this; the passion they have for their favorite team makes me more passionate about that same team myself. It works the same way in business. The love that Scott displays for sports radio is contagious. His words are inspiring and contain some of the best advice hosts will find anywhere. Scott will be on a panel at the BSM Summit in New York next week. He gets a head start by spreading some knowledge in the interview below. Enjoy.
Brian Noe: Which area did last year’s Summit benefit you the most?
Scott Shapiro: Audio is at such a critical point right now and it’s so fascinating how the industry is changing. To me what was most compelling last year is how the industry is combating all of the new platforms. Not all of the platforms are truly new, but the strategies towards all of the platforms are changing by the day. When you have the smartest minds in radio and audio in one room, the collective brainstorm about how podcasting is changing the game, how streaming is revolutionizing the decisions we make, to me the most useful information is what’s new on the horizon and how we can combat it as an industry.
We’ve all programmed and hosted radio shows for many years so the name of the game hasn’t changed, it’s all about compelling audio, but what’s most fascinating in a conference like that is, there are new technologies and platforms, and new audience members as a result of it. It’s figuring out the right strategies to make sure the audio business continues to grow, which it definitely is.
BN: Which is more challenging; finding the right on-air talent, or combating all of the other competition and platforms?
SS: I’d say the biggest challenge for any media company right now is standing out in the wilderness of so much product. What I mean by that — there’s between 900,000 and a million podcasts for example. So there is way more audio product in the market than ever before. To me the biggest challenge for any content producer, any company, is having your content stand out and be top of mind with the audience.
What’s great for all of us and what makes it a fantastic challenge is that more people are consuming audio than ever before. Really along those lines more people are listening to sports audio than ever before. By audio I mean terrestrial radio, streaming, podcasting, you name the platform, there are more people listening, so that’s fantastic. There are less people today reading print journalism. That’s a fact. But there are more people listening to sports audio. The biggest challenge is since there are so many people delivering the product, how can you capture the listening, how can your content stand out in a wilderness of so many other takes?
BN: What strategies has FOX Sports Radio used to stand out among so much competition?
SS: More than anything it’s in the strength of our talent without question. It’s having the most compelling, the most insightful, and the most thought-provoking material. By material I mean takes and opinions. The name of our game is playing hits and giving a very smart opinion on stories to make people smarter, to make people think differently, and to make people react.
What allows us to stand out, it’s the creative process of our talent and are producers to make what we’re doing the most compelling talk out in the space. Then you use your resources like social media to disseminate it and get it out to the masses. But really the name of the game more than anything is that content creation process where you’re developing a smart, well-researched take. You’re there for making your audience smarter and allowing them to learn something based on having a unique take compared to something that’s cookie-cutter that anybody out in the marketplace could be doing.
BN: If you were trying to build the perfect sports radio host, or as close to perfect as you could get, what would be the three main traits you would pinpoint?
SS: Good question. I’m going to name some things and we’ll see if it ends up being three. Ultimately a host has to live and breathe sports. You have to be so consumed with the content at which you’re presenting. I mean that because you need to have that curiosity for the topics. You need to have a fire burning inside of you for the topics that you’re discussing. I’ve worked with hosts in the past who ehh, they don’t really care about the topics. When you don’t care, you have such a ceiling on how good your take is going to be and how compelling and how passionate you are going to be. But when you are consumed by it, when you’re a fan yourself, you bring a certain level of curiosity and you care more about the topics — it invigorates opinions. It invigorates thought. Therefore there is depth to the topic which allows the audience to be along with you on the journey. To me more than anything you have to have a passion for the material because if not, the audience is going to see right through that and they’re going to tune out and find somebody else who is passionate.
Number two; it’s the prep work that goes into a great show and the prep work that goes into developing a great topic. Anybody can take a story and give a cookie-cutter opinion and get by, but that’s no longer good enough. There are so many content producers out there where in the past, yeah, there might have been a couple different hosts on at the same time in each market. That was the audience’s choice. While there was competition there, it’s nothing like the competition of today. Now people can stream hosts from out of town. You can listen to content on demand. You can listen to content live. You can listen to all different genres. At this point now anybody can do mediocre audio, but that’s not good enough to win anymore. What prep does is it allows you to go deeper and make the audience smarter.
