The Power of Goodell

Posted: April 2, 2012 in NFL
Tags: , , , , ,

The real story isn’t about New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton being suspended for a year, the harshest penalty ever given an NFL coach. It isn’t about the General Manager Mickey Loomis being suspended for eight games; or the loss of draft choices; or the $500,000 fine.

It’s isn’t even about BountyGate – the Saints’ extra-pay-for-injuring-opponents scandal.

The real story is the power of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

No commissioner has had the kind of power Goodell now wields since Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis wasn’t given the keys to Major League Baseball following the 1919 Black Sox scandal. Clearly, the 32 owners in the NFL, the most powerful and successful sports entry in history, have turned over the fate of their league to Goodell.

Keep in mind the commissioner works for the owners. His job description includes protecting the image and integrity of the sport, but the owners fire and hire commissioners. Commissioners, more often than not, are figure heads. They’re more involved in marketing and public relations than governing.

Yeah, the NFL owners hired Goodell and they can fire him, but they also have given him unprecedented power.

He is known as the law-and-order commissioner. He has repeatedly come down hard on players who in one way or another embarrassed the helmet. He showed some muscle when he punished the mighty New England Patriots for Spygate. Call it what you want, but the Patriots were caught cheating. Coach Bill Belichick was fined, the team was fined and a few draft choices were lost, but nothing was done to truly disturb the New England Machine.

It’s different with the Saints. Suspending the coach and general manager for a season could cripple the franchise, turning it from one of the top teams to a bottom dweller. The punishment given the Saints will have a ripple down effect that affects a lot of franchises. No owner has so much as publicly whined about it.

The Saints’ punishment wasn’t so severe because of the possible injuries. Football is a brutal game. Injuries are a fact of life in the sport, and that’s not going to change. Even changing the rules isn’t going to protect players in a sport where giant men with incredible speed crash into one another on every play. Players will continue to be taught to hit hard, to “run through” ballcarriers, to “lay out” opponents; to punish the other guys. The “big hits” sell the game.

This punishment was about future lawsuits filed by ex-players because of injuries. This punishment was about making sure rules from the top were followed. When the commissioner speaks, everyone listens from the owners, coaches and players to the lowest person on the totem pole. When caught, you don’t lie to the commissioner. Lying ultimately was Payton’s and Loomis’ worst crime. You do not lie to the king.

The NFL is a gold mine. The owners, with their individual agendas, can’t be trusted to do what’s best for all. That job – and the power it entails – has been given to Goodell.


  1. Derek Johnson says:

    You know it is curious: for as “balanced” as Gooddell seems, it is odd that at times he seems to take up too much power. It would work to his tactical advantage to have an independent arbitrator mediate dispute rather than he himself. When I hear Troy Aikman say that football won’t be America’s top sport forever, I look at Gooddell’s absolute power and say, maybe that’s part of what brings the league down.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s