The NFL, which celebrates everything, has nothing planned publicly for the 10-year work anniversary for Roger Goodell. Here are four job-saving ideas for the commish, while readers state their case for his removal
As I think back on the first decade of the Goodell Era in NFL history, and I ponder the second, I wonder: Will there even be another 10 years?
Will the spiteful, harsh, hateful anti-Goodell rhetoric—and not just from the six states that comprise New England—ever die down? Goodell is only 57 years old. He’s a fit man, obsessed with the elliptical machine and bicycle for an hour most mornings. Surely he’s got another decade of hard labor in him. In the corporate world, 57 is younger than it used to be. And by overseeing a game that has more than doubled in revenue under his watch ($6 billion total league revenue in 2006, $13 billion in 2015), with widespread public support from ownership, and with the longest period of labor peace in NFL history, it seems bizarre to suggest any scenario under which Goodell wouldn’t have a long life as commissioner.
Well, maybe. But read the emails below this column. The public hates this man. People have long memories from the Ray Rice affair, and certainly from the story that wouldn’t end—Deflategate. The NFL clearly is banking on time healing the wounds. It’s easy to say the owners support Goodell, but I can tell you this: Some owners I know clearly do not like that the public face of the most successful sports league in American history gets more tomatoes thrown at it than any other commissioner in the 96-year history of the NFL. One centrist owner, John Mara of the Giants, loyal to Goodell, told The MMQB’s Jenny Vrentas last week: “If there was an election held today, the overwhelming majority of owners would re-elect him.” But would they if the public tide doesn’t turn in, say, the next year?
And isn’t it interesting, and telling, that the NFL doesn’t seem to have any plans to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Goodell’s election. That day (Aug. 8) is 17 days away. (His first day in office was Sept. 1, 2006.) The NFL celebrates every anniversary, of any even minor accomplishment. Wouldn’t you think the league would be getting the streamers ready, and prepping for an NFL.com and NFL Network celebration of this man who has doubled the bottom line in the past decade? It’s almost as if the league is trying to let the moment pass with no one noticing.
Goodell should get credit for a 10-year labor agreement, for more than 20 safety-related rules changes since 2006, for an investment of $60 million in concussion-related research, for the doubling of revenue. No question. Where I most fault his leadership is in the league’s pursuit of the max penalties against the Patriots and Tom Brady in Deflategate. You know the facts. A great leader would have assessed the situation after the facts were in—facts, clearly, that fell far short of damning evidence that Brady had anything to do with taking air out of footballs to make them easier to grip in the AFC title game 18 months ago—and said, If he did anything, it had precious little to do with performance. Which is the documented truth. Quarterbacks and teams can control footballs easier at home games, when their own ballboys have them on the sidelines, versus road games, when strangers control the balls. Yet from 2006 to 2014, Brady’s performance was almost exactly the same (plus-96 touchdown-to-interception ratio in both home and road games). And when the league refused to make public the results of its first-ever measurements to judge the effect of weather on the air pressure in footballs in the 2015, that sealed the deal for me. Why hide the data, when those measurements were clearly done to either buttress or disprove the NFL’s case? I’ll tell you why: because the league didn’t want to show what happens to footballs in wet and cold weather. Footballs lose air pressure naturally.
That stonewalling was a bad look for Goodell. A terrible look. He deserves every sling and arrow from Bangor to Bridgeport over it.
Whether Goodell can be saved is a question for owners. And for the mental state of Goodell; I don’t know how long, even for the sick amount of money he makes, a man can take the vitriol he subjects himself and his family to. I don’t have a clear Rx for Goodell’s survival, but I do know four things I’d do if I were him:
1. I’d immediately come out against tackle football at the youth level. Citing too many issues and questions with young people playing tackle football before high school, I’d say that the NFL, as the overlord of all things football in America, recommends that all football played before high school be flag football.