Whether I’m listening in my position or just listening casually, I know when people put prep work in because that prep work allows your material to go from mediocre to excellent. Not even good to great, it can be from mediocre to excellent. Frankly the audience’s time in this day and age with all of the distractions, with all the content, with social media, with all the different technology we have for our ears and at our fingertips, people’s time is honestly in many cases more valuable than even their money. If we’re asking people to spend time consuming our content, there’s got to be prep that goes into it to make it great instead of making it mediocre. Mediocre just doesn’t cut it anymore and frankly good often times doesn’t cut it anymore. There are too many options out there.
Okay number three; hosts must have tremendous storytelling ability. At the end of the day no matter what topic you’re discussing, whether it’s sports or anything else, you’re telling stories on the air. Now it might be very topical to the story of the day. It might be an analogy to your life. It might be an analogy to the real world but ultimately the greatest storytellers make for the greatest radio hosts because really that’s what you’re doing. You’re asking for people’s attention and you’re trying to keep their attention in a very interesting and compelling way.
BN: You landed right on three. You stuck the landing.
SS: Hey, what do you know? Three. Boom. Man, if you would have asked me for 14, I might have struggled there.
BN: (Laughs) What are a couple of other traits in a great host?
SS: Being fearless. Having the ability to not be overly concerned with kickback, and not overly concerned by having a potentially unpopular opinion. A radio host who’s willing to be honest in a constructive way and a well-researched way despite it perhaps being uncomfortable or unpopular, that’s a skill that allows people to stand out because it makes for exceptionally interesting radio.
I’m going to also say unpredictability. It could be unpredictability in terms of the presentation, or in terms of the opinion they may have on a story. The more unpredictable a talent is, it leaves open to the audience a level of suspense where they never quite know exactly what they’re getting. That level of intrigue usually makes for a pretty interesting listener/host relationship.
BN: You’ll be one of the speakers at the Summit. Being on the programming side, do you feel comfortable and enjoy being in front of a crowd?
SS: Personally I love it. There’s just an adrenaline rush. As a kid I was in plays and I’ve always liked being onstage. I’ve never shied away from those moments. I love the pressure that comes along with it. While some people have a hard time with that, I thrive in those types of atmospheres. But I’ve always wanted to be behind the scenes in radio. I love the strategy that goes into it. I love programming. The whole reason I’m in this game is because I would be consuming this product if I wasn’t working in it.
To be able to work behind the scenes and help craft it and help make talent better; to take shows from mediocre to great, or even good to great, I love the role of this position. I love what I do. At the same time in my position, you’re talking to people all day, every day. Whether it’s presenting to one person or having to get up on the stage and present to multiple hundreds, I’m comfortable with it. I think a leader of an organization needs to be comfortable speaking to others because a big part of what they’re doing is leading and inspiring people.
BN: The Summit will provide a lot of networking opportunities. It obviously benefits people that are seeking jobs, but for someone like yourself who already has the job, how important is networking?
SS: It’s important to everyone. Regardless if you’re a college student or you’re a top executive at a big company, it’s always important because you never know when opportunities are created with the people you meet. Frankly every job I’ve had throughout my career has been thanks to networking. Now, it’s also luck. Luck comes into everything. But luck doesn’t just happen; you have to create your luck through the relationships you have and through hard work.
Networking is very important because again no one should ever be content with where they are in life. You never know what doors can open through networking. Whether you’re a college student looking for an internship or you’re 60 years old and you think you’ve made it, there’s no point to shy away from networking because it could close doors that you never knew may open.
BN: What is either the most impactful thing you’ve recently learned about the radio industry or something that you found the most interesting?
