Adding further fuel to the notion that Wednesday’s revelation from Commissioner Roger Goodell regarding an expanded playoff field was the equivalent of the Wizard of Oz saying, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain,” ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reports that some owners say that the topic of playoff expansion wasn’t discussed during the meetings that preceded Goodell’s press conference.
Here’s what Goodell specifically said in his opening remarks, before any questions were taken: “Of course, something that we discussed in the past is expanded playoffs. That is something that we teed up today. We will probably be looking at it with the [Competition] Committee over the next several months.”
While the truth may reside in a Clintonesque parsing of what “teed up” means, the fact that some owners were surprised to hear Goodell say that a topic that wasn’t addressed actually was addressed (or, at a minimum, “teed up”) strengthens the perception that Goodell was trying to change the subject, one day after a 22-page bounty-case rebuke from his former boss, Paul Tagliabue.
In fairness, Mort points out that Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay previously sent out a memo that mentions playoff expansion as a possible topic for the annual offseason consideration of rule changes. Still, that’s a far cry from the subject being “teed up” on Wednesday.
Regardless of whether it was a legitimate topic of conversation or a shrewd P.R. move, it worked. The subject was changed.
And, at least for a moment on Sunday, the subject will be whether the league office simply was trying to change the subject.
UPDATE 12:36 p.m. ET: The NFL disputes Mortensen’s report, pointing out that the topics was mentioned in a pre-meeting binder and during the meeting by Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay.