Plenty of people have had strong words for Commissioner Roger Goodell in recent months. Few have been any stronger than the words coming from Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
Brees, who has been vocal from time to time time regarding the bounty scandal that has resulted in multiple suspensions for coaches and players, explained to Peter King of SI.com the players’ view regarding the man who runs the sport.
“Nobody trusts him,” Brees said. “Nobody trusts him. I’m not talking about a DUI, or using a gun in a strip club, which are pretty clear violations. I think there’re too many times where the league has come to its decision in a case before calling a guy in, and the interview is just a façade. I think now if a guy has to come in to talk to Roger, he’ll be very hesitant because he’ll think the conclusion has already been reached.”
(Brees also didn’t like the one-year suspension of coach Sean Payton, calling the decision “completely ridiculous.”)
Spokesman Greg Aiello tells PFT by email that the league has no response to Brees’ assertion.
The context was confined to player discipline issues. Still, if the players don’t trust Goodell on such important matters, they’ll have trouble trusting him on other important issues. Or on non-important issues. Or on any issues.
As we see it, the lack of trust doesn’t attach to Goodell personally, but to the office he occupies. With the Commissioner being the final say on most matters of player punishment, players necessarily will be leery about cooperating with the man who has the power to use a player’s words against him — not as an adversary before an outside arbitration but as the arbitrator.
The trust issues possibly would subside to a large extent if the NFL and the NFLPA designated a fair, just, and reasonable third party to oversee the Commissioner’s decisions. The problem, however, is that the NFL wouldn’t regard the decisions as fair, just, or reasonable if the decisions disagreed with the Commissioner’s decisions.
Put simply, installing someone who will review the Commissioner’s decisions make that person more powerful than the Commissioner. And the Commissioner doesn’t want that.
Or, perhaps more accurately, the 32 people who employ the Commissioner don’t want that.