SS: Now that’s a good question. Listen, to be an audio homer, it’s something I find fascinating; just in terms of leading and learning, one thing that I find fascinating is listening and viewing habits. What seems pretty remarkable to me is linear television. When you look at millennials, television consumption over the last five years has gone down 40 percent. Amongst millennials, linear television viewing has gone down 50 percent. Now of course that’s because there are so many streaming and on-demand options. But that’s a fact for linear TV.
Then when you look at terrestrial audio, there hasn’t been that drop off. It has not decreased at all over the last five years; to the point that well over 90 percent of people still to this day listen to terrestrial radio on a weekly basis. When you are able to track listening, viewing, and consumer habits, it allows you to better strategize what it is you’re doing and set up your organization to succeed. That’s not a profound life lesson, but it’s something I’ve learned just diving through numbers. I just find that fascinating knowing where the media is headed and what different consumption habits are.
BN: Being born and raised in Minneapolis, I know you bleed for your Minnesota teams. What’s the pecking order of your personal teams of interest?
SS: There are three that are at the top of the list; Vikings, Twins, and Timberwolves. I live and die with all of them. Boy, in terms of the order — mmm mmm mmm.
A Vikings Super Bowl championship would be the most impactful just because of the power of football. For a revolutionary moment, for that fan base, and for the state of Minnesota, the Vikings winning would be monumental. As a personal fan I live and die through these three teams. There’s not even a pecking order because my emotions that go into all of them are peak to begin with. I swear it’s like picking between children. I love them all and I hate them all at the same time.
BN: If a sports host talks about one of your favorite teams, you’re going to be locked in. What are the ingredients of a host that grab your attention the same way even when one of your favorite teams isn’t being discussed?
SS: It’s all about the storytelling and it’s all about the presentation. I’m a pretty broad sports fan in addition to having my favorite teams. If it’s a big story in sports I’m likely going to be interested in that story. But that’s what makes the ability of a host so fascinating; they can take a story that an audience perhaps wouldn’t choose on their own and they can make it compelling. That’s when you know you have a great host. It’s capturing the audience’s attention. It’s building an argument by demonstrating it and by telling a story. Ultimately we’re still playing the hits. We believe that the topics that we’re discussing are what the audience wants to hear. But if you’re able to hold people on a topic they didn’t wake up thinking they needed, it’s a great skill.
BN: You’ve worked with Jason Barrett before. Do you either have a funny story about JB from your working days together or something that stands out in your mind in terms of his work ethic?
SS: Other than the wrestling figurines that I see on his Twitter timeline. (Laughs) No here’s what I would say. It’s not a specific story. What I respect about Jason is that he’s relentless. I talk about hosts needing to have a passion on the air to be able to cut through and Jason certainly brings a next-level passion to his business and the business of sports audio. To have the vision to create a Summit like this, to have a vision to create a portal for news and a whole infrastructure around it, it takes guts and it takes a huge heart and a lot of work. I give him credit for having a very attuned sports media audience at the ready whenever he has news or content to share. I do really respect his passion for the industry and his relentless approach to making BSM work.
Brian Noe is a columnist for BSM and an on-air host heard nationwide each weekend on FOX Sports Radio. Previous roles include stops in Portland, OR, Albany, NY and Fresno, CA. You can follow him on Twitter @TheNoeShow or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Big Ten Didn’t Learn ANYTHING From the NHL’s Mistake
However, to not have your product ever mentioned outside of Saturdays ever again on the network that literally everyone associates with sports seems like a steep tradeoff to me.
My favorite moments in life involve watching someone/something on the verge of a great moment and after a lot of struggling, get to the moment that makes them happier than you cam imagine. You can feel your scowl shift from tepid observer to interested party and then finally transition to open fandom. I was on the verge of another one of those moments coming into this week until the Big Ten decided that they would make biggest mistake since the Legends and Leaders divisions.
The conference was closing in on a brand new set of media rights to go into effect starting with the 2023 football and basketball seasons. The discussions were near a climax when the USC and UCLA called Big Ten commish Kevin Warren. Then, the negotiations relaunched and something special was about to happen. The Big Ten was inches away from declaring themselves the richest and most forward-thinking conference in the entire country and if they could win a few football games, they’d be head ahead of the SEC.
