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Prior to the Vikings signing Kirk Cousins, I wasn’t totally sold on him. From a skills standpoint, I thought he was better than Teddy Bridgewater and significantly better than Case Keenum. After watching his introductory press conference, though, and watching film of Cousins, I’m totally thrilled he’s the Vikings’ QB for the near future.

What’s most obvious is the fact that he’s a leader. Questioning whether he’ll be the face of the franchise shouldn’t take much time. He’s straight from central casting. Vikings GM Rick Spielman perhaps put it best when he said “I spent two-and-a-half hours with him and his family and then got a chance to meet his parents last night before we went to dinner, spent some time with them, and you knew right off the bat. I didn’t need to spend two-and-a-half hours; I needed to spend 10 minutes with him and his family to know what they mean, what they’re about and what’s important to them – and it’s everything that checks the box here with the Minnesota Vikings.”

From an arm talent standpoint, Cousins is high quality. From an intangibles standpoint, he’s outstanding. Watch this video of Thursday’s introductory press conference at TCO Performance Center and you’ll see what I mean:

Something that jumped out for me was that Cousins said he’d met a bunch of Vikings at the Pro Bowl after the 2016 season and that he immediately knew that they were genuinely a tight-nit group. He said all 32 teams talk a good game that way but that the Vikings immediately showed that it wasn’t talk. The impression I got from Thursday’s press conference is that this guy is CEO smooth and he can’t wait to put in the hours to become this team’s leader.

As for the people who’ve highlighted Cousins’ record as a starter, that’s the past and it’s irrelevant. This guy is the definition of a leader. Keenum knew how to maximize his performance despite his less-than-impressive arm talent. Cousins’ arm talent is light years better than Keenum’s. Cousins can drive the ball down the field with velocity whereas Case Keenum had to put everything he had into his deep throws.

Mentality-wise, Cousins plays with a chip on his shoulder because he’s been underestimated all his life. He was drafted in the 4th round in 2012, the year when Andrew Luck, RG III were the first 2 picks and Russell Wilson was drafted in the third round. In fact, he and RG III were picked by the Redskins. RG III was an instant celebrity whereas Cousins went to work learning the playbook. Now RG III’s career is virtually over and Cousins just signed the richest contract in NFL history.

I have no doubt that Mr. Cousins will be the impressive face of the Vikings franchise for years to come.

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Last year, the Vikings got shredded in the NFC Championship Game by the now-world championship Philadelphia Eagles, finishing the season 13-3 while handily winning the NFC North. On the plus side, they finished far better than the Sporting News predicted. They predicted that Detroit and Green Bay would both finish 11-5, with the Vikings finishing 8-8 and the Bears finishing 3-13. NFL.com predicted that the Lions would win the NFC North. It wasn’t just that they predicted this outcome.

It’s what they didn’t say, writing “Admittedly, this is a tough sell. Predicting the Lions will win a division they haven’t ever won (the NFC North was formed in 2002) already feels shaky after two sentences. Yet, there are reasons to think Detroit could pull off beating out Green Bay for the top spot. Start with addition by subtraction, as the Lions signed former Packer guard T.J. Lang in free agency. General manager Bob Quinn further bolstered the offensive line by adding tackle Ricky Wagner. Each should help running back Ameer Abdullah stay on course. Abdullah merely needs to stay healthy. This team was on its way toward winning the NFC North last year until Matthew Stafford injured his middle finger. How many teams can survive their starter hurting his throwing hand in the midst of a playoff run? No major injuries and no Hail Marys might mean an end to the days of merely sneaking into the postseason.”

They didn’t even mention the Vikings. (That’s the definition of a snub.)

Going into the 2018 season, everyone will have their eyes on the Vikings. Kirk Cousins is their starting QB. For the first time in his career, he’ll play behind a rock-solid O-Line. For the first time in his career, he’ll have a plethora of weapons to attack with. Never has he had the opportunity to throw to Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Kyle Rudolph and Dalvin Cook. Never has he had a running game featuring Dalvin Cook.

With this collection of weapons, though, comes high expectations. Winning the NFC North is a worthy goal but it isn’t the only expectation. Paying $84,000,000 guaranteed over 3 years gives the Vikings the reasonable expectation of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at least once in those 3 years.

I’m proud to state that I won’t watch tonight’s Super Bowl. I won’t watch because the NFL is attempting to get back in the good graces with the average fan by putting on big displays featuring the military. Apparently, the PR meisters told Commissioner Goodell that the NFL’s ratings drop is tied to the disrespect shown to police officers, the military and the average working joe.

