As NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell embarks on a big week and NFLPA* executive director DeMaurice Smith tries to hold together a variety of factions that aren’t nearly as united as some would believe, the owners and the players have only one thing that they need to do.
Trust the men they’ve hired to do the jobs they’ve been hired to do.
We’ve raised this point before, but it’s never been more important than it will be this week, with an ownership meeting followed by a critical stretch of labor negotiations. Goodell was hired in 2006, and he has pushed the NFL to even bigger numbers and popularity than it enjoyed under his predecessor, Paul Tagliabue. Smith, in turn, got his job after the NFL made clear its desire to reopen the labor deal; even more than Goodell, Smith specifically was hired to lead his constituents through the mine field in which they’re now tap dancing.
If they’re smart (and they are), each man will let the naysayers have their say, and then Goodell and Smith will exercise true leadership that reflects the long-term best interests of the league, the players, and the game. If history judges the deal to be bad for either side, then the man who did the deal can be held accountable — a consequence Tagliabue avoided via the very retirement that arguably prompted him to rush into an agreement that the owners quickly came to regret. Neither Goodell nor Smith appear to be looking for his next landing spot, so each man has a strong incentive to do a fair deal that survives the test of time. And each man has a strong incentive for his counterpart to succeed. Over the past few weeks, they’ve begun to create the kind of relationship critical to restoring long-term labor peace. That relationship will be strengthened if/when they find a way to finish the job.
The folks who sign their checks need to let them.