You can argue until you are Gator Blue in the face but the fact is, the Big Ten was about to explode and pass the SEC. The conference was about to have games on FOX, ABC/ESPN, CBS and NBC. All of the networks. ALL OF THEM. They were also developing a package for a streaming service to test the waves of the web. It all sounded so damn smart.
Then, the Big Ten went dumb.
The conference got greedy and asked for too much from what would have been their most profitable partner in cachet, ESPN. Reportedly the conference asked ESPN for $380 million per year for seven years to broadcast the conference’s second-rated games… at best. My jaw hit the floor.
Pure, unapologetic greed got between the Big Ten and smart business. The conference forgot a lesson that the NHL learned the hard way. ESPN dominates sports. ESPN is sports.
I don’t need to go to far back in the archives to remind you that ESPN’s offer to the NHL for media rights wasn’t as lucrative financially as NBC’s was, but the NHL took the short-term money and ignored the far-reaching consequence. ESPN essentially wiped them from the regular discussion. Yes, there were some brief highlights and Barry Melrose did strut ass into the studio on occasion, but by no means was that sport a featured product anymore.
One afternoon I had someone tell me that they were upset ESPN was airing a promo for an upcoming soccer match that ESPN was carrying. He told me, “they’re only promoting it because they have the game.”
That’s kind of how this thing works. ESPN is in business with some sports and not others so it makes a lot of sense to promote those you are in business with, yeah? ESPN doesn’t spend a lot of time promoting Big Brother, Puppy Pals or ping pong either. Why would they? There is no incentive too.
Here’s the sad question. Why would ESPN bother promoting the Big Ten? Why would ESPN spend extra time on the air, on their social platforms, on their digital side, to promote something they don’t have access to? The Big Ten is a big deal, but is it that big of a deal?
I am not suggesting that ESPN will ignore the Big Ten. They will still get discussed on College GameDay. But why would the network’s premiere pregame show for decades go to any Big Ten games and feature the conference?
There will be highlights still shown on SportsCenter, but I’m willing to bet they get shorter.
The Big Ten chose network television and a streaming service over the behemoth that is ESPN. As far as streaming is concerned, consider that over half of all NFL frequent viewers still don’t know that Thursday Night Football games are on Amazon only this year. That’s a month away and that’s people who call themselves frequent NFL viewers and that’s the biggest, baddest league in the land. Good luck telling them Purdue/Rutgers is on Apple or Amazon. Streaming is a major part of the future, but it still isn’t the now.
ESPN may seem like the safe bet, but that’s because it’s the smartest bet. NBC is a fine network that spends a bajillion dollars on America’s Got Talent and The Voice. Fine shows, but tell me where I can watch highlights of the recent Notre Dame/Stanford game.
CBS is a wonderful network that dominated with the SEC package for a long time, but that’s because the very best SEC game each week went to CBS. Will they still dominate if they have the league’s #2 package? Because why wouldn’t FOX, Big Ten Network co-owner FOX, get the best game each week for Big Noon Saturday?
There isn’t a single one of us that has a good damn idea where college football will be in three, five or seven years but I do know that ESPN isn’t going anywhere. I know ESPN has elite talent at every level of production and on-air that’s been in place for a really, really long time. I also know ESPN cares way more about sports than the other networks. CBS would like the Big Ten to do well, but CSI: New Orleans is a priority, too.
The NHL went for quick money and it cost them market share. The sport is still trying to recover after being largely ignored by ESPN for 17 years. It wasn’t out of spite, it was out of business. The NHL once thought it didn’t need ESPN. Where’s the NHL now?
The money the Big Ten will generate is amazing, I will not deny that. It seems like a boondoggle of a lifetime to grab this cash. However, to not have your product ever mentioned outside of Saturdays ever again on the network that literally everyone associates with sports seems like a steep tradeoff to me. The Big Ten is going to get paid a lot now but in the long term, they will pay the most.