At this point, I’ll emphatically state that Commissioner Goodell is the most tone-deaf commissioner of a major sporting league that I’ve ever seen. How could he have gotten the Ray Rice and Charles Johnson rulings that badly wrong? Those are decisions that the average eighth grader would’ve gotten right. Further, what commissioner would’ve gotten things so badly wrong with the kneel-down protests of the National Anthem?

The NFL owners can’t be too bright if they agreed to a lucrative contract extension for Commissioner Goodell. What has he done that a dozen other people couldn’t have done better? Wouldn’t Condi Rice make a better NFL Commissioner? I’d predict she’d be light years better than Commissioner Goodell in terms of PR.

Part of the reason why I won’t watch tonight’s Super Bowl is because I refuse to watch another Bill Bellicheat-coached team in the Super Bowl. Anyone that thinks that any of New England’s Super Bowl-winning teams is better than the worst of Bill Walsh’s Super Bowl winning teams is delusional. Imagine how many thousands of yards Jerry Rice would’ve accumulated had he played with the defenseless receiver rules they have now. On the flip side of that, imagine the match-up between Gronk and Ronnie Lott or the match-up between Dion Sanders and whoever the Patriots’ top wide receiver was.

The great thing about being a Vikings fan is that I don’t have to put up with the stupid things that Marshawn Lynch, Colin Kaepernick or Michael Bennett have done. The Mike Zimmer-Rick Spielman Vikings are old school. They played poorly in the NFC Championship Game but they consistently play the game right. Last year, a script was flipped this season in the NFC North. Going into this season, there’s no reason to think that the Vikings aren’t the pre-season favorite to repeat as NFC North Champions.

I’d rather wait until the Vikings are playing the final game of the season. It isn’t a stretch to think that might not be more than a year away.

While I’m boycotting the Super Bowl, I’m applauding 2 of this year’s NFL HoF class: Randy Moss and Ray Lewis. Both of these gentlemen are iconic players that transformed the league. These are some highlights from Randy Moss’s coming out party on Monday Night Football in Milwaukee:

As for Ray Lewis, he was the leader of the Ravens team. It wasn’t that he was the leader of their defense, which he was. It was that he was Baltimore’s leader. When Ray Lewis was playing, every Baltimore player had to play up to Ray Lewis’ expectations.

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It’s clear that the NFL hasn’t figured its customers out yet. That’s because the “NFL said on Friday it has no plans to mandate players stand for the U.S. national anthem, but will rather present a possible solution on how to end the controversial protests when it meets with team owners next week.”

During a conference call, NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said “(Goodell) has a plan that he is going to present to owners about how to use our platform to both raise awareness and make progress on issues of social justice and equality in this country. What we don’t have is a proposal that changes our policy, we don’t have something that mandates anything. That’s clear. If that was the case I doubt the head of the NFLPA would have put a joint statement out with us.”

What’s clear is that the NFL and NFLPA have morphed into activist organizations aligned with the DNC. They aren’t seen as sports league as much as they’re seen as political activists. That’s why the NFL’s TV ratings continue to stumble and NFL attendance is underperforming. Ed Morrissey got it right when he said “NFL fans expect Sunday football to be an escape from the politicization of all things.” These protests got identified as partisan displays when this happened:

Quite frankly, the NFL’s PR team stinks. They haven’t even identified the things that their customers demand. That tin-eared approach is killing them. For all their insults of President Trump, they’re rank amateurs compared with him in identifying with the NFL’s fans. President Trump gets it. Commissioner Goodell doesn’t. DeMaurice Smith hasn’t figured it out either.

Since the NFL’s anti-Trump protests, the NFL has deployed several too-clever-by-half strategies. The NFL also issued a statement that suggested that NFL players would stand during the National Anthem:

Goodell made it clear in the letter, obtained by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, that he wants players to stand during the anthem. He did not provide specifics on how he intends to ensure it, but he wrote that it would “include such elements as an in-season platform to promote the work of our players on these core issues.”

It’s clear that Commissioner Goodell’s memo was a PR stunt aimed at getting this issue off the front page.

It’s doubtful that the NFL, especially this commissioner, will ever figure out their fans.

This article is filled with misinformation. That isn’t surprising considering the fact that it quotes Tony Covington, the NAACP’s Senior Director of Corporate Affairs. In the article, Covington is quoted as saying “Jerry Jones’ comments are more than tone-deaf, more than misinformed and misguided – they are a public commitment by an NFL owner to violate his players’ Constitutional right to free speech, one of the principles on which our nation was founded. They are proof that athletes like Colin Kaepernick who have quietly and peacefully used their platform to protest violence against communities of color do so at their own peril.”

Actually, that’s one of the myths that keeps popping up in articles. (I wish these reporters did their homework.) This article sets things straight, quoting Daniel Schwartz, employment law partner at Shipman & Goodwin, as saying “As a general rule, the First Amendment doesn’t apply to the private workplace.” Later, he adds that “the First Amendment prevents government, but not companies or individuals, from limiting free speech.”

