As Commissioners go, Roger Goodell is a sunglasses-and-sandals-wearing pink rabbit, incessantly banging on a bass drum. He got the job nearly 16 years ago. He’s under contract for two more years. He intends to sign another.
At some point, the league needs to be thinking about the next Commissioner. As explained by Daniel Kaplan of TheAthletic.com, some owners has asked whether succession planning should be part of the next contract that Goodell signs — and whether the next Goodell contract should be the bridge to his successor.
One of the longstanding criticisms of Goodell relates to the overall quality of his highest-level assistants. It’s almost as if Goodell wants no credible internal threats to his position or power. Indeed, whenever a name begins to gain traction as a possible future Commissioner (Tod Leiweke, Dean Blandino, Maryann Turcke, Chris Halpin, for example), that person ends up leaving before too long.
Currently, who are the people in the league office who would potentially become the next Commissioner? Kaplan names NFL Media chief Brian Rolapp, executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent, and head of events Peter O’Reilly as potential options currently on the payroll.
As explained in Playmakers, some believe the Commissioner eventually may need to be a traditional CEO, an executive skilled in developing and achieving big-picture vision. That the days of grooming a lifer from within the NFL’s biosphere are over.
It’s a delicate and difficult question. The Commissioner’s sole constituents are the owners. Above all else, the Commissioner needs to keep the owners happy. To take the criticism that otherwise would fall to them for unpopular positions, practices, and policies. And ultimately to do whatever the owners want him to do.
Finding someone who can do the job the way Goodell does it won’t be easy. Especially since Goodell has shown no inclination to identify and to groom another motorized pink rabbit who can eventually inherit his bass drum.
At some point, Goodell has to do it. At some point, the train will be sufficiently close to the station that he won’t have to worry about someone else hijacking it.
Regardless, it’s a fair concern for owners who crave stability and predictability. The league will continue long after Goodell is gone. It’s time for the league to start thinking seriously about the person who will come after him. To make that happen, Goodell may need the same thing that motivates so many of us — a clear and significant financial incentive.