I love Inside The Star. I love everything about it and the chance its given me to lend my thoughts about the Dallas Cowboys, the National Football League, and the occasional tangent.
We preach the notion that Inside The Star is the "voices of a nation" for a reason. We strive to deliver content that will resonate 100% with the fans - you are our target audience.
This platform allows us to speak our thoughts with full honesty, and that's what I'm doing right now.
Tony Romo's National Fantasy Football Convention (NFFC) has officially been postponed. No, this isn't a headline from a year ago. This is news as of Tuesday, June 14th, 2016.
The articles you'll read and the tweets you'll see will tell you that it just couldn't work. They'll say that sponsors dropped out, players dropped out, or some hybrid of everything here.
The truth of the matter is that the NFL put their foot down for the second year in a row and won't allow this to happen. Why? They want a piece of that pie.
The National Football League is one of the most successful businesses on this planet, and to be honest part of the reason is because of this mentality. They carve every penny out of every single one of their properties, this time at the expense of the fans (again).
If you're unaware, I've alluded to this already, this happened last year. The NFFC was set to go down in Las Vegas, but the NFL had a problem with casinos being involved. As silly as that is I think we can all semi understand that, and that's why the NFFC moved to Pasadena, California for 2016. No problem, right?
The NFL is still not running this show. That's the problem. So what do they do? They nip it in the bud.
It's Not Just Business, It's Personal
So many people have sacrificed to make this happen: the coordinators of the NFFC, the players involved, and most personally to us... the fans who have spent non-refundable money on travel, lodging, and tickets.
I can say personally because it is personal. I've been talking about it on Twitter, Periscope, and the #RJOShow how Bobby Belt (Host of Cowboys Cast) and I were going to be there. Our objective? To deliver the highest quality content for you to enjoy from afar.
If you'll allow me, I'll get even more personal for a second. I'd already planned in my head how the first article I wrote from Pasadena was going to go. It was going to be titled I Hopped Off The Plane At LAX For The NFFC in tribute to the ballad Party In The USA by Miley Cyrus.
I was going to include a funny song written to the theme of hers with words that matched our situation. The best part was that I was going to at one point take a shot at DeMarco Murray, reference him being a Titan now, and drop it right before she says "This is definitely not a Nashville party" so that it all made sense. That joke will never happen now!
And it's not going to happen because the NFL is once again putting potential (and modest) profits over their fans.
The NFL: A Business Above All Else
As a young boy watching football, I absolutely loved the game. Everything about it. I mean everything. Down to the most minute detail of the jerseys. I assumed that everything the league did was done in fairness. The most important thing is the fans, right? That's what matters most!
When we grow up, the naiveties of life reveal themselves to us, but they do it softly. In due time. The NFL does it with a punch to your gut.
They are intentionally standing in the way of hundreds - if not thousands - of fans interacting with their favorite players in ways that have never been done before. The experience that they are halting is not achievable in any other way. I'm not exaggerating when I say that they are crushing dreams.
Why? Because the money you're paying for that once in a lifetime deal isn't going into their piggy banks. Not one dime. The sad truth is that even if it was just one dime, they'd still do this. Money is that important to them.
Let's assume that an average ticket to an NFL game is $300. This seems fair for the average considering there are box seats, blah blah blah. Let's also assume that each stadium can hold 70,000 people. This all feels fairly conservative, but hey let's keep math simple.
There are 256 games in an NFL regular season. Right there that's $5,376,000,000. Just on tickets for the regular season games. The most expensive ticket to the NFFC was $745. Say they sold 10,000 of them. That's a gross exaggeration, but hey. Let's roll. The NFFC would have then made $7,450,000.
Say the NFFC donated 100% their profits to the NFL. That would be 14% of what the NFL makes during the regular season. That's not counting playoffs, not counting sponsors, not counting TV deals, not counting jersey sales.
So the NFL wants to rip off the fans over what could, in an intense exaggeration, be at maximum 5-10% of their annual income. That's it!
Word trickled out that Commissioner Roger Goodell made $34.1M in 2014. Money talks.
It's a sad reality that the NFL is such a greedy monster. It really is.
We Love Football: No Matter What
While we're all disappointed that they are putting such a small amount of dollars ahead of the satisfaction of fans, let's remember why we love this game for a second.
We love football. We love the action. We love the drama. We love the debate. We love the touchdowns. We love the broken tackles. We love that feeling when we wake up on Sunday and our team's got a big game going. We love when we get the win we needed most.
We love football. No matter what. While some corporate entities are choosing to take advantage of that fact, I propose that in spite of that we celebrate this game.
Ultimately the NFL can't stand in the way of that, right? They can't stop us from loving football. That's ours.
That's how we triumph.
We love football.
For now. And for always.
As the late Steve Sabol once said, "Life is great. Football is better."
Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick
The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly signed Receiver Devin Smith, previously with the New York Jets, to a futures contract. Smith was a 2nd-round pick, 37th overall, in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Before going pro, Devin was a college teammate of current Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Noah Brown. They were all members of the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes team that won the National Championship.
