Will next contract be last contract for Roger Goodell?
The Steelers have had three coaches since 1969. The NFL has had three Commissioners since nearly a decade before Chuck Noll’s arrival in Pittsburgh.
So with Roger Goodell, who succeeded Paul Tagliabue, the successor to Pete Rozelle, reportedly getting a new deal a little over a month after turning 64, will this one be his last one?
The last time Goodell got a new deal, former league spokesman Joe Lockhart said it would be Goodell’s final contract. Goodell quickly said, “Not so fast” -- and shortly after that Lockhart was long gone.
The question becomes how long Goodell wants to do it. Other than Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, there’s been no vocal opponent to Goodell’s ongoing tenure. And Jones isn’t anti-Roger; Jerry is simply pro-spending-a-lot-less-for-a-Commissioner.
Last year, Daniel Kaplan of TheAthletic.com wrote that some owners want succession planning to be part of Goodell’s next deal. It remains to be seen whether that will be the case.
It should be. There’s no clear-cut, no-brainer, Commissioner in waiting. Different internal names get floated at times, but none have the kind of gusto that signals to the world that the next starting quarterback is already on the roster.
While there’s never been any specific reporting on the issue, anyone who has been following the ins and outs of the NFL since Goodell rose to power in 2006 knows or should know that it doesn’t seem as if Goodell welcomes the presence of potential rivals. As we observed in June, it’s almost as if Goodell wants no credible internal threats to his position or power. In the past, whenever a name has begun to gain traction as a possible future Commissioner (Tod Leiweke, Dean Blandino, Maryann Turcke, Chris Halpin, for example), that person has never seemed to last.
If this is Goodell’s last contract, it makes sense for the owners to cultivate a successor who can learn from Goodell, the way Goodell learned from Tagliabue.
Of course, there’s no reason for the owners to push Goodell out. He’s younger than most of them, so his age shouldn’t be an issue. Also, he handles the job well -- the revenue keeps going up and up, the profile of the league keeps increasing, and he continues to deftly provide cover for owners who otherwise would be the target of tough questions and sharp criticism.
As Tom Curran once said years ago, Goodell is the world’s highest-paid pin cushion. Before the owners pivot to a new Commissioner, they’ll need to be sure that the successor will succeed when it comes to nonchalantly absorbing needles.