Arky Shea serves as BSM’s evening editor, a daily news writer, and a weekly media columnist. He has previously worked for Outkick, 97.7 The Zone, 740 Sports Radio, and 730 The Ump where he held roles as the station’s program director, afternoon host, and producer. To connect, find Arky on Twitter @ArkyShea.
Producers Podcast – Nuno Teixeira, ESPN Radio
How do you go from Jerry Springer to ESPN Radio? It is the journey Nuno Teixeira made. Mike Greenberg’s radio right hand shares what he learned working in two very different environments.
Brady Farkas is a sports radio professional with 5+ years of experience as a Program Director, On-Air Personality, Assistant Program Director and Producer in Burlington, VT and Albany, NY. He’s well versed in content creation, developing ideas to generate ratings and revenue, working in a team environment, and improving and growing digital content thru the use of social media, audio/video, and station websites. His primary goal is to host a daily sports talk program for a company/station that is dedicated to serving sports fans. You can find him on Twitter @WDEVRadioBrady and reach him by email at email@example.com.
Lance Zierlein Isn’t Taking Shortcuts
“That really hammered it home for me; man, you just can’t take shortcuts.”
Jack of all trades, master of none. The only thing I dislike about that saying is, to me, it implies that a person isn’t special in any one particular area. That isn’t the case with Lance Zierlein. The guy has been crushing morning drive in Houston for 25 years and knocking out NFL draft evaluations for eight years now at NFL.com. It isn’t possible for anybody to master draft analysis, but Zierlein’s talent evaluations stand out so much that NFL coaching staffs and front offices pay attention to his views.
In addition to his on-air duties and draft analysis, Zierlein used to provide gambling advice for bettors through his own handicapping business. This dude gets around. Zierlein has proven to be valuable in many different areas. It’s no wonder that new opportunities have become available to him over the years. In our conversation, Zierlein talks about not taking shortcuts. He also mentions how he tries to avoid taking himself too seriously on the air, and reveals the most gratifying experience of his career. Enjoy!
Brian Noe: How did you initially break in to the radio business?
Lance Zierlein: Radio started for me 25 years ago. Actually it started before then; I started my own handicapping business 28 years ago when I was really young. Then I hustled my way on radio as a football analyst, an expert in my early 20s. I sent stuff out to a bunch of stations, got on, gave out my phone number for my pick line, which I answered myself and gave out picks. That was my living.
From there, 610AM became an all-sports station in the fall of ‘94. By ‘95 the general manager of the station liked me on the radio and so I was doing a weekend sports show for a couple of hours on Sunday. By ‘97 I was doing morning drive. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since. I quit a job making $400 a week working 60 hours a week. It was just ridiculous. It was like some horrific management position in a field I had no idea what I was doing. I just quit and bet on myself and started my own business and three years later I’ve got a morning sports talk show. It’s been that way ever since.
BN: What has been your career path when it comes to writing?
LZ: I’ve been writing for a while. I started my own football newsletter in 1998. It was a sports newsletter, then in 2001 it became a football only newsletter. I did that for a while. I was a fantasy football writer for the Houston Chronicle. I had a blog in the Chronicle that was fairly heavily trafficked. I covered everything but really started to focus in on the NFL draft and some fantasy football stuff and the Houston Texans.
Some people over at the NFL noticed me. I planted some seeds over there and introduced myself to people at NFL Media. In October of 2014, they reached out to me about being their new NFL draft analyst. Shortly thereafter I was hired. I’ve worked there since the fall of 2014. So eight NFL drafts and 25 straight years of drive-time radio as well.
BN: When you think about all of those different avenues whether it’s handicapping, sports radio, or being a draft analyst — which is like scouting — which do you think you’ve had to learn the most about to know what you were talking about really well?
LZ: Oh man, well for me radio was never formulaic. I didn’t learn in college, I was just a natural talker and thinker and entertainer. I’m not necessarily predictable.
