The Daily Briefing Wednesday, September 5, 2018

AROUND THE NFL 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

The Seahawks and Cowboys are in a staredown over compensation for S EARL THOMAS according to Jori Epstein of the Dallas Morning News:

 

The Seattle Seahawks may open the 2018 NFL season against the Denver Broncos this weekend without star safety Earl Thomas.

 

The six-time Pro Bowler who’s made clear he wants to play for the Cowboys has held out through offseason activities and training camp while demanding a contract extension from Seattle.

 

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said Tuesday night the holdout isn’t expected to end in time for the regular season.

 

“It’s not like the Seahawks have been working to retain him,” Rapoport said. “There have been no legitimate contract negotiations really since he began his holdout.”

 

Rapoport said Thomas returned to the Seattle area this week – he’d been away this summer, at least partly in Austin where he once played for the Longhorns – to see his daughter begin kindergarten. He wasn’t expected to linger and rejoin his team.

 

“Dallas still is interested in trading for him,” Rapoport said, “but they’re only willing to give up a third-round pick. Not the second rounder and change Seattle wants.”

 

Thomas brings a resume of 642 tackles, 63 pass deflections and 25 interceptions to an employer. But he’s also 29 and has missed five games the last two seasons.

 

He’s set to count $10.4 million against the cap this year. The Cowboys have roughly $19 million in cap space available after cutting longtime kicker Dan Bailey Saturday. But they’re wary of potential looming paydays as early as next offseason for quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott and franchise-tagged defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence.

 

Thomas visited Jason Garrett outside the Cowboys locker room when Seattle played at AT&T Stadium Christmas Eve, asking the coach to sign him.

 

“When Seattle kick me to the curb,” the Texas native reiterated back at his own locker that night, “please the Cowboys come get me.”

– – –

PK DAN BAILEY apparently outkicked his coverage with his big salary, and now he’s on the street despite a history of excellent performance.  Stefan Stevenson of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram:

 

Everyone has questions (about Bailey being cut) and Garrett spent much of his press conference time explaining the controversial move. Here’s an edited version of what he said:

 

What was the rationale behind cutting Dan Bailey? Obviously, a lot of factors go into this kind of a decision. It was one we talked about a lot. There is a business side to the game as well. That is certainly a factor in making a decision like this. But really, honestly, there is a business side to making a lot of decisions we make in the era of the salary cap. You have to allocate dollars to certain guys and you have to decide where you can maybe save some money and save some salary cap space. I can’t say enough about Dan Bailey as a person, as a kicker, what he’s done for this organization, the number of pressure kicks he made for us. He and I had a good visit the other day, talked the whole thing through, we wish him nothing but the best going forward. He’s been a great player for us and will continue to be a great player in this league.

 

How much was this mainly about finances? Again, there are a lot of factors that go into all of these decisions. You’re evaluating the players’ performance and you’re also evaluating how you’re putting the entire roster together. There are a lot of different factors that went into this.

 

How much was it about performance? I think the biggest thing you would look at is he’s had some injuries over the last couple of years, had a back injury two years ago, had the groin [injury] last year. Obviously, he didn’t kick his best down the stretch last year, there are a lot of different reasons for that. When we put the whole thing together and decided what was the best for our football team, this is the decision we felt we had to make. It was a hard decision. There is no question about that. We went back and forth on it, we discussed it a great deal. One of the things that gave us confidence was how well Brett Maher has kicked both in practice and in games. We feel like he has an opportunity to help our football team in that role.

 

 

PHILADELPHIA

QB NICK FOLES has a lot of money on the line if he starts and wins Thursday against the Falcons.  Zac Rosenblatt of NJ.com:

 

After bluster-filled Sunday, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson came back on Monday and finally announced who his quarterback would be for Thursday’s season-opener against the Falcons, and his decision has implications beyond the health of Carson Wentz’s knee.

 

The Eagles will start Nick Foles, the reigning Super Bowl MVP. That is now, finally, a fact.

 

That decision could cost the Eagles a pretty penny. Fifty-million pennies, to be exact.

 

Over the summer, the Eagles rewarded Foles for his historic playoff performance in guiding the franchise to its first-ever Super Bowl victory by reworking his contract to feature a sizable raise and significant incentives if he played a major role for the Eagles again in 2018.

 

The new deal included a $2 million signing bonus, but let’s focus on the incentives. Foles can technically make up to $14 million in incentives this season, and Foles’ potential accumulation towards that total begins against the Falcons.

 

Here’s the deal: For every regular season game Foles plays in at least 33 percent of the snaps, he earns $250,000. For every game in which Foles plays at least 33 percent of the snaps and wins, he earns $250,000.

 

With Foles starting on Thursday night, barring injury, he’ll have a chance to earn up to $500,000 in incentives, and $250,000 whether he wins or loses.

 

The longer Wentz remains out — there’s been no indication of an actual timetable for his return from December knee surgery — the more money Foles can earn.

 

The max value of those incentive’s in Foles’ contract would allow him to earn up to $8 million, though that would require he play at least 33 percent of the snaps every week and the Eagles finishing 16-0.

 

There’s more: If Foles plays at least 33 percent of the snaps over the course of the entire 2018 regular season, he’d earn $1 million. If he plays at least 50 percent of the snaps, that jumps to $1.5 million.

 

That’s also significant. Consider: The Eagles played 1,135 offensive snaps last season; 33 percent of that comes out to 374 (rounding down).

