Passing the Torch At Birds 24/7

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) passes the ball during the first quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at the Lincoln Financial Field Snow Bowl

USA Today Sports

The idea for Birds 24/7 was hatched in the winter of 2012, and the original name we came up with was Breaking Birds (Walter White was at the height of his powers back then).

The Eagles were coming off an 8-8 season, and the 2012 campaign figured to be a significant one for the franchise. Either Andy Reid would get his team to rebound, as he’d done so often in the past, or he wouldn’t, and Jeffrey Lurie would have to consider finally moving in another direction.

Tim and I had gotten to know each other while writing about the Eagles at our previous stops. And that February we began to trade some emails, soon discovering that we both were looking for something new for the upcoming season.

Emails turned to phone calls. Phone calls turned to brainstorming sessions. And soon we had somehow sold one another on the idea of a new site – one that covered every aspect of the Eagles organization year-round.

We were convinced it could work, but knew it would have to provide the hungry fan base with something different – off-beat story angles, breaking news, unique analysis and so on. We set up calls and meetings with people who we thought might be able to help or advise us. Most emphasized that a standalone site would be challenging. We needed a partner.

The process took months, but as winter turned to spring and spring turned to summer, we found a partner willing to take a chance on us in Philly Mag. The rest, as they say, is history.

That’s the backstory. The news is that this is my final post at Birds 24/7. I’m moving on to pursue another opportunity – one that doesn’t involve writing about the Eagles.

Before leaving, I’ve got to hand out some thank yous. First, to Tom McGrath, David Lipson and the crew at Philly Mag who gave us a shot. Sports had not previously been a major part of the web site. But they believed in the idea, and more importantly, they trusted us to execute it. The editorial independence has been a major reason why the site has thrived.

Second, to T-Mac. A setup like this only works if both parties are fully invested and desperate to make the product a success. We started with two simple goals: produce quality work, and grow the audience. Tim has developed a wide-ranging network of sources over the years. He breaks stories, separates fact from fiction when rumors start flying and tackles angles that no one else thinks about.

Check his track record, and you won’t find a miss. When T-Mac hints at something, you can take it to the bank. He’s always thinking about what his words mean for the subjects he’s writing about, and at the same time he has superior instincts to know when he should do more digging.

On a personal level, the guy ranks off the charts on the #culture scale. Whether it was the time our rental car sputtered and caused a logjam in the Callahan Tunnel in Boston or the Sunday afternoon when we approached Lambeau Field for the first time, we never took ourselves too seriously and always had a blast doing this job. Put simply, I couldn’t have asked for a better partner for this venture during the past three years.

And finally, to you, the readers. The site took off immediately back in July of 2012 because you shared it with your fellow Eagles fans through email, social media and word of mouth. You came back day after day and hour after hour, regardless of the time of year – regular season, free agency, the draft, training camp and so on.

The comments section at Birds 24/7 has no match. On every post, you share news, opinion, links and humor. You’ve formed an online community where two people can disagree but still be respectful of each other. This is a novel concept, and I don’t think it’s executed better anywhere else.

I didn’t realize just how special the bond formed here was until earlier this summer when regular commenter Andy suffered a stroke and asked his wife to let everyone know so that they wouldn’t wonder where he’d gone. The job of a sportswriter is completely inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but that gesture and the ensuing outpouring of support was what makes Birds 24/7 a special place.

By the way, Andy is doing “remarkably well” and has returned to the comments section just in time for the season. Welcome back, my friend. You were missed!

Moving forward, this will continue to be the go-to destination for Eagles coverage. I won’t be covering Chip Kelly anymore, but I’ll be following along closely to see how this experiment unfolds. McManus will continue to crush it, and his new sidekick will be Josh Paunil.

When Josh interned for us last summer, we instructed him to find guys on the roster who had interesting stories, even if they were long shots to make the 53-man roster. He took that directive and ran with it, writing unbelievable feature after unbelievable feature. You guys liked him so much you nicknamed him MurderPen.

Josh would email us at all hours with story ideas and thoughts on how to make the site better. The point here is to provide something different that you can’t get anywhere else. Alongside Tim, Josh will continue to take the site in that direction. I couldn’t be more excited for him and know these two will kill it during what figures to be an eventful and fascinating Year 3 under Kelly.

One final thanks to everyone who’s read, commented, emailed or Tweeted over the years. Please know that the feedback was invaluable and always appreciated.

I have no final words of wisdom other than to advise you to drink your smoothies, get enough sleep, always run the ball against two-deep looks and never huddle.

Have a great season, everyone.