2. I’d do something different with that paycheck. I’d continue to accept the massive compensation owners are paying: an average of $37.1 million over the past three years. But I’d actually keep $5 million, and give the rest to researchers studying the long-term effects of head trauma on football players, on whose backs Goodell is getting rich.
3. I’d proceed on weed. I’d hire Eugene Monroe and Jake Plummer—fierce advocates, in effect, of a derivative of marijuana as a pain-reducer for current and former players—and accelerate the process of players being able to use an acknowledged pain reliever for their current and future aches.
4. I’d stop being judge and jury. Finally, I’d have a summit meeting with NFL Players Association executive director De Smith and tell him that, immediately, I’m willing to cede my judge-and-jury role on appeals of discipline under the personal-conduct policy and possibly on integrity-of-the-game matters. But Smith would have to come ready to make a deal. My suggestion: the extension of the current CBA by one year.
In addition, Goodell would have to continue to press hard, with money taken from the owners’ pockets, for more R&D funding to make the game as safe as it can be. He’s doing that now, but it has to be a daily mantra around the league’s Park Avenue offices, and every player in the league cannot hear it enough.
I don’t know if he can save his job, or if he should save his job. But he’s got to take some drastic steps to turn around his image. The owners cannot afford to forever have their commissioner being one of the biggest punching bags in American sports history.
Here are your emails after our series of stories on Goodell this week. The mail was at least 95 percent negative. Some samples:
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GOODELL DOESN’T LISTEN TO FANS
If Roger Goodell wants to improve his image with us fans, he needs to stop trying to ruin the game we love. It’s not his bungling of disciplinary issues that primarily has many of us fans riled up; it’s his desire to change the game in fundamental ways that we find unacceptable. I understand he works for the owners and the owners have a one-track mind on profits, but he needs to strike a balance between “growing the pie” and governing the game. What makes me angry, as a fan, are his constant threats to tinker with the game in ways that, frankly, we fans don’t want to see. At various points in time we’ve heard Roger Goodell say he wants to expand the NFL overseas (logistically stupid), lengthen the season (adds unnecessary risk to players), expand the playoffs (they’re perfect already) and eliminate the kickoff (what? why?). None of this is what the fans want. Roger Goodell doesn’t listen to fans at all. On top of all of this, Goodell seems to be, at the very least, a hypocrite. He speaks frequently about player safety, and yet he refuses to soften his stance on marijuana (even when the entire nation is clearly moving toward legalization and science is showing it to be a much better alternative than opioids) and he keeps bringing up longer seasons despite the added risk of injury to players. There’s nothing good to hang your hat on about the man as commissioner of the NFL.
—Christopher Holmes, Palouse, Wash.
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GOODELL’S NFL IS A SIDESHOW
It seems to me Goodell is turning the NFL into some sort of sideshow. Between his statement about the players wanting to end discipline, to his comments about the Laremy Tunsil fiasco and how it made the draft interesting, to his engaging and egging on those who were booing him, is it just me or does the NFL have to do something about his behavior? Maybe discipline him for his boorish behavior? If we are talking integrity of the league, at this point in time, he may well be the biggest offender of their integrity there is. It reminds me of the days of my youth when I would watch the WWF. Is this where the NFL really wants to go?
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GOODELL VS. SILVER
I'm an ex-pat who lives in Korea currently (Korean adoptee), grew up in Pittsburgh, so I'm a lifelong Steelers fan. I grew up loving the NFL and now that I'm living abroad, I make the effort to watch games at 3 a.m. Monday mornings at the expense of sleep. These days, I can no longer in good faith support the NFL. The main reason? Roger Goodell. I say this because my No. 2 sport has been basketball. However, since Adam Silver took over the NBA, I see a leader that people look towards, someone who has been responsible not only with the players and owners, but also someone who is socially responsible. Goodell over the Deflategate scandal has wasted any good will that he once had and I can no longer look at the NFL in the same way. I never thought a commissioner could taint my view on a sport, but he has done that.