 

Wentz played his 374th snap in Week 6.

 

One last incentive note: If Foles winds up taking over in the playoffs again, the number goes up: If he plays at least 33 percent of the snaps in a playoff game, he earns $500,000. If he plays 33 percent of the snaps in a game and wins, that’s another $500,000.

 

This likely won’t impact anything about the outcome on Thursday night.

 

Plus, it’s not as if the Eagles are going to rush Wentz back too soon to save a few (million) pennies. Howie Roseman, the Eagles’ executive vice president of football operations, already moved to save some money in other places.

 

Foles isn’t the type to require financial motivation to succeed. After all, he published a New York Times best-selling book this summer and donated every, well, penny to charity.

 

Clearly, money doesn’t weigh on him.

 

Though, 50 million pennies are heavy.

 

(Yes, we looked it up: approximately 275,577 pounds)

 

This on the status of QB CARSON WENTZ from Elliot Shorr-Parks.

 

One day after he announced that quarterback Nick Foles would be starting for the Eagles against the Atlanta Falcons, head coach Doug Pederson continued to keep the door open for a Carson Wentz return in the not-so-distant future.

 

“Close,” Pederson said when asked how far away Wentz was. “I’m no doctor, no expert. Still leaving it up to the medical team. He’s had some great workouts here in the last few days. We’ll see.”

 

Wentz has made it clear since he had surgery on his torn ACL and LCL that playing in Week 1 was the goal. It sounds like he didn’t miss that goal by very much, although he has not yet been medically cleared to play.

 

The fact he wasn’t medically cleared was the top factor in Pederson’s decision.

 

“I’m not going to get into all the whys, therefores, what went into this, what went into that. I made the decision,” Pederson said. “I’ve been in conversation with both Carson and Nick this entire time.  Dating all the way back to the spring. I made the decision yesterday, both guys have embraced it. Now we are focused and getting ready for Thursday night.”

 

So when will Wentz play?

 

The Eagles’ next game after their contest against the Falcons is on Sept. 16 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. By that point Wentz will be a full nine moths past his surgery. Their following game after that is Sept. 23 against the Indianapolis Colts. By the time the team takes the field for that game Wentz will be nine months, one week and three days past his surgery.

 

If the Eagles decide to wait until the game after their Bye Week, which is Nov. 11 against the Dallas Cowboys at home, Wentz will be 10 months and 29 days removed from his surgery.

 

As has been the case throughout all of the mystery surrounding Wentz over the last month, the final decision rests in the hands of the doctors.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

TAMPA BAY

The Bucs hope to have T DONOVAN SMITH back in the lineup on Sunday in New Orleans.  Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Veteran left tackle Donovan Smith is two weeks out from a knee sprain which was thought to keep him out two to four weeks.

 

It appears to be on the short end of that span.

 

Via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said he hopes Smith will be able to play Sunday against the Saints.

 

“Donovan takes a lot of pride,” Koetter said. “He’s never missed a start in his time here. If anybody can make it, it’s him.”

 

Smith has started all 48 games since joining the Bucs in the second round of the 2015 draft.

 

If he’s not able to go, Leonard Wester is in line to start, protecting the blind side of the less-mobile Ryan Fitzpatrick.

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

The big press conference is about the Cardinals and their desire to be good neighbors to the people of Glendale.  The Arizona Republic:

 

The Arizona Cardinals and State Farm have reached agreement on an 18-year naming rights commitment that results in the team’s home venue becoming State Farm Stadium.

 

“We were intent on finding a relationship that was an ideal fit with our organization and this community in terms of values, priorities and culture,” Cardinals President Michael Bidwill said in a release. “With State Farm, we absolutely did that. While this is a comprehensive marketing agreement, there will be a major focus on community programs that will have a positive impact across our state. State Farm is one of the most-respected and recognizable brands in the world and Phoenix is fortunate to be one of its three hub markets.”

– – –

The process of integrating State Farm Stadium branding assets throughout the stadium and other team platforms will take place over the coming weeks and much of it is expected to be in place by the Cardinals regular season opener vs. Washington on September 9.

 

Until today, the venue had been known as University of Phoenix Stadium since its inaugural season of 2006. University of Phoenix will remain heavily connected to the Cardinals as the team’s Official Education Partner.

 

 

SEATTLE

See DALLAS for an update on the state of things with S EARL THOMAS.

– – –

According to ProFootballFocus.com, the rookie QB who played the best in preseason was not SAM DARNOLD or any of the other first round picks.  He was this guy, now on the Seahawks practice squad.

 

QB Alex McGough, Seattle Seahawks

Preseason overall grade: 89.8

A seventh-round selection in this year’s draft, McGough seemingly came out of nowhere this preseason, but his college grades tell a different story. The former FIU product earned a 90.3 overall grade in his senior year with the Panthers, ranking sixth among all FBS quarterbacks with at least 400 dropbacks in 2017.

 

McGough, as his grade above suggests, crushed his first test in the NFL, earning a league-high 89.8 overall grade across 72 preseason dropbacks. He thrived when working from a clean pocket, as he completed 23-of-41 passes for 274 yards and two touchdowns en route to a 90.7 passing grade fro a clean pocket in the preseason.

