Inside the Pylon, like most of the football world, has followed the DeflateGate scandal. Former attorney, and ITP Head Writer Mark Schofield has read every legal brief and news article in between breaking down film for the upcoming season. Meanwhile, editor in chief David R. McCullough has spent his offseason watching Super Bowl XLIX on a continuous loop in a Malcolm Butler jersey. Here, Schofield makes the case for Roger Goodell.
I am about to saddle you with an uncomfortable truth, reader. In all likelihood, Roger Goodell is better at his job than you are at yours. Much better.
The National Football League made some incredible news last month, and it had nothing to do with the air pressure in footballs, off-the-field trouble for players, concussions or the upcoming ‒ posthumous ‒ Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony of Junior Seau. No, this news had to do with money.
As the only publicly owned NFL team the Green Bay Packers are required to outline their financial position each year to their shareholders. In this disclosure it was revealed that the 32 teams split $7.24 billion dollars in revenue. Yes, billion, with a “B”. This was up from the previous year’s $6 billion.
As SB Nation pointed out, this is enough money to rank the NFL as one of the 50 most profitable companies in the world. Or to purchase four space shuttles. Or make ten trips to Pluto.
Just look at how revenue has exploded under Goodell, who took over as commissioner in 2006:
The NFL, with Goodell in charge, is in the money-making business, and business is good.
Now, this is not to say that the commissioner is perfect ‒ as we all know, he is not. In the most recent CBA he carved out quite the role for himself in handling player discipline. As David McCullough carefully and fully laid out, Mr. Goodell is tremendously flawed when it comes to handling these duties. But here’s the point: That isn’t really his job.
Goodell’s tasks are two-fold. First, make money for the league and its owners. As you have seen, he’s quite good at that. But his second job is much more subtle, and one that he gets absolutely no credit for. Some believe that Goodell is tasked with “protecting The Shield”, the public image of the NFL. But that’s not quite right. In fact, Goodell is The Shield. He is Pridwen personified. But instead of protecting King Arthur from his foes, Goodell protects the league ‒ and its 32 owners ‒ from the slings and arrows of a fanbase and media that constantly place the league under scrutiny.
Take the Tom Brady example. Goodell has borne the brunt of the criticism surrounding this ordeal, from the time and money spent on the investigation through how the punishment has been levied. But there are other players involved in this mess that deserve scorn. Mike Kensil, the former Jets’ front office employee who is now an executive Vice President with the NFL. It was alleged for a time that he was the source for the now discredited – yet not withdrawn – report by ESPN’s Chris Mortensen that “11 of the 12 Patriots’ footballs were 2 pounds under the 12.5 psi minimum.” That story set the entire Deflategate train in motion. Yet, outside of New England, few are calling for Kensil’s head. Have you heard anyone calling for Troy Vincent’s job? He made the initial determination regarding Brady’s punishment. Silence on that front as well. Everyone has their eyes set on Goodell.
Another example is the off-the-field conduct of some players. When Goodell took over as commissioner he vowed to protect the integrity of the game. One of his first actions as commissioner was to overhaul the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy. He renewed this commitment in the wake of the Ray Rice assault and suspension. Yet off-the-field issues continue to plague the league, and people point to Goodell as the person who needs to do more to address this problem. He takes every shot thrown his way, when they could ‒ and should ‒ be headed towards team owners.
The New Orleans Saints released linebacker Junior Galette last week, following a tumultuous offseason that included a laundry list of transgressions. On July 7 he was cited for multiple moving violations. He was charged with domestic violence in January after injuring a female while trying to remove her from his house. Finally, the Saints and the NFL were recently made aware of a 2013 video that shows Galette striking a woman with a belt during an altercation on a beach. After his release, Galette went on a public tirade on Twitter, accusing coach Sean Payton of abusing MDMA and showing up to meetings intoxicated.
Washington signed Galette shortly after New Orleans sent him walking. How many stories have you read criticizing Dan Snyder and the front office about this deal?
Teams will continue to find homes for players with issues away from the field if there is a chance they can contribute between the lines. Galette is just one example, with players such as Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy, Kenny Britt and Richie Incognito serving as other examples. While there was an outcry over the length of Hardy’s suspension and its reduction the level of rage over him then signing with Dallas was much, much lower. Some prominent voices spoke up, including ESPNW’s Jane McManus, Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman, and WFAA’s Dale Hansen, but nowhere near the level of scorn sent towards the NFL – and Goodell – after the suspension was reduced.
In the end, it circles back to Goodell’s two jobs: Make money and absorb blows. Remember that he reports to the 32 owners. Just last season they had $7.24 billion reasons to be happy, and that big shield of a man absorbing all the arrows that should have rained down on them. And as long as that group continues to have their pockets lined with cash, and their noses remain clean, they are happy – and Goodell keeps performing his job better than you perform yours.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.