Smith's agent, Jason Bernstein, tweeting the following earlier today:
Congrats to WR Devin Smith @dsmithosu for signing with the #DallasCowboys! Welcome back. https://t.co/hCMYoE8fEh
Thus far, Smith's NFL career has been marred by injuries. He has suffered two ACL tears in the same knee and only been able to appear in 14 games. He was waived by the Jets last summer and was not with any team last season.
Overall, the 2015 class of receivers has been disappointing. Amari Cooper has been a star and other later-round picks like Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, and Jamison Crowder have been good. But the other big names of the class, such as Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, and DeVante Parker, have not lived up to the hype.
The Cowboys are known for trying to reclaim players who once had high draft status and bad starts to their careers. They are clearly hoping to cash in on Smith's previously perceived potential, which had him projected as a possible first-round talent at one time.
For both Devin and Dallas' sake, we hope it's a success!
DeMarcus Lawrence Named Top Free Agent Of The 2019 Class
Much has been made about the Dallas Cowboys 2019 free agent class. Dallas has a ton of cap space moving forward, but they are going to "have" to pay many of the key players on their roster over the next two offseasons in order to keep their young core together.
Of course, when you're drafting, that's the goal. To draft so well that when your own players become free agents, you go ahead and pay them to keep them around, rather than overpay on the free agent market for external players.
One of the major pieces the Cowboys will have to retain this offseason is defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. And while Cowboys Nation often thinks of Lawrence as underrated around the league, the NFL has caught onto his importance as he enters free agency this Spring.
ESPN.com ranked their top 10 free agents for 2019, with DeMarcus Lawrence clocking in at number one, over elite players like Jadeveon Clowney and Le'Veon Bell.
ESPN's top 10 free agents for 2019 and what Le'Veon Bell should be looking to command based on previous measures. https://t.co/aJ7H1n001t
DeMarcus Lawrence is going to command big time money, likely even Khalil Mack-type money. But the fact of the matter is that he has earned it. Lawrence has been the heart and soul of the Cowboys defensive line the last two seasons, and the most consistent edge player on the team as well.
Not only has he been an effective pass rusher, but DeMarcus Lawrence also plays with a relentless motor against the run that can sometimes be rare to find in those premier pass rushers. He really is a jack of all trades at defensive end, and should be priority number one for the Cowboys this offseason.
Thankfully, I can't imagine the Cowboys not retaining DeMarcus Lawrence and extending him in the coming months.
When it Mattered Most, Cowboys Offensive Line Protected Dak Prescott
Throughout the 2018 NFL season, one of the major story lines surrounding the Dallas Cowboys was how frequently Dak Prescott was taking sacks. It's an area that the Cowboys will have to look at in the offseason to better protect their franchise quarterback moving forward. In the playoffs, however, Dak Prescott and the offensive line were much better at keeping their prized possession upright than they were in the regular season.
In the regular season, Dak Prescott was sacked 56 times for an average of 3.5 times a game. There was only one game where he wasn't sacked at all, way back in week two against the New York Giants. Four times this season, the Cowboys' quarterback was sacked five or more times. The New Orleans Saints got him for a season high seven times.
According to Pro Football Focus, Dak was "kept clean" -- not pressured -- on 63% of his drop backs during the regular season, which ranked 25th in the NFL. When kept clean, Prescott completed 74.1% of his passes, which was good for 5th in the NFL during the regular season. He was under pressure 37% of the time, which was the sixth highest rate in the NFL and his completion percentage dropped to 52.6%, still good for 10th in the NFL. It was better than Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Baker Mayfield.
During the playoffs, Prescott's "kept clean" percentage rose from 63% to 68% and he was only sacked once in each game. The one sack against the Los Angeles Rams probably shouldn't have been called a sack as the referee blew the whistle because Prescott was "in the grasp"...
...of his offensive lineman.
During the playoffs, the Cowboys offensive line kept the pressure off of Prescott at a better rate, allowing him to be pressured on only 31.9% of his drop backs. Meaning he was kept clean at an improved rate from the regular season at 68.1% of his drop backs. This while playing against two teams that are really good at rushing the passer. The Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks both finished in the top half of the league in sacks this season and feature players like Aaron Donald, Jarran Reed, and Frank Clark who all had double-digit sacks.
As we know, pressure rates and sacks aren't all completely on the offensive line. The quarterback, wide receivers, and the play calling all factor in, but the Cowboys are trending in the right direction with their pass protection. A full offseason for Connor Williams in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program, better health for Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and -- fingers crossed -- Travis Frederick, should all help the offensive line play at a higher level heading into the 2019 season.
It can't be overstated how important it will be to get Travis Frederick back into the fold this season. Joe Looney was good, and that might be overstating it a bit. He was not noticeable on most plays during the season, but getting your All-Pro center back will tremendously help the offense in every facet of the game. Frederick's one of the smarter players in the NFL, who helps everyone on the offense to see the blitzes and calls out the protections. Both his mental and physical ability will be a welcomed site when the Cowboys begin practicing in the offseason.
With another year of growth for the quarterback and for the young pieces along the offensive line, and with a full offseason for Dak Prescott to grow with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Blake Jarwin, the Cowboys should be better next season at keeping the quarterback clean.
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