 

Seattle added McGough to their practice squad shortly after trading for veteran Brett Hundley on August 29. Though he may be ahead of the pack in terms of NFL readiness, McGough should be able to benefit from refining his skillset on the practice squad behind Hundley and starter Russell Wilson.

 

The DB would argue that one is not a “former FIU product”, but rather that McGough will always be produced in the current tense by FIU no matter what happens.  He’s a former FIU player, but he remains a product always, just as he will always be an FIU graduate, presuming he did indeed graduate.

 

AFC NORTH

 

PITTSBURGH

If RB Le’VEON BELL strolls into the office some day this week, don’t expect him to start Sunday.  Ed Bouchette in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

 

All the angst floating in and around the Steelers regarding when Le’Veon Bell might report, sign his franchise tag and start practice will all be moot soon.

 

Even if Bell reports on Wednesday and practices immediately, it looks as though James Conner will get the start at halfback Sunday in Cleveland.

 

Unlike last season, it’s not how many carries Conner might get, but how few Bell might have, if any. And if Bell signs his one-year contract and reports this week, the Steelers won’t even have to pay him if they receive the two-week roster exemption for him.

 

This is different from last season when the Steelers opened in Cleveland, six days after Bell first reported to the team and signed his franchise tag. Back then, Conner was a relative unknown quantity, a rookie third-round draft choice who was injured in the spring and injured in training camp. He was still the No. 2 halfback behind Bell one year ago, but the coaches had a lot less confidence in him getting the job done than they do now.

 

Mike Tomlin was emphatic about that on Tuesday when asked if he is more comfortable with what he has behind Bell today than he was going to Cleveland last year.

 

“Yes.”

 

Why?

 

“James — the status and condition and approach of James. Being a rookie who missed a lot of time due to soft tissue injuries and lack of general readiness to a guy who’s done the things that we outlined.”

 

Those who saw the way Tomlin answered that should be left with little doubt he plans to start Conner against the Browns. Last year, they had little choice but to start Bell even though he obviously was not fully ready to play. He carried 10 times for 32 yards against the Browns and caught three passes for 15. He was not productive until the fourth game of the season.

 

No one will know why Bell did not report on Monday as he did a year ago to try to get ready for the opener until Bell tells us. There is no reason for the Steelers to believe he will get off to any faster start than he did last season, and since Conner is so much better prepared, starting the younger back should be a no-brainer.

 

The next thing the Steelers must decide is whether to activate Bell for the game or use the two-week roster exemption. If they do, they have another option at hand: If Bell is not officially on the roster, they do not have to pay him. It’s their choice whether or not to do so.

 

They would save $856,000 this week if they so choose. It would cost Bell more than $1.7 million of his $14.55 million salary if they were to use both weeks of the exemption and not pay him.

 

Would they? It likely would antagonize the player, but it’s part of the collective bargaining agreement, the same CBA that allowed Bell not to report to them until he signed his deal.

 

His teammates generally are fond of Bell, but his absence may be testing that fondness. On Tuesday, on 93.7 The Fan, Ramon Foster stated that “I want to win a [darn] Super Bowl” in reference to Bell missing practice time.

 

“If he’s going to be all-in making that happen, I’m OK with that,” Foster added. “I need him to see that, because we realize we have the team for that.”

 

Bell surely must understand that. Let the season, and the drama, begin.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

INDIANAPOLIS

Former punter Pat McAfee opens up about his pre-mature retirement and his story does not reflect well on ex-GM Ryan Grigson.  Matthew Von Tryon in the Indianapolis Star:

 

Pat McAfee isn’t a stranger to this feeling.

 

The former Indianapolis Colts punter decided last week to end his partnership with Barstool, saying, “I began being disrespected by the business people in the building. I’ve decided I don’t want to make money for those folks anymore.”

 

On his podcast Monday morning, McAfee recalled feeling the exact same sentiment a few years ago, sitting in former Colts GM Ryan Grigson’s office. Listen to the full podcast here.

 

On the Monday after the Colts’ game on Thanksgiving in 2016 — the Colts “got blown the (expletive) out on national TV. It was the biggest turkey bowl of the day,” McAfee said — Grigson asked McAfee meet him in his office.

 

“Maybe this is an olive branch,” McAfee remembered thinking. “If it wasn’t for me, we’re shut out on national TV. I’m leading the league in almost everything, I don’t think I’ve given up a return yard in maybe two months, three months, I’m the No. 2 jersey seller for the Colts, I’m doing a lot of charity work. Maybe this is Grigson being, ‘You know, I fined you three to four times before about dumb (expletive), but I would like to be friends.'”

 

And then, the moment that effectively ended McAfee’s NFL career:

 

“He goes, ‘Sit down.’ And I’m like, ‘Woah.’ Immediately. … There was already in my head an idea of me being sick of making money for Ryan Grigson and the Colts operation at the time. It was at that moment that I realized, ‘I’m (expletive) done here.’”

 

The issue at hand? A picture McAfee had posted on social media the week before.

 

(McAfee is standing on a trunk in the equipment room, looking like a wrestling ring announcer. Caption is “Just waiting on the @wwe and @wwenxt to make the call for the greatest promo in sports entertainment in decades.. Live like Ric Flair.. Talk like @therock.. don’t give a damn like @steveaustinbsr .. It’s almost like my mother and father created a superstar on purpose #MillionDollarLegDrop #BillionDollarBrain”)

 

“He has the picture on a piece of paper, slams it on the desk, pushes it across the desk to me and I look at it,” McAfee said of Grigson. “At this moment in my head, I’ve already said ‘(expletive) it’ to this guy. I look at the photo and look up at him. It’s like a moment of silence.”