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WINS ABOVE REPLACEMENT?
Using a wins above replacement-type analysis, couldn’t any competent executive have grown the league at an equal or better pace for far less money? I’m so tired of hearing about how great Roger is because he makes money for the owners. They have a great product. They have great players. They have smart owners who were successful in other businesses. They would have made money with a robot as commissioner. Roger has probably cost the owners money compared to what a competent executive could have accomplished.
—Thomas D. Mooney
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For a league that keeps saying they value integrity and transparency, the fact that the NFL has the PSI numbers from last year’s “random” football air pressure tests but won’t release them, shows that it is anything but transparent. It shows a complete lack of integrity. The results would prove one way or another whether a deflation scheme was in fact perpetrated or was from natural causes. It is pretty apparent that numbers didn’t show what the NFL wanted. So Goodell, instead of swallowing his pride and admitting a mistake was made, continues to tear down the reputation of one of the all-time great players in the league. So Mr. Goodell, about that integrity thing?
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A WARNING ON ABSOLUTE POWER
The two historical examples I draw from Roger Goodell as commissioner?
1) Richard Nixon’s use of power with impunity during and after the Watergate break-in. Absolute power has a way of corrupting those that wield it. History is our witness.
2) Paul Tagliabue’s reversal of the Bountygate penalties. This was Goodell's former boss/mentor with a short message to Roger: Be a little smarter in the future. Roger ignored this insight.
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YOU’RE EITHER ETHICAL OR YOU’RE NOT
Peter King wrote an article on Goodell that made a point of Goodell’s strong ethics which were brought about by how much he revered his father. As I’m sure you’ll recall, his father, a senator, was against the Vietnam War, much to the chagrin of Richard Nixon, eventually leading to his removal from his office. Goodell’s dad was a strong and honorable man no doubt. One of the things mentioned in the article is that Roger wrote to his father once stating, “If there is one thing I want to accomplish in my life besides becoming commissioner of the NFL, it is to make you proud of me.” I am an honest guy. Or try to be anyway. I don’t like liars. But what I really don’t like are people who claim to be honest and righteous but will bend their ethics and behavior when it suits them. Either you are ethical or you are not. Goodell has shown a history of lying and manipulating when it suits him (Ray Rice, Deflategate, Bountygate, 18-game schedule, concussions). If making his father proud was something that the commissioner strived for he has failed miserably. Fathers and parents, or at least decent parents, as I'm sure his were, would care more about the character of their child, not his bloated paycheck.
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SOMEONE LIKES GOODELL
I love Roger Goodell. He is exactly why NFL is so powerful. He disciplines these punks that don’t understand it’s a PRIVILEGE to play in the NFL! Lets hope Goodell is commissioner 20 more years!
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HE IS NOT LONG FOR THE JOB
I believe the job is too big for Goodell. His ego is too big to be effective at the top. I cannot believe no one told him to slow down on Deflategate. He appears to be an anal micromanager, with a tin ear for advice or critics. I predict he crashes and burns this year when owners turn on him.
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AND THE NEXT COMMISSIONER SHOULD BE...
I think Kedric Golston’s missive regarding Roger Goodell confirms that offensive linemen are usually the smartest guys on the team.
He lays out several criticisms of the commissioner, most of which are quite valid including the idea of an 18-game season (it will ultimately dilute the product), and the disciplinary process (or lack thereof). But that criticism is balanced by his uncommon ability to take a wider view, and acknowledge that both the league and players have prospered, and that in the last CBA, the players agreed to many of issues that are the subjects of their current complaints. (I wish I could get my kids to face up to the consequences of their own choices!)
I think a guy like this is actually interested in improving the game for all stakeholders—players, owners and fans, doing it incrementally and carefully and working with the other side without the histrionics and bluster we more commonly hear. Mr. Golston, would you consider running for (much) higher office after your football career?
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