The Melvin Gordon Holdout is One with Little Leverage

Melvin Gordon Holdout Chargers

Where have you heard this before? The NFL has a star running back sitting out training camp until he gets paid. In fact, two prominent running backs are holding out: Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys and Melvin Gordon of the Los Angeles Chargers. After a close review of situations, it’s clear that in the case of the Melvin Gordon holdout, he has little to no leverage.

Melvin Gordon is a Great NFL Running Back

Before getting to Melvin Gordon’s holdout, let’s talk numbers. Important to note is that Gordon had his best season in 2018, a performance earning him the number 34 spot on the NFL’s annual Top 100 list. In just 12 games, Melvin Gordon rushed for 885 yards, 5.1 yards-per-carry, and 10 touchdowns. Of note, this was his first season with a yards-per-carry above 3.9. In addition, he racked up 50 receptions for 490 yards and 4 more touchdowns.

14 touchdowns are nothing to dismiss, especially considering how the first-round back started his career. After missing the pay-dirt in his rookie season, Gordon amassed 38 touchdowns in his next three seasons. For many (Gordon himself included), it’s difficult to ignore that production.

Melvin Gordon Chargers Holdout

Efficiency wise, Gordon was also the highest-graded running back against stacked boxes, per PFF. PFF also ranked him 3rd overall for running backs in 2018 and 11th in PFF’s wins above replacement. Additionally, Melvin Gordon posted a staggering number of top efficiency stats on Player Profiler. His plus-34.6 (No.4 ) Production Premium, 34-percent (No. 5) Dominator Rating, 79 (No. 6) Evaded Tackles, 35.1-percent (No. 5) Juke Rate and 2.07 (No. 3) Yards Created Per Carry are elite.

As a player, Gordon has the ability to run inside, outside and is an effective receiver. He was good to great in most areas of production and efficiency in 2018. By most measures of production and efficiency in 2018, Gordon was at the top. It makes sense he would try and renegotiate his contract. He feels elite and wants to be paid as such.

Running Backs are Devalued. Sorry Melvin Gordon Holdout

Unfortunately for Melvin Gordon, he is a running back in the NFL. While running backs are the most important position in fantasy football, they aren’t as valuable to actual football teams. Let’s dissect this (If you would like to continue learning more about running back devaluation and replaceability, read in-depth analysis from PFF, Josh Hermsmeyer, JJ Zachariason, and Ben Baldwin).

Running Backs are Replaceable

Before injury in 2018, Todd Gurley was playing at another level. He had all the production to qualify his elite talent. Gurley was the bell-cow back that everyone loves, rushing for 98 yards and 1.25 rushing touchdowns per game in his first 12 games. Adding to that, Gurley had 3.83 receptions per game for 39.5 yards and 0.33 receiving touchdowns in that span. He was, by all means, an excellent form of offensive production before his injury slowed him down in December.

With that said, C.J. Anderson (a backup running back CUT by the Panthers after Week 9) replaced the injured Gurley and also played on an elite level. Prior to exploding with the Rams, Anderson had just 24 carries for 104 yards and 1 reception in 9 games with the Panthers. In his first three games with the Rams, Anderson rushed for 422 yards and 4 touchdowns.

A similar situation occurred in Kansas City. After Kareem Hunt was cut by the Kansas City Chiefs, Damien Williams produced at a level similar to Hunt. Neither the Rams nor the Chiefs offenses halted. In fact, the Chiefs made it to the AFC Championship and the Rams made it to the Super Bowl.

As PFF’s Steve Palazzolo and Sam Monson point out, running backs are highly dependent on surrounding talent, offensive line, game script and offensive scheme. Unlike throwing in a backup quarterback, throwing a backup running back into a high-octane offense is almost seamless. After all, the Chargers had 4 wins and 0 losses without Melvin Gordon in 2018.

The Chargers have Two Quality Backup Running Backs

Austin Ekeler

Alongside Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler was an excellent complementary back. They were quite the one-two punch in 2018. Ekeler, while not as efficient or productive as Gordon, still posted a plus-25.9 (No 8) Production Premium, 4.9 (No. 8) True Yards Per Carry, 6.6 (No. 4) Yards Per Touch and a 9.4-percent (No. 1) Breakaway Run Rate. Ekeler, though he began his career undrafted, made a name for himself in the Chargers backfield. Because of both his talent and the replaceability of running backs, Austin Gayle believes that Ekeler can replace Gordon’s production in the case of a holdout. 