 

The issue, according to Grigson, was that the picture was taken in a “football room.”

 

“He pulls out my contract, opens it up, goes to a clause. ‘Since this isn’t your first offense, I can fine you a game check for this,’” McAfee recalled Grigson saying. “You only get 17 game checks in your entire salary, so if you want to look up what that was, it was $100,000 almost. I said, ‘For what?’ He said, ‘Is that a football room?’ I said, ‘Well the title is an equipment room. There’s footballs in there I guess.’ He goes, ‘Why do you have to be such a smartass? I can fine you anything I want. This is why we’re losing.’ This is why we lost to the Steelers, he tells me.”

 

Then McAfee went all in.

 

“I said, ‘You paid a guy $140 million and you can’t keep him healthy,” McAfee said. “Your offensive line is swiss cheese. He’s blown out his shoulder three times, and you’re worried about this (expletive)?’ He goes, ‘What did you just say to me?’ I go, ‘Oh yeah, I’m the best in the game at what I do. I wish you would do the same.” This is a moment he did not expect. He goes, ‘You’re going to walk into my office and disrespect me?’ I go, ‘You called me in here.’ He said, ‘I’m going to fine you a whole game check.’ I said, ‘Cool bro,’ and literally walked out of his office. As I walk out, he gives me the, ‘Get out of my office.’ I go, ‘Already walking out.’”

 

Then McAfee walked down to coach Chuck Pagano’s office.

 

“I go, ‘Hey, if you had anything to do with that, you can go (expletive) yourself too, just like I told Grigson,” McAfee said. “He goes, ‘What are you talking about?’ Chuck had no idea.”

 

Pagano called McAfee later, but his decision had already been made.

 

“I told Chuck on that phone call, ‘I just don’t feel like you guys appreciate or are grateful for what I’m doing,’” McAfee said. “In the locker room, I feel like I was pretty valuable. Anything at work, I busted my (expletive) off because I wanted to talk. As a punter, you have to be good to talk. You can’t just suck and talk. That was the conversation. I told him, ‘I don’t think the NFL is for me anymore, and to be honest, I don’t think I want to make money for you guys anymore. And I am done after this season.’”

 

Nearly two years later, McAfee felt the same thing, in a completely new venture.

 

“This type of feeling, it’s going to be the death of me. Because (Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy) wanted me to come back … and I just couldn’t sleep. Dave was very nice, but by that point I was already like, ‘Man, I don’t want to make money for the business people.’ Just like when he said, ‘Sit down’ in the chair to me, I don’t want to (expletive) make money for this guy anymore. It’ll be the death of me, it honestly will be, but at least I sleep good at night.”

 

 

TENNESSEE

QB MARCUS MARIOTA threw more picks than TDs last year, but Coach Mike Vrabel wants him to be more aggressive, not less.  Turron Davenport of ESPN.com:

 

For new Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel, getting more explosive plays from Marcus Mariota and the offense is a priority this season, and he is encouraging his young quarterback to take shots down the field.

 

Last season Mariota completed six passes of 40 yards or more, tied for 19th in the NFL. He had seven such passes in 2016, tied for 22nd. Vrabel wants more.

 

“‘It’s OK. Let it rip!’ I am telling him to throw it deep,” Vrabel said. “‘Launch it. Let it go!’ If it gets intercepted, I have to be able to say, ‘I told him to throw it deep.’ Cut it loose, let your God-given ability take over.”

 

ESPN NFL analyst and former quarterback Matt Hasselbeck feels Mariota has done a good job of playing within the system in the past. He cautions against telling Mariota to be more aggressive and suggests it might take time for the young quarterback to find his way in Tennessee’s new scheme.

 

“I’ve had coaches that told me to play that way, and it didn’t help me play my best,” Hasselbeck said. “There’s a psychology that goes with how you handle those split-second decisions on the football field. Sometimes you don’t figure it out the right away. I am curious to see when it clicks for Marcus and this offense and how they put it all together.”

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

A new “Tom vs. Time” video drops today, details to follow.

– – –

With a sweetened contract TE ROB GRONKOWSKI is ready to go.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Patriots added incentives and per-game roster bonuses to tight end Rob Gronkowski‘s contract last week, which makes it two years in a row that they have sweetened the pot for one of their best players.

 

Gronkowski stayed away from the team during their voluntary work this offseason, but never missed mandatory work and reported to training camp on time. With a nod to players like Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald, Gronkowski noted that holding out beyond voluntary work gets results on the contract front while saying he is content with how things have played out with the Patriots.

 

“I’m super satisfied with my situation,” Gronkowski said, via NESN.com. “If I wasn’t, I would try to pull a move like they did. It works out. You get rewarded for holding out. But I’m not frustrated at all or anything. I’m super satisfied and just ready to go. Ready to play. That’s my main focus.”

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

Of all the rookie QBs, it is QB SAM DARNOLD who will be the only one starting the first regular season game.  Brian Costello of the New York Post:

 

When Sam Darnold got the news Monday from Todd Bowles that he had won the Jets’ starting quarterback job, the first call he made was to his parents back in California.

 

“They were just excited,” Darnold said Tuesday. “Mom was crying, as usual. My dad was just pumped for me. They just said, ‘You worked so hard. This is what you worked so hard for.’ It was a cool, little moment there with them and my sister.”

