The team that employs Dalvin Cook has made him the centerpiece of its offense, giving him more 30-carry games than any running back in the league last season.
The team that Cook is now a part-owner of doesn't run the ball enough — and there's nothing he can do about it.
"I think Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady got everybody," Cook said with a smile. "They don't run the ball at all."
Not that any of it is a surprise to Cook; his new team plays in a league that leaves almost everything up to its fans.
Recruited by Instagram comedian Bob Menery, Cook has joined former Twins pitcher Trevor May among the owners of the Zappers, one of four teams playing in Fan Controlled Football's inaugural six-week season. The semi-pro league debuted on Feb. 13, with plans to play all of its games on a 50-yard field at Infinite Energy Arena in the Atlanta suburbs.
Everything from team branding to roster decisions, rule changes and play-calling is controlled by fans, who vote in a weekly online draft about which players should make the rosters. The 7-on-7 games are streamed on Twitch. The league said it received more than 700,000 total live views for its first week of games, peaking with more than 35,000 concurrent viewers at one point during the Zappers game against the Beast.
The league applies some customs from Madden NFL video games and fantasy sports. Clubs can protect two players, but the rest of their rosters are determined by the weekly draft until the playoffs, when rosters lock. Cook's first move was to place one of the Zappers' two tags on his cousin, former Florida International running back Anthony Jones. The team used the other on quarterback Johnny Manziel, the former Heisman Trophy winner's return to the field after the short-lived Alliance of American Football folded in 2019.
In an alternate NFL reality far different from this one, Cook and Manziel could have been teammates in Minnesota. The Vikings had the Texas A&M product slightly ahead of Teddy Bridgewater as the top QB on their draft board in 2014. As it is, Cook and Manziel have yet to meet in person, but they've connected through mutual friends and talked on the phone.
Manziel's 38-yard run on the Zappers' opening play was the top highlight from the FCF's first weekend, garnering more than two million views on Twitter and Instagram.
It also showcased the type of quarterback Cook said teams need to be successful where play-calling has a bit of an unorthodox flow. Teams operate from a league-wide playbook, and coaches create a call sheet before each game. During games, fans can pick between four run plays or four pass plays at a time, and teams run the play selected by the most fans. If the play doesn't work, the quarterback has to improvise, which is why, Cook said, quarterbacks like Manziel and the former Bengal and Colt Quinton Flower can be good in this league.
"The quarterback has to make a lot of plays — stepping up in the pocket, just moving his feet, period," Cook said. "You have to be somewhat aware of what's going on, even though it's only three defensive linemen."
Cook isn't the only NFL player who's gotten involved in ownership; 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman and former Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch are co-owners of teams. Cook hasn't been to Atlanta for a game yet, but he'll be there in person for the playoffs.
"Talking to my cousin, the league has grown on him so much," Cook said. "He looks forward to playing on Saturdays. I really just let those guys have their space. You can't really connect with the players yet, because the fans are picking their players every week."
When the playoffs come around, he'll know exactly who's on his team. By then, maybe he'll have influenced enough fans to get the running game more involved, too.
"It's different, because you never know what the play call is going to be," he said. "You've got some fans thinking one way, and you've got other fans thinking a certain way. I think that's the most curious part about it: you want to know how fans think. I think that's the most fun part about it."