Roger Goodell

Goodell's contract extension talk is proof the NFL's doom continues apace

goddell-nfl-usatsi.jpg
USASTI

Goodell's contract extension talk is proof the NFL's doom continues apace

Roger Goodell and the owners who plan to extend his contract have identified the three tasks he is to tackle in his remaining years as the Kick-Me sign of the National Football League, and they show exactly what the owners don’t get, and why their doom continues apace.

According to Jenny Vrentas of the MMQB.com, Goodell spoke at something called, modestly enough, The Year Ahead Summit and listed his updated in-box contents as follows:

1. Negotiating deals with new media.

2. Extending the current labor deal.

3. Setting up a succession plan.

In other words, moving the product increasingly outside the axis of the network television empires; putting the skewers to the union one more time; and finding someone who wants to be the next him at a suitably lower price.

In OTHER other words, focusing on the business and the palace politics, looking inward when the sport needs to look beyond its narrow, avarice-fueled present.

It is yet again more proof that whether Goodell is or is not the commissioner in 2020 isn’t the point. That’s inside-the-beltway navel-gazing usually made by people who think everything is fine, the problems are just politics, and the black smoke seeping into the air ducts is nothing to worry about.

What IS the point, is brain trauma and what the league intends to do about arresting the idea that it makes brain trauma instead of combats it. What IS the point, is diminishing youth football participation because parents see Issue A. What IS the point, is the scope of player advocacy in an angry political climate. What IS the point, is diminishing viewership by the next generation, and disenchantment from the elder generation. What IS the point, is the growing sense that franchises are severing their ties with the cities and regions in which they operate. What IS the point, is the sense that football is considered less important than the care and feeding of the magnates and oligarchs by the magnates and oligarchs.

But no, they (and in truth we) have been distracted by Jerry Jones and his raging-bear-in-a-a-vat-of-baby-oil coup attempt, because taking sides between Jones and Goodell is a nauseating Hobson’s choice that makes the NFL v. Ezekiel Elliott look like a children’s bedtime story.

The NFL has given is a cavalcade of issues in which there is nobody to root for and a panoply of characters to root against. While that anti-hero plot dodge may have worked for The Sopranos, the Sopranos ended more than a decade ago, and the culture and the nation is lurching violently toward something else – something that may or may not include football.

That’s what Goodell’s job actually should be -- figuring out the future -- and then it will be the job of his successor. But until the job is redefined to understand that, this is just a juicier-than-normal story of unchained deck chairs and political backstabbing, of which we already have plenty more than we can eat.

History 101 with Jerry Jones' fight against Roger Goodell and the NFL

jerry-jones-ap.jpg
AP

History 101 with Jerry Jones' fight against Roger Goodell and the NFL

Hey kids, guess what time it is!
 
Yes, it’s time once again for History You Don’t Care About, so quick, grab your parents and flee until this potential menace of learning blows over.
 
Dallas Cowboys oligarch Jerry Jones is threatening his fellow National Football League owners with the high-priced lawyer to the stars and scars David Boies, all over his ongoing jihad with commissioner Roger Goodell. The reason du jour, by all accounts, is Ezekiel Elliott, and whether Goodell told Jones he would not suspend the running back.
 
The real reason, of course, is so that Jones can run the league to his own specifications without bureaucratic interference. Billionaire’s prerogative, I think it’s called, and its coat of arms is a gigantic gray-haired man holding a scepter of Bitcoins and stock certificates while wearing a crown and an ermine cape while sitting on a throne of skulls and tattered wallets.
 
This reminds us that Jones’ entry into the league was highlighted by the way he cozied up to and tried to emulate the last NFL owner to fight a commissioner and league single-handed, Al Davis. Davis won the right to relocate his team (Raiders II) in court, but his war against Pete Rozelle ended short of this level on enmity only because Rozelle resigned before Davis could finish the job.
 
That was in the fun-filled ‘80s, when the richest teams were worth about one-fifth what the Cowboys are worth today, so you see Goodell’s main line of defense – as well as Jones’ leading avenue of attack.
 
The closest any other sport has come to mutiny was when five baseball owners (known collectively as The Great Lakes Gang, in that they came from Milwaukee, Chicago, Minnesota and Los Angeles) gathered a majority of their brethren to force Fay Vincent’s resignation in 1992. That wasn’t singlehanded treachery, though, but the will of the majority in the face of overwhelming logic – another valuable lesson in the limits of democracy.

But Jones’ action is also against the other owners trying to flaunt his petulant will, which brings to mind one other great battle in owner-on-owner crime, when in 1917 four of the National Hockey Association’s five team owners met to expel the fifth team, the Toronto Blueshirts, if it didn’t separate itself from its owner, Eddie Livingstone. When the team refused, the league disbanded and a week later reformed as a four-team league without Livingstone or his employees.
 
We mention that not because this is the 100th anniversary of that brilliant parliamentary maneuver – burn the village down around the guy you don’t like and build a new village up the street – but because the idea of Jerry Jones as the owner of a National Football League with one team is, well, hilarious in any era.
 
Then again, that would mean rooting for the other 31, and there are simply some frontiers we cannot in good conscience travel.
 
History lesson over. You can come out now.

With a collusion grievance looming, NFL wants you to believe all is good with Kaepernick

ratto-kap.jpg
AP

With a collusion grievance looming, NFL wants you to believe all is good with Kaepernick

All of a sudden Colin Kaepernick is Football’s Most Desirable Prom Date again, and if I had to wager a guess it would be to forestall that potentially sloppy collusion grievance he and lawyer Mark Geragos have aimed at the NFL.

According to ESPN’s Jim Trotter, Kaepernick was texted by Troy Vincent, one of Roger Goodell’s chief lieutenants, with an eye toward a meeting with the shrapnel-riddled commissioner. The text was dated Hallowe’en, so make of that what you will, but according to NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart, the league has not yet heard from Kaepernick, Geragos or anyone else empowered to speak on his behalf.

Lockhart also said in a conference call that Kaepernick would be invited to a larger meeting about social issues and the league’s responses to them between owners, league officials and players.

In other words, The Invisible Man is suddenly wearing a DayGlo suit that can be seen from space, and the league that has almost gymnastically shunned him has suddenly decided that he is a member in good standing -- except of course for the players contract part.

It is unclear what a meeting with Goodell would gain him, since Goodell is not actually empowered to give him a place on a team and in any event already has his own political problems with some of the Billionaire Boys Club. The larger meeting would, in fact, be almost like a job fair for Kaepernick if both he and the owners in the room were inclined to treat it as such.

But those are a steeplechase race full of hurdles to clear, which brings us back to the principal motive for the meetings -- feeling out the collusion issue.

The NFL may not have been as dim as Major League Baseball’s owners were in the 1990s when they lost three separate collusion cases by leaving their paperwork about for all to see, but billionaires are not always careful about the forensics when they want something as badly as they seem to want Kaepernick to be an ex-player. This reach-out to Kaepernick by Goodell, if it is true, puts Goodell in an increasingly risky position viz. Jerry Jones, Danny Snyder, Bob McNair and the other ownership hardliners.

In other words, let us do the prudent thing and cool our jets on all this. There are other, invisible, shoes yet to drop, or not, and the best way to be wrong on a Colin Kaepernick story is to imagine that there is thawing in his relationship with the league that spurned him.