 

Darnold’s family will be at Ford Field on Monday night to watch his NFL regular-season debut as he leads the Jets against the Lions. The 21-year-old will become the youngest quarterback to start a Week 1 game since the 1970 merger, but he seems unfazed by what awaits him. He said he took a moment to appreciate what he accomplished, but knows being named the starter is only the beginning for him.

 

“We celebrate all wins,” Darnold said. “At the same time, I know that just because I got named the starter doesn’t mean we won the game Monday night. It’s awesome and I’m really happy to be a starting quarterback, but I also know I have to go out there and do my job.”

 

The Jets selected Darnold with the third pick in April’s draft with the hope he could be the franchise’s answer at quarterback. They were not going to rush him into the job, but he came along so fast in training camp the Jets feel he is ready.

 

“Now that I know I’m starting, it is an amazing feeling,” Darnold said.

 

He beat out Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater, whom the Jets traded to the Saints last week. Darnold will be the 31st quarterback to start a game for the Jets since Joe Namath left the team after the 1976 season. The Jets now hope that number stays at 31 for a long time.

 

Darnold, who has shown remarkable maturity for his age, said all the right things Tuesday with the media, as he has since he arrived.

 

“I know that I haven’t done anything yet,” Darnold said. “I haven’t won any games in the NFL. I just have to go out there and do my job.”

 

McCown was the Jets starter last season and had the best year of his career. The 39-year-old said “personally it’s a bummer” about losing out to Darnold, but he saw which way the competition was going in training camp as Darnold began to get most of the first-team reps.

 

“Obviously, as a competitor you love to play, but I kind of understood which direction it was headed,” McCown said. “I’m just excited for our team and excited for the future. … The coaches and Todd made that decision. We’re behind it 100 percent. Now, it’s focusing on Detroit and doing everything we can to help him be in the best decision to play good football.”

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

KAEP AND NIKE

The NFL’s new executive vice president of communications and public affairs, Jocelyn Moore, hails from Democrat Party politics, as did her predecessor Joe Lockhart.

 

In her first big statement, after the announcement of Colin Kaepernick’s multi-million dollar contract for courage, she aligns the league squarely with Kaep and his protest movement anti-police.

 

“The National Football League believes in dialogue, understanding and unity. We embrace the role and responsibility of everyone involved with this game to promote meaningful, positive change in our communities,” Jocelyn Moore, the NFL’s executive vice president of communications and public affairs, said in a statement. “The social justice issues that Colin and other professional athletes have raised deserve our attention and action.”

 

In addition to the statement, the league released a fact sheet of efforts made by players and clubs in the community.

 

The NFL and the Players Coalition finalized a partnership in May that dedicates close to $90 million for efforts and programs combating social inequality.

 

As one might expect, the reaction of Donald Trump is not in accord with the NFL, although by his standard it was somewhat muted.

 

President Donald Trump says Nike is sending a “terrible message” by making Colin Kaepernick part of a new ad campaign tied to the 30th anniversary of its “Just Do It” series.

 

Trump told The Daily Caller that “there’s no reason for it” but he also feels Nike’s ability to make its own business decisions “is what this country is all about.”

 

When Clay Travis pointed out that Nike stock plunged on Tuesday as the market assessed the company’s plan, there were those who claimed it was more about NAFTA and other athletic apparel and gear stocks were also down.

 

@ClayTravis

Nike was down over 3% today, the biggest decliner in the Dow Jones. Lost nearly $4 billion in market cap. All the day after they announced Kaepernick. Not a coincidence.

 

@CharlesRobinson

For tweets suggesting #Nike stock is down over 2-percent today due to the Colin Kaepernick endorsement, here’s the ticker for #Adidas and #Puma. Both also down over 2-percent today. Neither signed Kaepernick. It’s a broad-based NAFTA-related dip, folks. Not Kaepernick. #Context.

 

But UnderArmour was up:

 

20.75 USD +0.30 (1.47%)

 

Travis penned this op-ed for USA TODAY about his soft boycott plans:

 

Whereas in the past Nike signed and paid the best athletes in their sports — Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Andre Agassi, Bo Jackson, Serena Williams —  now the company is signing a former athlete who is infamous for his politics.

 

In so doing Nike has made the decision to forswear athletic dominance and instead embrace politics as its new selling point. Nike, the same company dealing with a discrimination lawsuit, is now the latest company to get woke.

 

That’s despite the fact that we’ve already seen that mixing politics and sports has had disastrous impacts for ESPN and NFL. Get woke and go broke, indeed. Now Nike wants a bite at the social justice warrior apple. Wall Street agrees this marketing decision is bad for business, as Nike’s share took a dip in the stock market open this morning.

 

And to what end?

 

Does Nike really believe that every moment of every American’s life must now be spent weighing politics? I don’t want to enter a sports apparel store and have to pick a shoe brand for myself or my three young sons because of a company’s politics. As a political moderate who voted for Gary Johnson in 2016, I don’t want to have to place every company into Republican or Democratic buckets, and decide what to buy while analyzing these factors.

 

But that’s what Nike’s decision has forced me to do.

 

And as a result, I have bought my last Nike products for me and my boys.

