Hard to believe it’s been a decade.
Me and my good buddy, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, have been through a lot together. Ol’ Rog succeeded one of my least-favorite comissioners, Paul Tagliabue, whose policies included deliberate obfuscation of concussion evidence and obvious payouts from friends for the rights to expansion teams. Tagliabue was ultimately about money, which, granted, the league generated a lot of during his stewardship. But as this is about ol’ Rog, I digress.
Rog – and I’ll continue to refer to him as such – assumed control of the commissioner’s office on September 1, 2006 after a unanimous vote by the league’s owners. In hindsight, it was a foregone conclusion, as Rog had served as Tagliabue’s hatchet man and chief operations office for the previous five years, and had presided over the league’s business functions in the same capacity. Rog was the logical choice, and the owners, unwilling to sacrifice their presumed golden goose, were only too happy to usher him in, if only to keep their coffers full.
Then a funny thing happened. Rog actually had to start administrating.
His first significant actions revolved around revamping the NFL’s admittedly sketchy discipline policy, as many of the policies and punishments were considered outdated, along with clear indications that some players were simply out of control. In 2007, ol’ Rog instituted his first revision of the NFL’s conduct policy, which quickly netted some obvious offenders, including then-Titan Adam “Pacman” Jones and Bengal Chris Henry, now deceased, who share the distinction of being the first two players to be suspended under Rog’s tenure.
Initially, Rog’s policies were seen as perhaps a bit draconian, but necessary. Players needed to be reined in, and the subsequent investigation and year-long suspension of reviled dog abuser Michael Vick only served to bolster the point. Ol’ Rog was actually somewhat well received and applauded, and was perceived by most as the no-nonsense disciplinarian the NFL needed – as long as the punishments were fair. Which, for a time, they were.
Then along came Rog’s concussion policy.
Rog kinda went crazy, handing fines out like candy. Steelers linebacker James Harrison was the most-penalized for repeated helmet-to-helmet contact hits, which included an escalating series of fines for each (since 2010, Harrison was fined six times for a total of $150,000). The problem was that Rog and his cronies, in attempting to define the instances where certain types of tackling were permissible and others were not, only served to muddy the waters and confuse officials into making egregiously poor calls. Many players issued complaints to the league offices demanding clearer explanations and more concise definitions of what constituted legal activity on the field. And few answers were forthcoming, other than general references to body regions and requests that players “play within themselves and under control”. Needless to say, the debate still rages.
Then came “Spygate”, the infamous New England Patriots taping scandal, and the details of which will not be recounted here. Suffice it to say that ol’ Rog, the stringent disciplinarian, came under intense scrutiny for seemingly destroying valuable evidence to the case, an accusation that still holds sway for many. Rog denies any wrongdoing, and swears he followed appropriate procedure, which lead many to believe he was protecting his good buddy and golfing partner, Patriots owner Bob Kraft, from further retribution.
Then we were treated to “Bountygate”, which involved the New Orleans Saints’ coaches supposedly bribing players to administer injuries to opposing players (a practice that is alleged to occur in most if not all NFL locker rooms). Rog lowered the boom on the Saints, suspending their head coach, their defensive coordinator, and several players for varying amounts of time, depending on their involvement level (or at least what the league deemed it to be). It’s notable that several of the fines and suspensions were reduced or dropped in light of appeals and further evidence coming to light.
Then came the lockouts of both the players and the referees, in which Rog effectively imposed his will on both…and won. The current CBA clearly favors the league and Rog in particular, granting him the same general powers as before to judge and dole out punishments as he sees fit. As for the referees, well…let’s just say that the zebras got little satisfaction and almost no change in their benefit structure, although they did manage a pretty significant raise.
Former Ravens running back Ray Rice knows all about Rog. For Rice’s well-known assault case against his fiance’, he was suspended for the “…first two weeks of 2014 season plus ten additional weeks (originally two games, then changed to indefinite following release of the video of the assault which was vacated after 12 weeks).” Rice appealed Rog’s decision in federal court and won, handing Rog one of the more significant defeats of his tenure and further damaging the reputation of a man whose sole purpose, as he once stated, was to “protect the shield”.
I won’t even begin to touch on the ECT or “Deflategate” issues, as the circumstances surrounding them are still in flux, and exceedingly ridiculous in the first place. It can safely be implied that neither case has done much to enhance ol’ Rog’s reputation.
And so it goes. There’s much, much more, if you choose to Google “Goodell”. In my somewhat long history of following the NFL, I can’t recall a more controversial and acrimonious decade than the one Rog has presided over. There’s perpetual changes, as Rog seems dissatisfied with the notion that some things are just best left alone. He seems to have a control freak’s (or canine’s) impulse to leave his mark on everything to alter it to his tastes, regardless of what the fans want…although he’s said on multiple occasions that his actions are largely guided by the fans; a dubious claim at best.
Rog was recently given a vote of confidence by the owners, who still love Rog, because he still brings in the money, and has had a hand in making the NFL the most profitable professional sports enterprise in the world. Money still rules all, you know, as it did with Rog’s predecessor.
And ultimately, that’s why guys like Rog exist in this cut-throat, greedy, take-no-prisoners world. They still deliver the green.
Especially if you’re willing to spend it.