Whether you are a fan or not you likely recognize the National Football League as the most successful and popular brand in American sports.  It’s often been said that the NFL is a cash cow that prints money faster than in Washington and they don’t have to raise the debt ceiling to do so.

The Dallas Cowboys top the Forbes list of the world’s most valuable sports franchises with a value of $4.2 billion with the Patriots, Giants, 49er’s and Redskins all in the top ten. 29 of the 32 NFL teams were in the top 50.  The 32 teams earned an average operating profit of $91 million.  So why do I think that the NFL is headed for darker days?

Topping my list is the product is simply not as good as it once was.  Did you watch the opening week of the season because many of the games were dreadful?  I found myself on Sunday switching from the Red Zone to coverage of Hurricane Irma because reporters getting blown around in 100 plus mile winds was more exciting than watching passes thrown by Scott Tolzien, Tom Savage & Josh McCown.

That’s another problem. A lack of star players.  Yes there’s Brady, Beckham, Rodgers, Gronk and others but many teams are void of star players.  Name one on the Jets, Browns, Dolphins, Colts or 49ers.  Every player in the NFL is great but injuries and shortened careers are more the norm than the exception these days.

Speaking of injuries there is that elephant in the room, concussions and brain injuries.  Football is by nature a violent sport, especially on the pro level.  Players today are too big, too strong and too fast and while collisions get hyped on ESPN they are not good for the body.  The NFL ignored the concussion problem for years and are now paying the price in more ways than one.

There is also this to consider.  Participation in youth football is down, drastically in some cases because Moms (and Dads) don’t want their kids to play even though you’re more likely to get a concussion playing soccer.

That has filtered over to the high school level where numbers are down and many schools will be lucky to finish the season with 40 varsity players in uniform when they used to have 60 or more.  Some districts across the country have had to merge with others to field a team or have even done away with football.

Football is still America’s favorite sport (and mine) by a wide margin but the future just may be a bit cloudy.