A couple of weeks ago, Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco swooned like a ’62 Beatles teeny bopper after spending an hour on the phone with Commissioner Roger Goodell. But Chad is in the distinct minority when it comes to warm and fuzzies for the man who currently presides over pro football.
Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports chronicles a wide array of criticisms from players regarding Goodell. The hard feelings for the man who is taking a hard line with players isn’t surprising. Although, as Silver points out, Goodell is merely doing the bidding of the owners, Goodell is the face of the league, and thus the target of their current frustrations.
Many players were happy to see him booed at the draft. One questioned the moment of silence for the tornado victims as a device for short-circuiting a torrent of boos. Another was suspicious of the use of military personnel as shields against further booing.
In addition to past insults from folks like Derrick Mason and Chester Pitts, one unnamed player called Goodell a “dope” in communications with Silver.
Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, a member of the NFLPA* Executive Committee, thinks the labor strife will stick with Goodell when dealing with players in the future. “Does he have a problem with getting the players’ respect? Absolutely,” Fujita told Silver. “No matter what happens, it might be tough for him to ever get that back. However this is resolved, I can’t say every player, but the overwhelming majority will continue to have a problem with him. And that’s too bad.”
Fujita also addressed a point we’ve made a time or two lately — that it’s up to Goodell to get the owners to bend enough to get a deal done.
“He’s just in a really unenviable position of having to build consensus among the owners,” Fujita said. “I don’t know that anybody can do that right now. He’s the mouthpiece of the owners, and that’s why he’s getting that type of reaction. I do feel bad for him.
“Ideally, he’s someone who can build consensus among the owners and convince them to do what’s best for the game. I expected him to be that guy who can push those buttons and get them to move, but I’m afraid he might not be. I don’t know that he’ll be able to do that, and that’s disappointing.”
Frankly, we’re not sure anyone can push those buttons right now. And we fear that, if Goodell tries, the support he enjoys among the men who hired him will evaporate, quickly.
For now, the support is strong. One unnamed owner told Silver that there’s “[z]ero chance” Goodell will lose his job as a result of the labor situation. “Roger is trying to do business,” the unnamed owner told Silver, “and De [Smith] is like a psycho girlfriend who doesn’t know what he wants, doesn’t understand what he’s involved in and [who] you can’t reason with. With psycho girlfriends, at least you can move on eventually. But Roger is stuck with him right now.”
Regardless of whether that characterization is accurate, Goodell definitely is stuck with taking the flak from players and fans. “He’s the face of this whole problem, the face of the league that locked out the players,” Fujita said. “He is just the face who’s trying to shut down the game and take away our livelihood — and that pisses guys off. It’s as simple as that.”
If only finding a solution were half as simple.