I think the most that I had to learn was the NFL draft. Handicapping is something that you learn as well. I learned in the pool halls of New Orleans when I was going to school at Tulane. I had a mentor who was a former vice president of finance for a company there. He just taught me about handicapping as being an analytical process where you try to find the right side of the puzzle. There’s a puzzle between two teams, various players, here’s the point spread and you try to work the puzzle out and find the right side. That took time too.
When it came to the draft you’re talking about having to really learn all of the specific factors for every position. From long snapper to punter to kicker to every position on the offensive side and defensive side. Even if you think you know what you’re doing and even if you have a scouting manual like I had to work off of, until you actually watch a ton of tape and make mistakes in evaluations, which you don’t know until two and three years down the road in many cases, and learn from those mistakes and alter your process and dial in your process to match the changing tides of NFL and college football, you really can’t get there.
I think the most learning I had to do believe it or not, and my dad was an NFL and college football coach my whole life, I think it’s interesting; the most learning I had to do really was the scouting and the evaluating process before the NFL draft. I think that was the most work I had to do from start to finish. And I still think that I’m learning in that as well.
BN: Doing draft evaluations is difficult. Handicapping games is difficult. Between the two, which do you think you were thrown into the deep end more? Most when it comes to that?
LZ: Handicapping I was trying to pick winners for people and I didn’t really feel like I had anything to lose. I was doing something I loved to do. I had left a job I hated that I should have never even been in. To me I was master of my own domain. I had my own company. But there’s a pressure that comes with that because although I didn’t need much money to survive and I was married to my first wife at the time, there is a pressure with knowing that you have to win so that people will sign up for the next month and you can pay bills.
When it comes to being thrown into the fire, listen I’ve got to write 500 players a year and every one of them is going to live on the internet forever. There’s receipts on 500 players. When I got thrown in I’m having to call defensive back coaches I know to ask questions about certain things having to do with cornerbacks, safeties. I’m talking to pass rush specialists. I’m talking to coaches primarily and really getting an education. I was lucky enough to talk to some guys who really gave me some help along the way.
But if you just watch a tape, the tape will speak to you. I had Jerry Angelo who was the GM of the Bears who one time told me just say what you see. Just say what you see. I really lived off that for the first couple of years. Then beyond that I started to really learn to be more technical with some of the things I was looking at at every position. Having 500 players that you’re writing up, from what I recall from a former editor there, he got 15 million hits internationally on my scouting reports over a relatively short period of time during the draft.
That really hammered it home for me; man, you just can’t take shortcuts. You have to really understand these guys, know these guys. If you project them wrong that’s fine, but don’t miss because you took shortcuts. It’s going to be there for everyone to read and see. I would say thrown to the wolves much more in the evaluation.
BN: Which of the three would you say is the most gratifying for you between sports radio, handicapping back in the day, and the writing/analyst work that you do?
LZ: God, that’s such a hard question because they’re three very different times of my life. The handicapping stuff was me just getting a shot to springboard into sports and into radio. I always knew handicapping was going to be a way for me to get into radio. I planned it as a side door into radio and my plan worked. I was pretty good at what I did.
Radio was just incredible because it introduced me to my wife. She was a listener so it introduced me to her. We had such a great following. Athletes liked the show. That’s gratifying on a level in my 20s and in to my 30s, I don’t think anything can match that when people around the city know who you are. You’re having fun every single day. You’re coming into the radio station and it’s just a lot of fun. You’re just kind of on a wild ride. You don’t really recognize it until after it’s over.
Football was special in a different way because my dad was a lifelong coach. He’s been a coach since I was one or two years old. He’s won a Super Bowl ring. He’s coached for a variety of college and pro teams. The first time he was reading my scouting reports when he was with the Arizona Cardinals, he came across them. One of the other coaches showed him.
When he really realized wow, he knew I did radio, he knew I did some of the scouting stuff on my own in a newsletter, I don’t think he really took it all that seriously. When he realized in reading my scouting reports for offensive lineman that I was really pretty good at it, and that he agreed with much of it, and he’s now calling me every other day to talk about prospects and get my thoughts on guys, you just can’t imagine the amount of happiness that gave me as a son to know that my dad had that level of respect for my work.