It’s indisputable that the players’ sideline protests have hurt NFL attendance and TV ratings. Team owners, like Jerry Jones, have the right to protect their investment. When their employees’ actions hurt their profitability, the owner has the right to install a code of conduct for his employees with the stipulation that it’s applied equally to each employee.

This article outlines what’s permitted and what isn’t:

Here’s what Baruch had to say (his comments have been edited and condensed for clarity):

1. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Sunday that any player who disrespects the flag won’t play in Cowboys games. What are the legal ramifications to a statement like that?
Probably none. He’s a private employer so he’s free to make any rules he wants that infringe on free speech. He’s totally unconstrained legally.

That definitely isn’t the answer the NAACP wanted to hear, though it’s the answer they probably already knew.

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Two weekends ago, players, coaches and owners locked arms in their fight against President Trump, certain that they’d show President Trump who the king of the proverbial jungle was. According to this article, stadiums “across the US and even further afield became the focus of an unprecedented show of defiance against US President Donald Trump Sunday, as some NFL players locked arms or refused to stand for the national anthem, saying that they are protesting racial and social injustice. Players from all 28 teams in the league that played Sunday participated in some form of protest. Some teams declined to take the field at all for the pre-game ceremonies.”

This afternoon, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell essentially cried uncle, admitting that President Trump was right. In the article, ESPN’s Kevin Seifert wrote that the “NFL has developed a plan to “move past” its ongoing debate about player protests during the national anthem and could enact it next week, commissioner Roger Goodell wrote Tuesday in a letter to all 32 teams. Goodell made it clear in the letter, obtained by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, that he wants players to stand during the anthem. He did not provide specifics on how he intends to ensure it, but he wrote that it would ‘include such elements as an in-season platform to promote the work of our players on these core issues.'”

Here’s a copy o Commissioner Goodell’s letter to the owners:

It was inevitable that Trump would win. It was just a matter of time.

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TMZ caught up with a rapper whose stage name is Common to get his take on Jerry Jones’ comments about the players standing during the national anthem. It isn’t a stretch to think that this is a PR stunt. Common said “It’s an owner mentality. Like a slave owner mentality, to be honest. Like, ‘You gonna do what I say on this.’ Other people [are] choosing to put their hands over their heart. What makes that gesture better than somebody else who might be praying during the national anthem?’ he asks. ‘Or if somebody says, ‘I’m kneeling for what I believe in,’ then they should be able to do that because that’s what this country is about.'”

Common is partially right in that Jones is acting like an owner, though not like a slave owner. Jones has lots of money tied up in his team. He has every right to protect his investment, as do the other owners. Right now, the players’ political activism is dragging the NFL’s value down. Their next TV contract isn’t likely to be nearly as lucrative as the one they currently have because the NFLPA’s political activism is turning off its fans. That’s indisputable.

President Trump’s initial comments were initially greeted with contempt by the players. Still, the fans have largely sided with him. When the man with the world’s biggest megaphone criticizes you, it’s gonna sting financially. He’s essentially forced the owners’ hands. Jerry Jones didn’t become a billionaire by ignoring the fans. That’s why he’s siding with President Trump.

If the players were smart, something that’s still in doubt, they’d stop their sideline protesting ASAP.

In what was a predictable decision, ESPN suspended Jemele Hill after she criticized Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. ESPN’s statement said “Jemele Hill has been suspended for two weeks for a second violation of our social media guidelines. She previously acknowledged letting her colleagues and company down with an impulsive tweet. In the aftermath, all employees were reminded of how much individual tweets may reflect negatively on ESPN and that such action would have consequences. Hence this decision.”

Just as predictably, Al Sharpton weighed in on Hill’s suspension, saying “We consider it outrageous that Jemele Hill was suspended by ESPN. She has the right to tell people that they ought to let advertisers know how they feel, since they are the consumers. While she didn’t call for a direct boycott, it’s not off the table for us in the civil rights community.” Sharpton is demanding that ESPN meet “with civil rights leaders about Jemele Hill?.” Knowing how connected ESPN is with the Democratic Party, that will likely happen.

FNC’s Brian Kilmeade responded to Hill’s comments in this interview:

Frankly, she’s lucky she still has a job. She’s a mediocre talent with a big mouth and a penchant for saying stupid things that hurt her employer. Of course, if ESPN fired her, a leftist organization likely would immediately hire her and portray her as a civil rights hero, which she isn’t.

Here’s the tweet that got Hill suspended:

If the rationale behind JJ’s stance is keeping the fanbase happy, make him see that he is underestimated how all of his fanbase feels.