Justin Jackson – Razzle Dazzle

Behind Ekeler, the Chargers also have sophomore running back Justin Jackson. 

Aside from having a tremendous College Profile, Jackson also has that ‘razzle dazzle’.

“He’s a creative runner,” backfield mate Austin Ekeler said. “He’s a unique runner. There aren’t many people I’ve seen, in general, that run like he does. Like I tell him, he’s got that razzle-dazzle, some hocus-pocus [laughs] — I make up all these different things. That’s how he runs, and that’s how I’d describe his runs because you really don’t know what he’s going to do.”

Austin Ekeler

Running Back Decline, Injury Risk and the Melvin Gordon Holdout

The Age of Decline

According to both Pro Football Reference and Mike Taglier of Fantasy Pros, the average age of running back decline is at 28 years of age. Well, Melvin Gordon is entering his age-26 season. He’s only two years away from  If he holds out in 2019, he’s only one year away from the dreaded age-28 season. Why pay up for a running back just before his decline?

Injury Risk

Everyone would agree that football is a vicious sport. After all, the average NFL career only lasts 3.3 years. But, out of every position in football, none is riskier than running back. Running backs have the shortest careers, averaging only 2.57 years in the NFL. Due to the nature of the position and the number of regular collisions, it makes sense. This is another reason why many NFL teams avoid paying large contracts to aging running backs. 

Moreover, Melvin Gordon is not a picture of perfect health.

Melvin Gordon Injury Report

Gordon also accrued 1,079 touches in his four-year career. Because of injury risk and inevitable decline, it’s often easier for teams to just draft another running back than pay the current producer.

Teams Don’t Stop Everything for Running Backs

“I don’t find that happening any time soon. If his own team isn’t going to pay him, I don’t think there are other teams out there who will pay him what he’s looking for,” Quinn said. “I don’t see many teams knocking down the door to offer long-term extensions to running backs anymore.”

Brady Quinn

According to Over the Cap, teams spend just 3.33-percent of their overall cap towards running backs. That doesn’t mean that they spend 3.33-percent for their best running back, but all running backs combined. As noted in the paragraphs above, the running back position is replaceable in production and a constant flow of talent entering the draft. Teams opt to run their back to the ground and then just get another. Or, many teams like the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles deploy a committee of specialist running backs at value. 

Another reason that running backs don’t earn as much money is that the running back position is analytically worth less than other positions. Without getting too much into it, passing is simply more efficient and valuable than rushing. That’s why a 5-yard rush is considered good, while a 5-yard pass isn’t. To paraphrase a common analytical stance, the running back position is closer to punter in value than it is to quarterback. Instead of running backs setting up the pass, there’s more evidence that the pass sets up the run. Establishing the run has become more of a trope than a definitive. Because of this, analytics has popularized the phrase “running backs don’t matter.” While this is hyperbole, the statistical impact a running back has on a football field is smaller than many think.

If you want to read about this, read these articles by Josh Hermsmeyer, JJ Zachariason, or Ben Baldwin.

Even Ezekiel Elliott isn’t worth the money according to Josh Hermsmeyer of FiveThirtyEight. And behind Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott is regarded as the second-best running back in the league. So if Zeke doesn’t deserve it, then Gordon’s value also takes a hit. 

Fans, Quarterback and a Franchise Tag

Unfortunately for Melvin Gordon, he doesn’t have the fans and team completely behind him. In a fan poll on Bolts From the Blue, about 70-percent of respondents would rather trade Gordon away, while 8-percent voted to let Gordon sit out without pay. The fans certainly don’t have his back.

Also painful for Gordon is that Philip Rivers came out and said the Chargers would be fine without Gordon. Ouch.

