How independent will Robert Mueller be?

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When the NFL announced that an independent investigator had been hired to explore the league office’s poor-at-best handling of the Ray Rice case, I thought the league had taken a clear step in the right direction.

When I saw that two old-guard owners would oversee what would otherwise be an independent investigation, I became a little concerned that the investigation wouldn’t truly be independent.

When I realized that the man hired to do the investigation works for WilmerHale, the law firm that helped the NFL recently negotiate a multi-billion-dollar contract with DirecTV, any hope of true and genuine independence evaporated.  As explained by, the firm previously has represented Washington owner Daniel Snyder, and several members of the firm have taken jobs with NFL teams.

One such former WilmerHale employee is, coincidentally, Ravens president Dick Cass, who joined the club after thirty-plus years at the firm.

While the tentacles aren’t as numerous as those connecting the league office to a law firm like Covington & Burling, the NFL-WilmerHale linkage suggests that Robert Mueller isn’t and won’t be truly independent.  At some level, Mueller possibly will be influenced by his firm’s separate relationship with the NFL.  Even if he isn’t, the appearance of a potential influence makes it impossible to fully trust the independence of the investigation.

That’s why the best choice would have been (and still could be) to give former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue a significant role in this process.  Who knows the inner workings of the league office better than the man who presided over it for twice as long as Goodell has?  Two years ago, Tagliabue displayed his ability to be independent and objective when scuttling Goodell’s suspensions of various players for the bounty case.

If the goal is to not only get to the truth but to create the impression that a truly independent effort has been undertaken to find the truth, Mueller is the wrong choice.  Tagliabue ultimately could be the right one.

64 responses to “How independent will Robert Mueller be?

  1. Surprised that there isn’t more outcry that the owner of the STEELERS is presiding over the investigation, seeing as how the RAVENS are the team at the center of it all.

    It would be like giving the owner of the Giants the final call on what to do with the salary caps of Dallas and Washington…

  2. The public would be crying if it was the old commish, and that really is what counts here.
    The old guard guys, Rooney and Maura, are the ones that hired Roger, and this is for the public to regain confidence in the League more than anything. I think Roger is done, and he knows it. Rooney and Maura need to have a face of impartiality to this thing. They need to protect the Brand, the Tax Exemption, and the TV Ratings. Bye Bye Roger!

  3. Yep, I had a feeling this guy was handpicked. The NFL threw the Rooney and Mara names behind because of the perceived public trust in those names. And now we know Mueller has ties. Sham.

  4. About as “independent” as Mary Jo White’s.

    Goodell is going to find a way to throw somebody else under the bus for this. Pash maybe?

    In the meantime let’s NEVER forger the commissioner’s words about Sean Payton… “if he didn’t know… he should have known”.

  5. The NFL HIRED an independent investigator. That’s really all you need to know to draw a conclusion here.

  6. Wrong choice.
    We need an investigation by someone with NO connection with the NFL.
    Actually, why do they want an investigation?
    If they want true answers, the further away from the NFL, the investigator is, the better

  7. So you are worried about the investigator not being independent from NFL influence enough, and yet you propose the former NFL commissioner to oversee it instead? Huh? I guess I don’t have the same understanding of independent and impartial as you do.

  8. This is like asking the Assistant DA to investigate why the DA didn’t press charges against Ray Rice. Nobody is going to believe anything that Mueller says.

    There is one thing you can count on: some schmuck in the NFL offices is going to take the fall and it won’t be the 40 million dollar man Goodell.

  9. Goodell made a mistake. There was no “cover up”. He didnt gain anything from a 2 game Ray Rice suspension.

    I think he’s allowed to make a mistake without losing his job- so long as there was no back end benefit that he or the NFL got in exchange for the 2 game suspension.

    I still dont see what people think Goodell had to gain by going light on Ray Rice.

  10. If this investigation does not also disclose what the Ravens front office knew – and when they knew it – it’ll just be an attempt to cover up a cover-up.

  11. This is a “Circle the wagons” procedure if ever I saw one. A non-independent outside investigator and two old guard owners overseeing the investigation. I think I can predict the result now.

  12. But here’s the danger for Goodell: With owners attached to the investigation, suddenly dirt starts to stick to them. Rog is an asset until he becomes a liability. They’ll protect the shield even if it means throwing Roger out from behind the shield.