In this article, Barrett Holmes Pitner wrote “On Monday, ESPN suspended SportsCenter co-host Jemele Hill for two weeks after she took to Twitter to recommend fans who disagreed with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ stance on kneeling during the national anthem—Jones said that Cowboys players who “disrespect the flag” will not play for his team—should boycott the Cowboys’ advertisers. Regardless of whether you agree with ESPN’s decision or Hill’s statements, her suspension demonstrates how America is far more equipped to silence black voices than address our complex racial dynamics.”

Hill got suspended because her statements have the potential to hurt her employer’s profitability and ESPN’s biggest revenue producer. Frankly, Hill’s actions are that of a political activist. They aren’t the actions of a sports show host. If she’s that intent on being a political activist, then she should quit ESPN and go to work for MSNBC or CNN. She’d fit right in.

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Apparently, San Francisco safety Eric Reid doesn’t like it when politicians protest his political protest. Vice President Pence walked out of the Colts-49ers game when “23 members of the team took a knee during the national anthem in Indianapolis.”

After the game, Reid responded, saying “He knew our team has had the most players protest. He knew we were probably going to do it again. And so this is what systemic oppression looks like — a man with power comes to the game, tweets a couple things out and leaves the game with an attempt to thwart our efforts.”

The players’ efforts are to be political activists who wear football uniforms to their protests. When the NFLPA signed up to do political activism with George Soros, they hoped it wouldn’t get noticed. They tried pretending that they were fighting injustice. Now that they’re exposed, they’re upset when VP Pence gives them a taste of their own medicine. That isn’t systemic oppression. That’s what happens when amateurs try playing politics with the big boys.

As usual, CNN’s Brian Stelter gets a little unhinged:

Stelter opined that this was staged. He might be right, though I couldn’t prove it either way. It’s a little rich, though, to hear NFL political activists complain about staging an event. That’s a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Thanks to these protests, the NFL’s popularity has dropped significantly:

August Winston Poll

MLB/61 percent favorable to 13 percent unfavorable.
NFL/57 percent favorable to 23 percent unfavorable.
College football/53 percent favorable to 16 percent unfavorable.
College basketball/48 percent favorable to 17 percent unfavorable.
NBA/47 percent unfavorable to 23 percent unfavorable.

September Winston Poll

MLB/63 percent favorable to 16 percent unfavorable.
College football/51 percent favorable to 21 percent unfavorable.
NBA/46 percent favorable to 28 percent unfavorable.
College basketball/45 percent favorable to 25 percent unfavorable.
NFL/44 percent favorable to 40 percent unfavorable.

If the NFL continues with its protests, they should expect the NFL’s popularity drop some more. They’ve barely scratched the surface. If the NFLPA continues their protests, they’ll be less popular than Harvey Weinstein is with his former company.

The NFL can’t get out of its own way. This week, Vice President Mike Pence left the Indianapolis-San Francisco game when players knelt during the playing of the National Anthem. After finding out that the NFLPA has partnered with George Soros, I’ve decided the product just isn’t good enough for me to put up with that crap.

Ed’s column expresses my frustration with the NFL perfectly. In his column, Ed wrote “NFL fans expect Sunday football to be an escape from the politicization of all things. There are many reasons for this — but a not insignificant one is that taxpayers provide publicly funded stadiums to billionaire owners and millionaire players for almost every team in the league. We are all footing the bill for NFL players’ workplaces. Why should they become venues for partisan protest?”

Thanks to DeMaurice Smith being the executive director of the NFLPA and a member of President Obama’s transition team, partisanship was inevitable. If I had to pinpoint a turning point, I’d highlight the NFL Draft when ESPN celebrated Michael Sam getting drafted by the then-St. Louis Rams by showing Sam kissing his boyfriend. That’s when I started noticing the NFL’s political agenda.

Another step in the NFL’s demise happened when Commissioner Goodell didn’t respond appropriately when Ray Rice hit his then-fiancé as they exited a casino elevator:

Then Goodell gave Greg Hardy a slap on the wrist for allegedly beating up his girlfriend. At some point, it’s impossible to conclude anything except the fact that these players, owners and commissioner are a bunch of out-of-touch elitists who couldn’t identify with their fans if their lives depended on it. (Their lives don’t depend on it but their livelihoods do.)

After leaving the game, Vice President Pence tweeted “I left today’s Colts game because @POTUS and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem.”

I’m writing off the NFL as much as possible. I won’t pretend that I’ll never watch another game. I’ve been a fan since 1968, when only road games were televised. It’s difficult to give up an addiction like that. I won’t have a problem admitting that the NFL is my least favorite of the major sports, with basketball finishing a close second.