Last, the Chargers hold the best cards in the case of a holdout. Let’s say that the Melvin Gordon holdout leads to him sitting the entire 2019 season. If he does this, he is subject to fines ($40,000 for each day of training camp) and loss of game checks. But worst of all, he doesn’t accrue his fifth-year with the Chargers and he is still under contract for 2020. Essentially, Gordon would just push his 5th-year option forward a year. So he gets another year older without anything changing. Then, if he accrues that fifth season by playing all or part of the 2020 season, the Chargers can just franchise tag him for 2021. They have all the leverage.


Us at the Unafraid Show are all for players getting paid. We’ve written extensively about it. See the articles below.

However, this article is about leverage and Melvin Gordon simply doesn’t have as much leverage as he thinks he does with this holdout. That’s because running backs are in a horrible cycle for sports. Draft them, run them to the ground and then dump them. Teams don’t need to pay up for them. Are there running backs that are more talented than others? Completely. Can an elite running back give a team an edge over other teams in different situations? Of course.

But, with the amount of talent available for drafts, teams can draft a player and own his rights for his five, best years. If running backs want to get paid, they need to change the NFL CBA. Instead of four-year contracts with a fifth-year option, perhaps it would benefit running backs more if they were drafted to two-year contracts with a third-year option. That would allow running backs to earn second contracts before their best years are behind them. So, instead of holding out for pay for himself, Melvin Gordon holdout should be advocating for change for the players yet to enter the draft.

Will the NBA, MLB or NHL Overtake the NFL As America’s Favorite Sport?

Will the NBA, MLB or NHL Overtake the NFL As America's Favorite Sport?

America Loves Football

Football. It’s Goliath and America’s favorite sport. Since the 1970’s, America transitioned to loving football more than baseball and its fans haven’t turned back. According to polls in 2018 by Ranker and a Gallup, the NFL is the leading choice for favorite sport by fans. In addition to this, the NFL has led all sports leagues in America, and the world itself, in revenue. But, with declining viewership in 2016 and 2017, political issues, and the expansion of other professional sports, will football reign king in 2030?

In order to find out, this article will review America’s Big-Three:

  • The National Football League (NFL)
  • Major League Baseball (MLB)
  • The National Basketball Association (NBA)

This article will also discuss the rise of the National Hockey League (NHL) and Major League Soccer (MLS).

Major League Baseball (MLB)

Although baseball is no longer America’s Pastime, it has still done very well in recent years. Major League Baseball has seen 16 consecutive years of gross revenue records. “Since 1992, when Bud Selig took over as commissioner on a full-time basis, league gross revenues have grown 377% when accounting for inflation.” In 2018, Major League Baseball totaled 10.3 billion dollars in revenue. Baseball got paid. Even with a four-percent drop in attendance in 2018, its television revenues remained stable while sponsorship increased. In addition, Fox signed a new extension with Major League Baseball that runs from 2022 to 2028 and totals 5.1 billion dollars.

The problem with baseball’s overall popularity is it’s singular nature. Most baseball fans couldn’t care less about any league other than Major League Baseball. College baseball, Triple-A baseball have limited fandom attached. NCAA football and basketball are huge. Soccer has a plethora of different sports leagues spanning the entire globe in addition to the World Cup for both women and men. Basketball also has the NCAA tournament for women and the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). Baseball doesn’t have that. It is an isolated sports league in revenue, views and fans. So it makes sense that many American’s don’t choose baseball as their favorite sport.

However, as far as fans per league go, baseball is still mainstream. As of 2017 data, Major League Baseball, when compared to other American professional sports, had:

  • Highest attendance
  • Second-most active fans
  • Second-most Avid fans
  • Second-most fans of any interest
  • Second-most television views
  • Second-most purchased clothing/apparel with team logos

Will Major League Baseball outgrow the National Football League? It’s highly unlikely. Nonetheless, Major League Baseball revenue, attendance, and television viewership will keep it relevant for years to come.

The National Basketball Association (NBA)

Basketball is attempting to make a major push as a contender. In an interview with CNBC, Washington Wizards majority-owner Ted Leonis compared the NBA to a growing stock. High speed cameras, data, and transparency have set up the NBA for gaming and gambling. Considering the supreme court recently declared sports gambling legal, this is an incredibly smart move by the NBA. The Wizards even broadcasted games on an alternate local channel that was designed for sports gamblers. Including real-time odds and contests may seem insignificant, but attracting a new and growing sports gambling market will set the NBA up quite nicely.

