When it’s time to impose discipline on players, the Commissioner routinely invokes the integrity of and public confidence in the game of professional football. When it comes to a serious flaw in officiating that manifested itself by a non-call that possibly sent the wrong team to the Super Bowl, the Commissioner has said hardly a thing.
Beyond 10 days of silence between the Rams-Saints game and his annual pre-Super Bowl press conference, the Commissioner has done nothing to indicate a desire or urgency to fix the problem and to ensure that there will be no further incidents like this. Given that the Competition Committee has proposed only a rule that would expand replay review for certain flags thrown (but not for flags not thrown) and that would ignore the AAF’s “Sky Judge” concept, it appears that the Commissioner has either not tried to impose a better solution on the process or tried and failed.
Regardless of what has happened before today, what will the Commissioner do between now and the conclusion of the annual meetings? Frankly, he should do something; if he doesn’t and if the NFL has another controversy like this, the Commissioner could end up being the person hauled into Congress to answer many pointed questions about the league’s officiating deficiencies in an age of expanding legalized gambling.
While that would indeed become a Commissioner problem, it may not be a problem for the current Commissioner. With a growing belief that the Commissioner will step away after a new labor deal and a new round of broadcast agreements have been negotiated, the next Commissioner may be the one to have to fix this, when the current Commissioner is long gone.
Many believe that former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue rushed the 2006 labor deal so that he could retire without presiding over a potential work stoppage. The end result became a labor deal that the owners hated, and from which they opted out only two years later — creating a mess for the current Commissioner.
A potential problem exists for the current Commissioner. Eventually, he may pay it forward, like his predecessor did, by kicking the can onto the his successor’s desk.