 

Nike may not miss the several hundred dollars a year my family spends on athletic apparel and shoes — and they may even feel like they’ll make it up off other more woke purchasers — but I’m not going to support a company putting millions of dollars into Colin Kaepernick’s pockets. I’m not going to support a sports company that puts politics above sports. 

 

You can say this is petty of me, but I believe the best way I — and any other consumer — can respond to corporate speech I disagree with is by not purchasing that company’s products any longer. I’m not going to march in the streets, burn Nike apparel I already own or spend hours advocating on social media for others to join my decision, I’m just going to do something simple: buy other brands like UnderArmour, Reebok, Adidas for my boys and myself.

 

Evidently, I have an antiquated notion: I think every American company should try to serve every consumer regardless of that person’s race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexuality or political persuasion.

 

What I love about sports is when your team scores you high five the fans around you rooting for the same team, regardless of what differences you might otherwise have outside the stadium or arena. Sports is a uniting force, not a divisive one — the place where all Americans come together on fields and courts united in equality. Sports represents the best of America, the ultimate meritocracy. The winner is the best man or woman, not the loudest protester.

 

As I write in my upcoming book, Michael Jordan was right when he reportedly said: “Republicans buy sneakers, too.” Jordan understood it was his sporting excellence that united the country, not his opinion on Roe v. Wade, gay marriage or guns.

 

Once upon a time, Nike knew this too.

 

Now, unfortunately, Nike has made the decision that politics matters more than sports.

 

And in so doing, they have lost a long-time customer, a kid who used to save up all his money for the latest Air Jordans, potentially forever.

 

The New York Times begs to differ (or at least offer space for those who do).  Today’s edgy consumers are demanding their companies take a stand for leftist politics.  Kevin Draper and two other Times scribes crafted this:

 

Nike has long relied on controversy in marketing an image of edgy youthfulness. The company had Charles Barkley declare that he was not a role model and Tiger Woods remind people that some country clubs would turn him away because of his skin color. It dressed the tennis player Andre Agassi in jean shorts.

 

This week Nike returned to that tradition, revealing Colin Kaepernick, the polarizing former N.F.L. quarterback, as a face of a major new marketing campaign honoring the 30th anniversary of its iconic “Just Do It” slogan, a move that may prove to be its most controversial yet.

 

In an era rife with divisive political discourse, most major public companies try to avoid taking stances that could make customers angry, particularly when rabid social media campaigns can cast any decision into a larger social statement. Yet Nike has signed Mr. Kaepernick, perhaps the most divisive American athlete of his generation, to a lucrative new contract and will produce branded apparel with his name and image.

– – –

Nike’s strategy risks alienating countless consumers who believe the national anthem protests that Mr. Kaepernick began are disrespectful. Shares of Nike on Tuesday were down $2.60, or more than 3 percent, though it is unclear how much of that could be blamed on Mr. Kaepernick or other market forces.

 

The decision will undoubtedly have ramifications for the N.F.L., which is caught in the middle of the debate — the league is a major partner of Nike’s but is also being sued by Mr. Kaepernick, who has accused the league’s 32 teams of colluding not to give him a contract because of his on-field demonstrations.

 

However, it could pay off among Nike’s base of young customers and fans, according to analysts, and signals that political stances could be seen as winning issues by some brands. Nearly two-thirds of individuals who wear Nike in the United States are under 35 years old, and are much more racially diverse than the baby boomer population, said Matt Powell, a sports industry analyst at the NPD Group.

 

“I think Nike went into this absolutely knowing what they were doing, with the intention that some people would be offended,” Mr. Powell said. “But the people buying their products, whether they are a millennial or a Gen Z consumer, those consumers want their brands to take visible, social positions, and this is an opportunity for Nike to do just that,” he added.

 

There is some debate about just how much Kaepernick is going to get from Nike.  Tim Daniels from Bleacher Report:

 

Conflicting reports have emerged regarding former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s apparel following his deal with Nike. The company has made him the face of its 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign, but it is unclear if he will have a signature shoe and clothing line.

 

Darren Rovell of ESPN reported the update Tuesday amid speculation about Nike’s plans for the NFL free agent, who started the movement of kneeling for the United States national anthem before games to protest racial injustice in August 2016.

 

Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports refuted Rovell’s report:

 

@CharlesRobinson

 I have tremendous professional respect for Darren but we’re going to step on each other here. I’ve been told by multiple sources there is absolutely a contract commitment by @nike for a signature shoe and “Kaepernick 7” line of apparel. And I’m reporting that, not speculating it.

 

@darrenrovell

Nike sources say the company has no plans to give Colin Kaepernick a signature shoe, nor an extensive clothing line, as had been speculated.

 

 

 

COACHES ON THE HOT SEAT

Shalise Manza Young of YahooSports.com offers these names of coaches who are treading water:

 

It’s not easy to speculate who might be fired; head coaches have guaranteed contracts and stand to make millions even if fired, but their assistants get paid much less, don’t often see big checks rolling in if the job ends, and will be uprooting their families once again. But it’s NFL reality.

 

5. Vance Joseph, Denver

John Elway finally – albeit seemingly reluctantly – admitted his mistake and moved on from Paxton Lynch, and it seems Joseph was just fine with that decision. It’s not often we talk about guys with only one season as head coach under their belt being on the hot seat, but as they lost eight straight last year on their way to 11 defeats, Joseph’s Broncos were barely competitive, losing by an average of 16.6 points in that stretch. Elway – who deserves a fair share of the blame for Denver’s troubles but won’t ever admit it – said it was “embarrassing” for the team to lose that way. He left Joseph hanging for 24 hours after the season ended before announcing he’d be back for a second season, so Joseph is seeming facing an uphill climb.