One argument against the growth of basketball is the ratings of the 2017-2018 NBA Finals. Just a few years prior, the 2015-2016 NBA Finals had the best ratings since Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls had their second three-peat. The 31 million viewers put Game Seven of the 2015-2016 NBA Finals in elite company. Only two other NBA Finals games, both in different three-peat Championship games of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, had over 30 million viewers. But in the 2017-2018 NBA Finals, the average viewers dropped nearly 3 million from the previous season.

Perhaps this is due to fans seeing LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers battle Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors for the fourth-consecutive season. Fans were bored. It was the same story each year. LeBron dragging a team to the NBA Finals only to lose to the Golden State Warriors wasn’t anything new. But lucky for the NBA, this will be the first post-season without LeBron James since the 2004-2005 season. The 2018-2019 NBA Finals will also be the first LeBron-less finals in nine seasons. This season is different and the parity will be refreshing for basketball followers.

NBA Global Expansion

Ratings aside, the NBA is evolving and pushing worldwide expansion. Striking international broadcast deals and making games/highlights more viewable for international audiences is the NBA’s newest target. The top-five markets for NBA basketball outside the US are China, Austrailia, Brazil, Canada and Mexico. There are currently over 178 million Chinese followers of the NBA across social media channels in addition to over 300 million Chinese basketball players. More than 30-percent of the NBA league pass subscriptions are in Asia. Basketball is also the second-fastest growing sport in India and the league in running Junior NBA schemes across Asia and Australia.

This global expansion is welcomed and operated by owners and players alike. Ted Leonis described international games as business trips. Winning the game was only one part of the goal for players and management. Public appearances, sponsorship meetings and media deals were just as important to the league. Making NBA basketball global has a huge monetary incentive. Creating a larger market allows for a greater chance for sponsors, media deals and merchandise sales. It also increases the likelihood of talent. India and China alone combine for nearly 2.8 billion people. They make up 36-percent of the world’s population. Capitalizing on that market is the NBA’s best chance to compete with the NFL.

The NBA is a strong contender for 2030’s top American sports league. If they continue to press these three goals:

  • Capture Sports Gambling Market with Gambling-Friendly Broadcasts
  • Increase Talent Pool Worldwide
  • Grow International Revenue and Media Deals

The National Hockey League (NHL)

With the expansion to Seattle in 2021, the National Hockey League will have its 32nd franchise, equaling the NFL’s total. Hockey has been growing in the US and making its way across the states. This can be seen by its revenue jump in the past decade. Since the 2006-2007 season, the NHL’s revenue has doubled. Gathering in over 4 billion dollars in revenue in 2017-2018 pushed the NHL to become the fifth-highest sports league in the world in revenue. Expansion to more cities and national growth of fans has been great to the NHL.

Of note, hockey has also seem a substantial increase in youth popularity. While the percentage of 6-12 year olds playing youth football, basketball, baseball, and soccer has declined, youth hockey has seen a 64-percent rise in recent years. There are also roughly 45 thousand high school participants in ice hockey.

From the fans that have been paying attention, it’s no surprise that hockey is on the up and up. However, the idea the NHL will surpass the NFL by 2030 is short of a dream. The NFL brought in roughly three times the amount of revenue. With that being said, the NHL putting itself in the Big-Three by 2030 and edging out Major League Baseball does have a small chance.

Major League Soccer (MLS)

The dark horse of all American sports leagues is Major League Soccer (MLS). Many consider Major League Soccer the little brother (or distant relative) of European soccer. Yes, the Premier League does garner much success, ranking fourth in revenue in worldwide sports league. Yes the MLS has been in the shadow of other professional sports, but it has seen a hockey-like surge. Since 2008, Major League Soccer went from 14 teams to 24 and will have 27 teams by 2021. The league will also name its 28th team next season. Soccer is expanding across cities in the US.

Major League Soccer was also Yahoo Finance’s Business of the Year. Both ticket revenue and attendance were up in the 2018. Global stars like Zlatan Ibrahimovic entering Major League Soccer have drawn support and increased followers of the league.

