The NFL Draft is transpiring and it's been a crazy weekend. I thought it would be important to get to know one of the NFL bloggers on one of the most important NFL weekends of the year. Josh Kirkendall runs our Cincinnati Bengals site Cincy Jungle and has done so for four years. He does an excellent job with an incredible team of writers. So without further ado, let's get to know Josh Kirkendall.
Tyler Bleszinski: Tell me how you came to be at SB Nation.
Josh Kirkendall: I was writing for another Bengals site, which was primarily a discussion forum run by a fan during his free time, when I implemented a blog on that site when blogs were becoming a hit. After about a year of doing that, Dave Halprin posted in the rarely used comments section asking, "who runs this?" Fortunately, I caught the comment, simply responding with "me". About a month later in March of 2006, we kicked off Cincy Jungle.
Bleszinski: What has the experience been like?
Kirkendall: It's been great. When we were running a site by ourselves, we had no backing, no control over server uptimes and we used free software found on the internet which took literally days to install and configure. If we needed to make any changes to the software, we'd spend hours to get the formatting issues straightened out and we had absolutely no concept of things like SEO.
The technical support at SB Nation is a dream and now I'm allowed to do the one thing I love without all of the backend hassle. Every day is a learning experience. How to get your pieces more exposure, how to write good headlines and how to fully develop a community are just a few things I've learned in the four years at SB Nation. The support and work that our front office puts in helping us become greater at our trade is invaluable.
So the experience has been great.
Bleszinski: What kind of community have you tried to build over at Cincy Jungle?
Kirkendall: I always believed in quality over quantity with the community. I always try to provide my readers with as much information as possible so that the community is insightful as possible. This way I think people will be more inclined to comment because we're talking about a wide range of things. At the same time, we try to expand perceptions and opinions. For example, after writing most of my opinions on the site, a week later, I'll present a counterpoint. Readers like that and for the most part, it keeps them thinking.
Bleszinski: What are your ultimate goals for the site?
Kirkendall: To be the best Bengals site, not just blog, on the internet and doing whatever it takes to get there.
Bleszinski: You have a pretty big team of good writers. How do you manage your site?
Kirkendall: Each writer has their own set of responsibilities. In all, I have seven writers with possibly an eighth coming on board. All of whom are responsible for their own thing. For example, one is responsible for the multi-media aspect of the site (like PodCasts) as well as being the site editor. Another is responsible for the community (moderator) while we have other bloggers that take care of the site during times that I'm not available (aka, preempting the significant other from asking "what about me?"). One of our writers is interested into taking a more historical approach to the team, talking about the team's history that younger fans might not know exist. Finally, we're working towards hiring another guy that will mostly be doing weekends. I want to put a team together that if I'm forced to go on vacation against my will, the site will continue humming along. At the same time, I want all of them to be equally representative to the site and provide a different voice for the readers.
Essentially, we have two styles of writers. We have feature bloggers, who write the lengthy opinion pieces and we have babysitting bloggers, who maintain the site and update it with news. When a feature writer wants to post a story, he gives us an idea of what he wants to write. The site editor and I will give the writer a green light and before he posts, he'll send us his story and we'll review it, edit it and enhance it. If one of our babysitting bloggers wants to post a short story, they'll go through me before posting to make sure it isn't apart of a scheduled post and when it's appropriate to schedule the post.
Having a staff of writers is big; I'd recommend it for everyone. It limits any risk of burning out if you run the site solo, but it also brings on different views and gives you a roster of people that can cover for you while you're out.
Bleszinski: How'd you come to be a Bengals fan?
Kirkendall: Actually, I grew up initially in Minnesota as a Vikings fan until I was about ten years old when we moved to Cincinnati. It was that year that the Bengals went to Super Bowl XXIII, when my lasting memory of the team's last Super Bowl win was Tim Krumrie's injury and John Taylor's last minute touchdown reception. Not many ten years olds would see that and instantly become a Bengals fan. It grew from that point until early in the 21st century when I started writing about them in my free time.
Bleszinski: What's your favorite Bengals player of the current team and of all time and why?
Kirkendall: My all-time favorite Bengals players are Anthony Munoz and Willie Anderson. I grew up playing football on the offensive line through high school and because of that, I developed a great appreciation and admiration for offensive linemen. Munoz is clearly one of the best of all time; his technique was flawless and he could flatout run you over anytime he wanted. Willie Anderson was the same. Not only was he one of the league's best tackles for a time, he was the emotional leader of the team, very outspoken, and the guy that connected with the fans through the late 90s through mid-00s. His jersey is the only one that I own.
As for the current team, it's hard to go against Carson Palmer. But, when it comes down to it, I don't have a favorite. Each player that I've enjoyed watching brings their own qualities that I've liked, ranging from Chad's humor and domination to Andrew Whitworth for slugging it out with John Henderson last season.
Bleszinski: What is your favorite Bengals moment?
Kirkendall: In 2003 when the Bengals were an impressive 4-5 after going 2-14 the year before during Marvin Lewis' first year, they hosted the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs. Chad Johnson (named at the time) conducted a Tuesday interview and guaranteed the Bengals would win. Entering the fourth quarter with a 10-6 lead, Peter Warrick returned a punt 68 yards for a touchdown. On the Bengals very next offensive possession, Kitna completed a 77 yard touchdown pass to Warrick giving Cincinnati a 24-12 lead and eventually the win. It was a huge moment because it gave us Bengals fans a sense of pride that we haven't felt in a really long time. I'm looking to enlarge a picture of Peter Warrick running away from the camera with the football in the air while he's scoring one of his long touchdown runs, have it framed and autographed.
Bleszinski: How do you think the Bengals did in the first round of the draft (obviously answer this one after tomorrow night)?
Kirkendall: Solid. Jermaine Gresham addressed a need at a position that was completely wiped out from injury and replaced with second-rate talent. Having a tight end that can stretch the field and catch footballs in traffic will go a long way for a team that redefined itself as a physical rushing offense. One thing that this offense missed in 2009 was T.J. Houshmandzadeh's ability to break free from coverage, find zones and risk his neck over the middle to pick up just a few yards for a drive sustaining first down. We're hoping that Gresham can help provide that.
Bleszinski: What do you anticipate from them in 2010?
Kirkendall: I really like this squad. We have all of our starters returning and we expect this year's draft to bolster our squad along with the earlier signing of Antonio Bryant. We'll have a rough schedule, playing the Steelers (twice), Ravens (twice), Colts, Saints, Chargers, Jets and Falcons. As long as we can improve our fourth ranked defense while Palmer plays with his new toys in the passing game (Bryant, Gresham and Jordan Shipley), we should be more than competitive this year.
Bleszinski: Tell me something about yourself that might surprise your readers.
Kirkendall: Mostly for financial reasons, I haven't been to a Bengals game in more than two years. And it makes me feel stupid sometimes, because I'm the leader blogger of the best Bengals blog on the internet and I haven't been to a game for so long.
Bleszinski: Thanks so much for your time.
Kirkendall: Thanks, Tyler. It was a pleasure.