  13. Only one reason Goodell went soft on Rice, because he was going soft on Irsay and couldn’t contradict himself. If Irsay never did anything then he would of came down harder on Rice.

  14. Whitewash to protect Goodell & the NFL. The public always falls for this crap. Special investigators, commissions, etc are formed to basically protect those in charge.

  15. He’s a Former Director of the FBI. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he can be impartial and that his investigation skills are up to snuff.

  16. The fact that they will not submit to a truly independent, fair, open investigation led by someone with no ties to the league says it all.

  17. The investigation does not matter. Goodell has made billionaire owners multi-billionaires. The only way Goodell gets canned is if sponsors begin pulling out and I don’t think there will be a long enough public outcry to cause that to happen. The good old boys network is alive and well.

  18. Yes, Tagliabue should be brought in and have a major say if they want this to bd perceived as truly independent, otherwise, the man being hired by the league to oversee this investigation and the stories behind it (the tv deal, the owners being involved), this is flawed and it isn’t going to end well for the truth, this is all about business and the shield of the NFL, shaking my head

  19. Well if the NFL hires an independent investigator, who do you think they’re more likely to hire with their money? Somebody who is out to get them or somebody who is out to exonerate them?

    That being said, what the NFL might have done is insignificant peanuts in comparison to the everyday corruption in Washington DC.

  20. You answered your own question about why they wouldn’t choose Tagliabue. Because last time he went against the league in favor of players. Not gonna let that happen again.

  21. The investigation buys time. When it is but a distant memory, Goodell will be fined $1 million by the owners and continue as Commissioner where he is paid millions annually. And the NFL owners continue to rake in billions.

  22. I’d rather have Pete Rozelle than Roger Goodell as Commissioner…..Rozelle’s been dead for 18 years, but he’d still do a better job.

  23. Ah, this is the old Mike Florio at his best: shrugging off his corporate allegiance to the NFL ( via NFL telecast partner NBC ) to reveal conflicts of interest. I am suspect of the independence of many in the media who owe their paycheck to covering the NFL. I hope Mike steps up to step on the NFL’s toes.

  24. The NFL is dirty, first the concussion coverup, now this.

    Mark Cuban may be a clown figure, but his prediction about the NFL is spot on.

  25. this investigation will never be fair, wasn’t in bounty gate and it won’t be in this one either, Roger messed up again, and will make it look like he didn’t, not sure how this dufuss stays in office.

  26. Like hooterdawg, my faith is being restored in you Mr. Florio. Go where the facts lead but always remember your lawschool ideals. I’ll remind you whenever I can. Good work!

  27. Who cares, This is stupid. I just want to watch football! Read stories about football. If Ray Rice wasn’t prosecuted Then investigate the city that didn’t prosecute. I don’t care how hard they tried to get the video, or when they saw it!

  28. IIRC, you guys thought the fix was in when Tags (mentor) was selected by Goodell (protege) to oversee the bounty case and then suddenly praised him when it went the players’ way. Why would you purposely leave out the fact that while he has ties via that law firm, he was also previously the Director of the FBI. Wouldn’t that make him somewhat credible? Regardless anybody chosen would be hired by Goodell/the league and you guys would say they can’t be truly independent…unless your beliefs prevail in the end. It’s disingenuous. Just like when you purposefully delete comments that don’t share your opinion but have valid points. Please stop it.

  29. Quite frankly, I see this as a conflict, just as Florio does. While hiring someone adverse to the NFL would be just as bad, there are plenty of independent investigators, plenty associated with outstanding firms, that could handle this.

  30. Leave to a man with no reputation at all to besmirch the rep of a man who, besides being the former head of the FBI, has never had anyone say that he is less than an honorable man. And why would a man who made his living and a fortune off the NFL be less biased than a man whose firm represented them in a business deal? If anything, an argument could be made that he might want to tweak the nose of his successor again to make himself look good.

    This is like Peter King quoting a Dem Senator from Connecticut about possible lies from the NFL on when it had a tape while that very same Senator is indifferent to the numerous lies told by the government re the IRS, Fast & Furious, Benghazi, and the ACA.

  31. The NFL appointing someone to investigate itself….what a joke….How about the players ASSoc appointing someone that isn’t owned by the owners….

  32. All he is doing is writing a glorified book report. It cant do anything. Do they really think we are that stupid to believe they are not going to hang some slob and make Roger Dodger out to be some kind of Saint?

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