The NFL’s ongoing leadership saga has been perhaps the most dominant story of the season, having taken over the title from the league-wide player protests that first exposed the growing lack of confidence NFL owners seem to have in commissioner Roger Goodell.
Jerry Jones is at the forefront of the efforts to prevent Goodell from signing an extension, clashing with other owners in the process.
Today, ESPN’s Seth Wickersham and Don Van Natta Jr. released a wide-ranging piece exploring the current tensions that are boiling over for the NFL, and that could cause massive upheaval sooner rather than later. In fact, at least some owners have considered potential Goodell replacements. One name that came up?
NBA commissioner Adam Silver:
The owners, though, have considered other successors. A confidant of one owner reached out to gauge whether Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner, would be interested in running the NFL, to which Silver immediately said no.
Of course he said no! He’s already in charge of the league with the most viable future! Although considering the compensation package Goodell is reportedly asking for, it’s hard to blame owners for assuming they could entice just about anyone:
ESPN has reported that he asked in August for a compensation package of about $49 million a year, if every incentive is met, plus use of a private jet for life and health care for life for his family.
Regardless of who might replace Goodell, it’s definitely a volatile time for the league. The reporting is fantastic throughout, and a hilarious glimpse behind the scenes at characters like Jones, who certainly plays to caricature. For example, here was his response when he learned via phone call from Goodell that Ezekiel Elliott would face a six-game suspension:
The line went quiet. Seconds passed. Goodell’s decision was an unconscionable violation of trust, Jones later told associates, because he believed that the commissioner had assured him this past spring that there would be no suspension. Jones saw in Elliott a genuine opportunity, a player so good that he had made Jones believe that this year he just might win a Super Bowl for the first time since 1996. His anger was palpable. Finally, according to sources with direct knowledge of the call, Jones broke the silence. He aimed his words not only at Goodell’s decision but also at his role as judge, jury and executioner in the case.
“I’m gonna come after you with everything I have,” Jones said. Then he mentioned Deflategate. “If you think Bob Kraft came after you hard, Bob Kraft is a p—y compared to what I’m going to do.”
I like to imagine Bob Kraft reading that in bed and being so angry he immediately flings open his closet to reveal the rack of 200 identical blue dress shirts with white collars, prepared to defend his honor.
The report is full of fun anecdotes like that!
It also notes that Goodell’s relationship with NFL players is seemingly improving, although that’s definitely a low bar to clear:
It’s Goodell who now seems more willing to take risks, as if he realizes he has less to lose than before. He defied many owners, including Jones, and many league business executives by refusing to back a mandate that all players stand for the national anthem. His relationship with the union and some players has improved this fall; he is not merely serving as the puppet of the owners, as players have long suspected. A day after Outside the Lines reported that, in an owners-only meeting in New York, Texans owner Bob McNair said, “We can’t have the inmates running the prison,” McNair released a statement insisting that he was referring to league executives as inmates, not the players, drawing skepticism. According to sources, McNair asked Goodell to publicly back him up. Goodell refused.
And that’s good! A league commissioner is always in a tough place, because while he (or she, eventually) works for the owners, his responsibility is technically to the league as a whole. The players are a massive part of that, and sometimes the duty of the commissioner is to anger league ownership. Goodell is certainly far from a perfect steward of the sport, of course, but the owners are potentially even farther from credibly claiming that title.
The report on the whole paints Jones’s quest as a quixotic one, but it also paints Jones as the kind of person who loves nothing more than a good windmill tilt/protracted legal battle. In the end, nothing is likely to change, but it’s always nice to have suspicions confirmed when it comes to the circus nature of the NFL leadership.