 

4. Jason Garrett, Dallas

Garrett is starting his eighth full season as Cowboys head coach, but in that time he’s only made it to the playoffs twice, both times when Dallas won the NFC East, in 2014 and ‘16. He’s 1-2 in the postseason. This is another coach whose general manager doesn’t do him many favors – if you love your young quarterback, why don’t you get him better talent to throw to? –  but in Garrett’s case, the GM is also the owner, and you can best believe if it comes down to it Garrett is out first. And Jerry Jones loves making a splash, so if Garrett isn’t doing it for him, he’ll find someone else who could.

 

3. Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay

His first season in Tampa Bay was solid, but the Buccaneers regressed in 2017, which isn’t a great sign, and not what ownership expected when Lovie Smith was unceremoniously booted after the 2016 season in favor of Koetter, who was his offensive coordinator. Tampa Bay’s offense has been average on his watch, last year ranking 18th in points scored (20.9 per game) and 24th in red-zone efficiency (26 touchdowns in 53 opportunities), though it was fourth in third down conversions (43.4 percent). The Bucs will also be without suspended Jameis Winston for the first three games of the season.

 

2. Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati

He was gone, then he wasn’t gone. Saved by Bengals’ wins in the final two games of the season, the NFL’s second-longest tenured head coach got a reprieve. The question is, will it pay off? After five straight playoff appearances from 2011-2015 – but not a single postseason win despite having one of the strongest rosters on paper over that time, particularly on defense – Cincinnati has finished third in the AFC North each of the last two seasons, with 13 wins in that time. It might be time for a major rebuilding in Cincy.

 

1. Hue Jackson, Cleveland

A few years ago, it seemed unfair that Jackson had only gotten one season as head coach of the Oakland Raiders – he’d gotten them to 8-8 that year but was still booted. But in two years running the team in Cleveland, he’s won just one game. One. It almost seems impossible to see such failure from an NFL franchise over that length of time. This is a league where it’s basically tradition that at least one team that finishes in the division basement one year will be division champs the next. Jackson “punished” rookie receiver Antonio Callaway for an early-morning incident where he was caught driving on a suspended license by playing him more, his coordinators are yelling at each other in practice, and his defensive coordinator is mocking injured first-round draft picks in front of cameras. If the Browns got it right with Baker Mayfield, it might be best if he starts next year to have him do it with a new coach and new culture.

 

Seat’s warm, but could get hot quickly: Baltimore Ravens’ John Harbaugh, Buffalo Bills’ Sean McDermott, Washington’s Jay Gruden

 

Should Mike McCarthy of Green Bay be on this list wonders the DB.

 

 

NFL RANKINGS OF ELLIOT HARRISON

Here is how Elliot Harrison of NFL.com ranks the 32 teams at the start of 2018’s regular season.  The Bears moved up from his rankings at the start of camp.  His comments are drastically edited and you can see them in their completeness here.

 

1 EAGLES

Previous rank: No. 1

With all — er, almost all — of the starters returning from the team that won Super Bowl LII, no other squad feels more contender-ish than this group. I can poke holes in all of ’em, in fact.

 

2  RAMS  

Previous rank: No. 4

With the news that Aaron Donald and team brass finalized a long-term contract extension, Los Angeles became the top threat to ruin Doug Pederson’s Super Bowl reunion tour.

 

3 SAINTS  

Previous rank: No. 6

The only flicker in the Saints’ bright future is the short-term absence of suspended running back Mark Ingram, without much other depth in the backfield behind Kamara. That’s it.

 

4  VIKINGS

Previous rank: No. 5

Everyone — or, at least, every Vikings fan of the variety that obsesses over things like centers and guards — is freaking out about Minnesota’s offensive line. The front didn’t look too bad in the preseason, although trying to accurately assess O-line quality in August is like trying to tell the difference between pumpkin pie and sweet potato pie without touching.

 

5 PATRIOTS  

Previous rank: No. 3

Even Tom Brady needs someone to throw to, despite the popular myth that he can work with anybody.

 

6  JAGUARS

Previous rank: No. 2

Yep, sizeable drop. Teams only move four clicks downward in this rarefied air when there are appropriate reasons, of course. For Jacksonville, that starts with losing the top wideout on the roster for the year.

 

7  STEELERS

Previous rank: No. 9

For most of the offseason, the worry in Sixburgh revolved around the defense and the precise number of millions running back Le’Veon Bell was coveting. My physical therapist — a giant Steelers honk — told me fans are growing weary of Bell’s act.

 

8  FALCONS

Previous rank: No. 7

Who knows how good the Falcons can be? There are those who think they are a Super Bowl contender, with other pundits considering them the odd team out in the postseason.

 

9 PACKERS  

Previous rank: No. 8

The Packers appear set for a playoff run, although linebacker has been a concern thus far.

 

10 CHARGERS  

Previous rank: No. 12

Solid power-up into the top 10 for the Chargers, who are the favorites to win their division. Don’t see any AFC West teams leapfrogging Anthony Lynn’s group, although losing Jason Verrett (torn Achilles) and Hunter Henry (torn ACL) hurt, and depth is an issue. The Chargers are a playoff team.