It’s really a second job. Radio is what I had done and this is a dramatically different job. If you’re doing NFL draft analysis for NFL.com, I’m following a scouting protocol. This is not radio. It’s a totally different discipline and job. Knowing that he really had a great deal of respect and that other Arizona Cardinals coaches started calling me and asking my opinions on certain players, it’s hard to really put into words how gratifying that is.
Then through the process knowing that there are people in the league who really respect my work and guys I’ve become friends with who are general managers now who respect what I do. There’s just an immense feeling of satisfaction in doing that and knowing I’ve got number one radio shows at four different stations in Houston.
Then to be able to do this with professionals that are in my dad’s trade. I grew up watching my dad as a coach, I know how tough that profession is for front office personnel, for coaches, and to know that people have a respect for the work that I do, that’s a level of gratification that’s completely different. That’s like a cherry on top. If I never did anything again tomorrow, I would be happy with what I’ve accomplished in my time in sports.
BN: Football fans turn into mini GMs when the draft rolls around. A lot of their evaluations are way off. [Laughs] Do you see a common thread between some of the evaluations that are just not accurate?
LZ: That’s a tough question. I think some people are way too opinionated and firm in opinions and they have not spent nearly enough time actually watching the players. I think it’s really more they’re aggregating opinions from other people and then turning it into their own, which is kind of an incomplete analysis. I think that’s a mistake that some people make.
I think there’s a belief that who you are now is who you’re going to be in the future. That’s the most basic mistake that everyone makes. You have to learn you’re not giving grades for who a player is right now, you’re giving grades for who a player is going to be in three to five years. Learning to do that does not happen overnight. It’s hard. It forces you to think differently. It forces you to really focus on traits and the habits of successful people.
Whether it’s certain successful traits, there are traits that can lead to success, explosiveness, speed, length, toughness, and you’ve got to look for those, and then you worry about NFL coaches coaching up the rest of it. Don’t get too hyper-focused. I think a lot of people get too hyper-focused on who a player is right now and not who a player is going to be later. Then also on the flip side, they get too enamored with stats and names as opposed to understanding what typically works in the NFL.
BN: How about your future? Say five years from now, what you’re doing, where you’re doing it at, what would be ideal for you?
LZ: I really don’t know. I think honestly if the right opportunity came with an NFL team and somebody I respected as a general manager, that would be something I would have to consider. I’m not sure that that right opportunity and all the things would fall in place. I don’t know that that would ever be the case. I’m not sure I see myself doing that in five years.
I think honestly, I feel like I have an eye for talent outside of football. I think I have an eye for talent in radio. I’ve brought five to seven people in who have become radio people and good hosts. I think at some point that might be something that I want to do is become more of a program director. If not a program director a talent scout to bring in the next generation of radio professionals.
I could see myself doing that because I do think I have an eye for people who have it. I didn’t learn the traditional way and so I understand that you don’t have to go through the traditional methods to be someone who can be captivating or entertaining or someone with upside. I think I recognize when people have that kind of upside. I think I’d love to be involved in that side of radio at some point in the future.
I’ve got a football business along with the former director of analytics for the Tampa Bay Bucs. It’s kind of a scouting tool and a recruiting tool for colleges. We’re already working with college teams and with high school teams. I think the handicapping stuff is out for me moving forward. [Laughs] That was an avenue and a vehicle and I still love trying to solve the puzzle, but I don’t put the same time into it anymore. There are different directions I can go in, but I’m happy where I am right now both in radio and the draft stuff. I’m just going to keep letting things play out and we’ll see what happens.
Brian Noe is a columnist for BSM and an on-air host heard nationwide each weekend on FOX Sports Radio. Previous roles include stops in Portland, OR, Albany, NY and Fresno, CA. You can follow him on Twitter @TheNoeShow or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.