Most important, Major League Soccer’s 30th anniversary will coincide with the 2026 FIFA World Cup. This World Cup will take place in America. Due to a joint bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, games will be played in Mexico, Canada and the United States. In addition, the quarterfinals through the final will all be played in the United States. This will be monumental for Major League Soccer. Hosting the world’s most popular single-sport competition will certainly give Major League Soccer a major boost.

Nevertheless, just like the NHL, Major League Soccer will not be able to compete with the NFL. If it can grow to the revenue currently experienced by the NHL, that would be a large success. But don’t set expectations high for MLS soccer.

The National Football League: The King Stay the King

Following 2017, many thought that the NFL was losing its grip on America. It experienced a drop in ratings in back to back years. But that didn’t last long. TV viewership in 2018 had resurged five-percent from 2017. Sunday Night Football also was the top primetime show seven years in a row. Viewers are no longer an argument against the NFL.

Views aside, its best to review money. If money talks, the NFL is shouting. In 2018, the NFL brought in 13.68 billion dollars in revenue, averaging 427 million dollars per franchise. The 2018 purchase of the Carolina Panthers should also be noted. David Pepper’s 2.2 billion dollar purchase was an 800 million dollar increase from the price paid for the Buffalo Bills in 2014. This revenue increase and demand is associated with commissioner Roger Goodell.

Since taking over as league commissioner in 2005, Goodell has led a revenue increase from 6.5 billion to 13.68 billion dollars. He aims for 25 billion dollars by 2027. Changing league rules, negotiating media contracts and expanding global reach to London and Mexico keeps the NFL at the top.

The introduction of the Alliance of American Football (AAF) and the reintroduction of the XFL will also raise football’s fandom. These leagues will make games more affordable to attend as a gateway to NFL game attendance. They also will act as development leagues for players, schemes, coaches, rules and business. Utilizing them in such a way will provide the NFL exactly what it needs to remain king.

Final Rankings for 2030

As much as some would love the NFL’s top spot to be taken over by 2030, it just won’t happen. Football has a firm grasp on America. Fantasy football was large enough to support “The League” for seven seasons on FX. The Super Bowl is America’s most-watched game. And roughly a third of Americans polled by Gallup picked football as their favorite sport. Football just has too much. Roger Goodell has also proved that he is willing to alter the game each season and push revenue forward for league owners. Ever evolving and popular, the NFL will still be at the top.

With that being said, the NBA will close the gap significantly with the NFL by 2030. International expansion, rising young stars and LeBron’s development with the Los Angeles Lakers will bring the NBA to sports royalty. Two giants competing with one another. Football and basketball will be the Big-Two.

In conclusion, here are my 2030 rankings for America’s sports leagues by revenue with one bold prediction for hockey:

  • Big-Two: The NFL (No.1) and the NBA (No. 2)
  • Next Up: The NHL (No. 3) and the MLB (No. 4)
  • Keep Climbing: The MLS (No. 5)

NBA rises to meet NFL.

MLB falls below the rising NHL.

Soccer still has ground to cover.

Tucker Carlson Wants to End the War on Scrubs. As a Scrub, I say “What War?”

Tucker Carlson Fox News

I remember how hard it used to be to convince my wife to join Twitter. About the sixth time during each day that I’d burst into an immature cackle while scrolling through my feed, she’d roll her eyes, and I’d take that as my cue to try and convince her that Twitter was indeed a public good. I’d exalt the virtues of its use during instances of government suppression during the Arab Spring, or point out its real-time efficiency in figuring out traffic issues (people love to tweet about traffic while in traffic), but she knew the truth. I was in it for the nonsense.

Sometimes I wish I hadn’t have taken up the task of persuading her to join the fray. For one, I’d be able to avoid seeing all the Kliff Kingsbury-related tweets she favorites. (Apparently, he’s good looking?) But the biggest reason I regret my wife’s presence on Twitter is that she recently alerted me to a piece of video that has launched me into a tailspin of mind-numbing internal debate and dissonance.

