August marks the 10-year anniversary of Roger Goodell’s elevation from NFL Chief Operating Officer to Commissioner. For the first time that we can recall (or that we’ve noticed), the current Commissioner has been asked about a post-Goodell NFL.
In a Tuesday visit with Bloomberg TV, Goodell was asked whether he believes his successor will come from within the NFL.
“I do,” Goodell said, “and I say it because I think the complexity of an organization like the NFL is unique in the way we operate. We’re not like any other company where I dictate, essentially, any big issue that we deal with. I have to go back and get 24, 32 owners to approve. So it’s like a big board in some ways, but it’s really a great asset for us. Because if we can find a solution, working with our ownership, that 24, 32 owners actually support, I think we’ve probably got a pretty good solution.”
In that explanation, Goodell confirmed what many already believed. Goodell doesn’t run the show. The owners do. And Goodell’s compensation comes in part from running interference for the owners, absorbing the criticism so that they can take a hard line without getting too hard of a hard time from the fans or the media.
The situation becomes more complicated when the “big issues” deal with one of Goodell’s 32 bosses. Is Goodell really publicly exerting authority over one of the 32 people who privately exert authority over him? Or is he simply following the lead of the other 31 bosses when one of the bosses gets into a jam?
That’s precisely how, according to ESPN, the #Deflategate sausage was made, with some owners pushing Goodell to blast the Patriots because it was perceived that Goodell didn’t blast them enough for Spygate. The notion that the Commissioner possibly exercises discretion when disciplining teams and players based on political expedience and not on what’s objective fair becomes another reason to be skeptical of decisions made within the confines of an in-house justice system that is less about the justice and more about the system.
So, yes, the next Commissioner will come from within the NFL because, no, the 32 owners don’t want the Commissioner to ever be under the false impression that he’s doing anything other than what 24 or 32 owners (or, as a practical matter, the handful who truly run the show) want him to do.
And to learn more about what happens when a Commissioner is under the false impression that he’s doing anything other than what the owners want him to do, open your search engine and enter the words “Fay” and “Vincent.”