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ESPN continues to play both sides of the Goodell extension story

Vikings Browns Football

Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Hallam, left, speaks to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell before an NFL football game between the Cleveland Browns and the Minnesota Vikings at Twickenham Stadium in London, Sunday Oct. 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

AP

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will get a contract extension. Unless he doesn’t. Unless he does. Unless he doesn’t.

And that pretty much summarizes the periodic ESPN Sunday Splash! reports regarding whether Goodell will or won’t or will or won’t (or will or won’t) be getting a new five-year deal.

The latest report? Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is trying to hijack the process. The article from Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen regarding a Thursday conference call during which the possibility of blocking Goodell’s new contract was discussed overstates the purpose of the call, and the topics that were discussed. (More on that later in the day.) The story also contains a smattering of ominous quotes from unnamed owners and other unnamed sources that make things look pretty bad for Goodell, but that are hard to properly assess since there’s a chance that these quotes are coming from a very small but very vocal minority, which is not yet willing to be vocal enough to put their names to their words.

The closest any owner has come to calling out the league office happened on Saturday, when the second public apology from Texans owner Bob McNair regarding his "[w]e can’t let the inmates run the prison” remark explained that the “inmates” comment referred not to players but to the league office. The ESPN report attaches plenty of weight to that comment, making ESPN pretty much the only ones who actually believe that McNair truly wasn’t talking about the players when he used the term “inmates.”

Regardless of how it all plays out, ESPN has every outcome covered. When Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal reported in August that a deal is close, Schefter trumpeted the tweet but then quickly added that the deal hasn’t progressed as quickly as some thought it would.

PFT (hacks) then reported that Jones had finagled an ad hoc seat on the Compensation Committee, and that he had been trying to get the six-member committee to drive a hard bargain with Goodell. ESPN later echoed that news (ignoring that it was an echo), and tried to suggest that Jones was speaking for all of the owners who weren’t on the Compensation Committee, even though he definitely was not.

Three days later, Schefter declared that the deal is “getting done,” and that Jones (not surprisingly) was “shot down.”

Just last week, Schefter pointed out that the anthem issue has delayed the execution of the deal, but that it “is still expected to be completed and has been papered.”

So now the news is that Jones is once again trying to derail the process. Again, the latest report overstates what happened on Thursday. (And, again, more on that later in the day.) The broader point here is that, no matter how this one plays out, ESPN will have been right all along, one way or the other.