“Studies Show”…

Maybe you’ve seen it, and perhaps I’m just reopening old wounds, but Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson recently let this bit of “wisdom” fly:

“Study after study has shown that when men make less than women, women generally don’t want to marry them. Maybe they should want to marry them but they don’t. Over big populations, this causes a drop in marriage, a spike in out of wedlock births and all the familiar disasters that inevitably follow, more drug and alcohol abuse, higher incarcerations rates, fewer families formed in the next generation.”

Here’s the point that Tucker Carlson was trying to make, summed up. White rural modern families now resemble urban families of the 1980s in that there’s rampant male unemployment, a drug epidemic, and an increased rate of births out of wedlock. And his culprit? Women making more money than men.
“This is not speculation; it’s not propaganda… it’s social science. We know it’s true.” Carlson opined, without citing any of the studies he so confidently referenced.
And who did Tucker Carlson blame for his assertion that poor white men can’t afford to put a ring on it? Rich, married folks.
“Here’s the bewildering and infuriating part. The very same affluent married people, the ones who make virtually all the decisions in our society, are doing pretty much nothing to help the people below them get, and stay married. Rich people are happy to fight malaria in Congo, but working to raise men’s wages in Dayton of Detroit? That’s crazy. This is negligence on a massive scale. Both parties ignore the crisis in marriage. Our mindless cultural leaders act like it’s still 1961, and the biggest problem American families face is that sexism is preventing millions of housewives from becoming investment bankers or Facebook executives.”

Modern Family

I don’t know where to start here. I suppose I’ll define where I’m coming from. I’m a work-from-home dad supporting a spouse whose income at her second job greatly outweighs my primary income. I know that on the whole, there’s little value in anecdotes, so take it for what it’s worth when I say I’m not just content in my complimentary role to my spouse, but that I feel, as much as anyone with four kids can, that we’re thriving. I mean, we’re drowning in life’s unceasing avalanche of responsibility, but as far as drowning goes, I feel like we’re doing a decent job. If we were on a metaphorical drowning talent show, I like to think Simon Cowell would be impressed.
Anyway, I’m happy. So maybe it’s the fact that I can’t relate that causes these comments to fail to resonate with me. Or perhaps it’s that I tend to be on the conservative side of things politically, which is where I thought Tucker Carlson resided. It’s hard for me to place the blame for society’s woes on the fact that women aren’t falling all over themselves to wear a white gown and recite vows across from “Cletus the unskilled laborer,” who grew up residing in a manufacturing graveyard and refused to pivot so he could support himself, much less an eventual theoretical family.

Correlation or Causation?

Is my gender having a crisis? Sure. And we always have been. The fact that some women make some money now isn’t the root of our ills. Correlation doesn’t prove causation. I seem to remember learning that one of the things that historically hyper-accelerates women’s participation in the workforce are the wars we testosterone-possessing Homo sapiens show an affinity for both generating and participating in.
There’s nothing more emasculating to me than Tucker Carlson’s assertion that the L’s that the male gender has been collecting aren’t even L’s that we earned. We’re all just victims in a dark timeline, and the reason we’re strung out on the trailer sofa, playing Xbox, and waiting for the coal mine to reopen, is so that we can at least enter some kind of tunnel since the fairer sex has abandoned us. And it’s all because some well-adjusted suburban couple was busy helping reduce the global malaria death rate 48% from 2000-2015. Those charitable bastards.

Is He Right?

Maybe Tucker Carlson is right. I mean, he isn’t. This is an aggressively anti-woman diatribe that also manages to make America’s men completely dependent on government assistance to get them a job and a partner. But for the sake of argument, let’s say that he at the very least has a point about the fact that women should be attracted to men who don’t make a whole lot of money.
I mean, that’s something I’m not going to spend too much time fighting him on. Especially since it worked out for me. My wife seems to have failed to heed the words of Rozanda “Chilli” Thomas, who once famously said, “Wanna get with me, with no money, oh no, I don’t want no scrub.”
I suppose another option for our gender would be to man up while manning up still implies exerting effort in order to overcome adversity. We could learn and develop marketable skills in order to attract a mate, and help take care of the kids we sire. Maybe we can stop acting like scrubs altogether?
But why would we do that when our TV talking heads are hanging out the passenger side of their Fox News ride, trying to holler that there’s someone else to blame?