Roger Goodell inexplicably received a nod of approval from all 32 owners of NFL teams back in May. Those owners, whether buoyed by ratings or the decline in quarterback play or forcing good citizens such as myself into supporting the Patriots in the Super Bowl, said, “Yes, we’re on the right track here,” and voted to extend his contract.
Now one of those owners is backtracking. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has launched a salvo against the commissioner. Jones is reportedly demanding the contract extension be sent back to the Compensation Committee for “possible adjustment.” Failing that, there may be a lawsuit on the horizon. As reported by Peter King at Sports Illustrated, Goodell’s previous contract contained too much guaranteed compensation. The new contract attempts to address that. Jones’ concern is that the remedies are too nebulous.
It doesn’t help that here’s what the short version of the new contract looks like. As such, it’s not unreasonable to suspect that Jones’ complaint has some merit, especially since we are discussing Goodell. I mean, it’s Roger Goodell. Given the current state of the NFL, we should be suspicious of anything he supports, even if that means we’re on the same side as Jerry Jones.
Jones Could Be Attempting to Exact Revenge
Sure, it could be that Jones is angry over his own players getting suspended, but it could also be that the season started after May, when that contract extension vote occurred. For starters, the NFL is entertainment. When you’re talking entertainment, ratings matter.
Lately, those ratings haven’t been stellar. We can’t blame this all on Goodell, alas. The entertainment landscape has changed, with an ever-increasing amount of entertainment options. Streaming and all the options under that broad category make us far less dependent on broadcast schedules if we’re looking to while away a few hours on the couch.
At the same time, quarterback play has gotten demonstrably worse. This also can’t be laid at Goodell’s feet, at least not wholly. His job isn’t to run the 32 teams, but to provide the framework in which they operate.
Right now, as evidenced by the ratings, that innovation isn’t happening. Instead, those of us who do tune in are treated mostly to games that fail to achieve the level of excitement offered by even the most average of average college games. I would suggest that the NFL look to their farm teams for inspiration, but obviously that’s crazy talk.
Except Remember Tom Brady
Contrarians may offer a counter-argument. There is America’s sweetheart Tom Brady. The man is doing okay this year, as are the Patriots. Brady is also 40, and he’s never worn a full-length fur while standing on the sidelines. There’s also deflategate, which, regardless of merits, once again finds right-thinking people standing against Goodell. Brady isn’t indicative, though, but a future relic. He’s a former non-star who proved his chops and found a team that built an offense around him. (This is the offense that Goodell seems to hate most, it’s worth noting.)
Speaking of right-thinking people, although maybe down the totem pole, there’s me. I had never before rooted for the Patriots, but in Super Bowl LI, I screamed, I yelled, I whooped, I hollered. I also jumped over some furniture in the end, for Goodell had been vanquished.
Alas, it was a battle and not the war. For while Brady and the Patriots stood victorious, mere months later, all 32 owners approved the aforementioned contract extension. Thus, we find ourselves in this moment, in which two gigantic personalities, with personal concerns involved, are sparring.
In normal circumstances, we spectators could stand by and root for injuries. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned from recent history, life is still pretty much continuing normally. So let’s root for injuries.
Don’t Invoke Sisyphus Just Yet
As King noted in his article, Jones does have a history of victory in seemingly impossible cases, but this one is a bit different. Bringing a lawsuit to sell Pepsi rather than Coke isn’t the same as bringing a lawsuit to challenge the commissioner over his new contract. Perhaps some other owners will join Jones, though we know Jones’ name and not that of many other owners because of his propensity not to get along.
So here we are. There’s a ratings slide, a decline in quarterback play, and people are finding themselves rooting for the Patriots. The most promising opposition is led by Jones, a man many of us would not normally align ourselves with.
Today, though, Jones is our Brady, the man who can perhaps help orchestrate the comeback of comebacks. Holding Goodell accountable is not just good, but necessary. The means by which he is held accountable must be concrete, not nebulous. We may not be discussing America’s pastime, but we’re still talking about something distinctly American that brings us together. Sure, it’s to shout at one another, but it’s a much friendlier shouting than some of the other reasons we shout at each other.
So Goodell must be defeated, again. As Super Bowl LI gave glimpse of, every war is won via a series of battles. Those battles are important, and instrumental, to making sure an area power-mad ginger doesn’t get lifetime access to a private jet and health insurance in exchange for attempting to destroy our Sunday afternoons.