NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell worked for Paul Tagliabue, has always expressed admiration for Tagliabue, and believed Tagliabue was the right man to determine the player discipline in the Saints bounty case. But after Tagliabue overruled Goodell and decided that no Saints players would be suspended, Goodell is disappointed in Tagliabue.
“I was disappointed he could find conduct detrimental and there is no discipline, that he could excuse that type of accountability as a coach’s responsibility,” Goodell said of Tagliabue in an interview with the New York Times. “I don’t share that perspective. This isn’t a new policy. The bounty rule has been in place for decades. It’s a core part of our rules.”
From the beginning, Goodell has made holding people accountable a staple of his term as commissioner. And Goodell has been much harsher with player discipline than Tagliabue ever was. Goodell says he stands by that approach.
“What you’re doing is you’re enforcing the rules,” Goodell said. “What is clear is there were violations of the bounty rules. That’s not just my opinion and our facts. It’s been supported by everyone who has looked at it, including Commissioner Tagliabue. That doesn’t belong in the game of football. And that’s something we’ve made very clear. We didn’t look for this. But when it occurs, you’ve got to deal with it and make sure there is no misunderstanding that everybody is accountable.”
With the specific case of the bounty program, Tagliabue got the last word. But it’s clear from Goodell’s comments that he doesn’t plan on changing his iron-fisted ways in future cases of player discipline.