 

11 PANTHERS  

Previous rank: No. 10

 

12 TEXANS  

Previous rank: No. 11

The running game remains a question mark, as does the offensive line.

 

13  TITANS

Previous rank: No. 13

I’m a little bit higher on the Titans’ helmets than their prospects as a team at the moment. It’s hard to decipher where Mike Vrabel’s squad is right now.

 

14  GIANTS  

Previous rank: No. 19

Nice growth spurt for the once-woebegone Giants, who climb into the top half of the Power Rankings for the first time in a looong time.

 

15  BEARS   

Previous rank: No. 24

This is not a simple reaction to the Khalil Mack blockbuster — it’s merely a simple reaction to the Khalil Mack blockbuster. What a move by general manager Ryan Pace, who swashbuckled his way across the front-office universe like Captain James T. Kirk and dealt a blow to the Klingons, Romulans and Gorn … er, the Vikings, Lions and Packers with the addition of a top-five defensive player. Couple Mack with an already stable defense (much better than the one in Oakland), then further take into account a solid offensive line, a steady RB1 and an ascending franchise quarterback, and it’s clear Chicagoans have themselves a squad.

 

16  RAVENS  

Previous rank: No. 15

Perhaps more than any other team (save for maybe the Cowboys), the Ravens must run the football successfully.

 

17  CHIEFS

Previous rank: No. 17

So, you might have heard that the offense is going to be high-flyin’ and the defense is going to suck. I am not here to dispel that notion.

 

18  LIONS

Previous rank: No. 16

The Lions are a decent football team with more answers than questions on offense and more questions than answers on defense.

 

19  49ERS

Previous rank: No. 14

Kyle Shanahan has everyone’s respect. Niner fans are all riding the Jimmy G train. No amount of training camp rustiness and/or gossip-inducing date nights will change that. ….Then McKinnon went down with a torn ACL. Now afterthought-signee Alfred Morris will carry the load. The defense? Stinks. Especially with Reuben Foster suspended for two games.

 

20  BRONCOS

Previous rank: No. 22

The Broncos have a viable quarterback (we think), a viable defense (we’re pretty sure) and a new RB1 to grind clock time and yards (we hope).

 

21  BENGALS  

Previous rank: No. 27

The Bengals aren’t as bad as you think. With Cordy Glenn, Tyler Eifert and John Ross healthy, the offense should make some noise.

 

22  COWBOYS

Previous rank: No. 18

This is as high as we can go for a Cowboys team that is built to win whilst running the ball but suddenly has defective parts. Tyron Smith’s back has always been a concern, although he’s fine for now. Zack Martin has a small knee issue. La’el Collins got banged up. And now Travis Frederick is out indefinitely. That’s four-fifths of the offensive line to fret over — and three former first-team All-Pros, if you’re scoring at home.

 

23  DOLPHINS  

Previous rank: No. 29

The Dolphins are slowly creeping up the big board here, which hopefully means they won’t be using their big board to pick in the top 10 next spring.

 

24  RAIDERS  

Previous rank: No. 20

Perhaps we should have all seen the Khalil Mack trade — or at least the possibility of it — coming when Jon Gruden pointed out how lousy the Raiders defense was with Mack.

 

25  CARDINALS  

Previous rank: No. 26

Starting to like these Cardinals more, even if the arrow in this section reflects a merely-modest jump.

 

26  REDSKINS  

Previous rank: No. 21

The 26 spot is probably a bit low for the Redskins, but Derrius Guice’s torn ACL threw a wrench in their plans.

 

27  SEAHAWKS

Previous rank: No. 25

Where to place the Seahawks amongst their league peers? 2018 looks to be a transition year in Seattle, barring a few surprises. If Pete Carroll’s guys are to actually contend in the NFC West, running back Chris Carson will be a huge reason why.

 

28  BUCCANEERS

Previous rank: No. 28

Buried amidst all the Khalil Mack news was a quote from Bucs GM Jason Licht on Jameis Winston’s starting status that was quite interesting. Licht said he isn’t just going to hand the conn of the pirate ship (well, in so many words) back to his one-time franchise quarterback after Winston’s three-game suspension is over.

 

29  JETS  

Previous rank: No. 30

Rampant enthusiasm abounds for Sam Darnold, who flashed (repeatedly) in the preseason. If Darnold can perform immediately, and if new running back Isaiah Crowell is effective, this group might surprise in the AFC East. Those are ifs

 

30  BROWNS

Previous rank: No. 31

Baker Mayfield appears to be the genuine article. He might be a rare talent, but surely was the rare important player to participate in Week 4 of the preseason, which generally features guys who could be working at a Renaissance Festival next month. On that note, the first-string defense looked to be as strong as those groups that helped Cleveland to three conference championship games in the late 1980s. Positive vibes aside, can’t go higher than 30 on a team that has lost 31 games the last two years. Not until they win one, anyway.

 

31  BILLS  

Previous rank: No. 23

With Nate Peterman starting Week 1, an offensive line that darn near got Josh Allen killed and a receiving corps that recently checked in at the very bottom of Pro Football Focus’ position-group rankings, the Bills plummet. Buffalo’s defense certainly will have its say, but keep in mind that the unit lived off turnovers last year.

 

32  COLTS

Previous rank: No. 32

Obviously, the Colts can gallop right past some of the bottom-feeders if Andrew Luck reprises his old self.