McGinn: Why it's time to Go Long

Hall-of-Famer Bob McGinn shares why he has decided to work at Go Long and why he'd love for everyone to join this building community.

During my 25 springs as an employee of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the same routine always played out.

My NFL draft series was in the can. The undrafted rookies were signed. The rookie minicamp/rookie orientation camp had ground to a close.

With the approval of my editors, I immediately commenced a 10-week “you can get lost” period in which my colleagues on the JS sports desk knew I was off limits until shortly before the start of the next training camp.

Vacation, blessed vacation, never felt so good after the grind of a season followed by the double grind of the draft. All I wanted to do was anything but work.

Tyler Dunne, then 23, popped into my small world in 2011 as one of my two colleagues on the Green Bay Packers beat. As the least senior writer, it was Tyler’s responsibility to cover the team during the offseason.

Over the next four summers I fully came to understand just how badly Tyler wanted to be a pro football writer.

He attacked the OTA’s, regarded by some correspondents as an unwanted creation, as if they were the Super Bowl. He wanted to do more, and more and more.

I remember telling him that he needed to take his vacation. He also had a bunch of comp time accrued from the season. But even with his wonderful parents, Steve and Lori, and his large extended family just outside Buffalo eagerly awaiting his return, Tyler didn’t want to leave Green Bay.

Reluctantly, Tyler did fly home for a few weeks. But what he really wanted to do was chase the next story, get the next big interview, learn more about the game. I have no doubt that what he really wanted was to cover football 12 months of the year. The NFL’s midsummer hiatus was anathema for one person: Tyler Dunne.

Tyler is a fabulous writer. Everyone who has read him can see that. But it is his unquenchable thirst for work, on assignments large and small, which differentiates him from some others in the field.

It was obvious to us early at the Journal Sentinel that Tyler was a master storyteller. His enthusiasm for a story was boundless. He’s a people person, and players and coaches alike sensed that quickly. Players talked to him. He spoke their language, listened more than he talked, and in the end told their tales in compelling fashion.

My wife, Pat, and I grew very fond of Tyler. He joined our family for holidays when a jaunt back to Buffalo wasn’t in the cards. One year, Pat contacted Lori to obtain some photos of Tyler as a youth that Pat fashioned into ornaments for our Christmas tree.

On the beat, I tried to share all that I could about covering an NFL team.

Then came the podcasts in about 2012. Of course, they were all his idea. I really had no idea what he was talking about. They were in the embryonic stage at the time, and in a way we felt like pioneers.

Usually late on a Thursday afternoon Tyler would breeze through our unlocked front door, unpack the pod equipment on the kitchen table and proceed to coax me into batting around the stories we had written and what was to come.

About all I did was pour each of us a glass of ice water. Sometimes we’d make coffee, and Tyler would give me grief for drinking it through a straw. I also would microwave coffee, something he abhorred.

A highlight was the selection of introductory music. We alternated by week. I did put some thought into my choices. He’ll never live down not knowing anything about “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

The JS realized it couldn’t keep a talent like Tyler for long. He was off to the Buffalo News and the Bills beat in 2015, followed shortly thereafter by a national post with Bleacher Report.

When that ended, Tyler ended up making a courageous decision and bet on himself. In November, he founded Go Long, a subscription-based newsletter and website dedicated to longform journalism and no b.s. coverage of the NFL.

I had first-hand knowledge of the difficult road that he faced. My post-Journal Sentinel years included, a subscription-based website in which I did the majority of the writing and my son, Charlie, handled all the business and design elements. We experienced remarkable financial and artistic growth in our two years. The fact that I was writing a lot (five times a week) and Charlie had his own time-consuming career in national sales led to our decision to sell the website to The Athletic in August 2019.

In early spring, I made the decision that I wouldn’t return to The Athletic for the 2021 season. Then I had to decide if I wanted to keep writing. When my answer was yes, I considered my options, eventually contacted Tyler and, gratefully, here we are today.

Go Long has enormous potential. Tyler is at or near the elite level of journalists covering the league. With his talent, storytelling skills and ever-expanding source list across the NFL, the site is in very good hands at the top. And with longtime NFL executive in personnel Jim Monos and others on board, our readers and listeners are in for a cornucopia of high-quality content.

What Tyler doesn’t know, he will find out. He will not be outworked.

His zeal will not wane.

My hope is to be able to relieve some of the stress from Tyler who, along with his wife, Gina, have a darling young daughter, Ella, and month-old son, Sonny.

My duties, at least starting out, will be three-fold:

One: Weekly Podcast. I’ll be teaming with Tyler, of course, most likely on Tuesday. In it, I’ll sustain the “Rating the Packers” series, but now in audio form. I’ll spend just as much time breaking down the games, but now won’t be writing the positional summaries until 3 or 4 a.m. on Mondays (actually Tuesday morning) as was a regular occurrence over the past several years. That series started in 1987 at the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Also, what we’re labeling “McGinn’s Memories” will debut as part of the pod. I have a lot stored up since 1979, my first year covering pro football.

Two: NFL draft coverage. I’ll do my draft series in April for the 38th consecutive spring. Earlier, I’ll do capsules on the top 60 in March, and list the top 100 the week of the draft. I’ll be watching the college game all year.

Three: The McGinn Files. In the lower level of our home, I have yearly files containing transcripts of every GM-personnel director-scout interview that I conducted for the draft series since its inception in 1985. Thus, there are multiple evaluations from scouts of about 300 players that were eligible for each of the last 37 drafts. I’ll select a player to profile, reveal what scouts thought of him coming out of college and then detail how his professional career played out.

Tyler and I are friends reunited as partners in the coverage of pro football. I hope he makes me a better journalist. My objective is to help enhance the early success of Go Long and further establish Tyler as a preeminent, independent voice in NFL media circles.

What I can guarantee is we’re going to have a blast writing and podcasting over the next eight months. As for the offseason, hey, that’s Tyler’s baby.

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McGinn has covered the NFL continuously since 1979. Won Bill Nunn Memorial Award in 2011 for long and distinguished coverage of pro football.
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