Of course it’s Roger Goodell. If there is anything or anyone threatening the game from the point of view of the diehard NFL fan its good ole Rogeez. For those of us who follow this game 365 days a year the Commissioner should have relatively the easiest job on Earth. Just sit back and count the money and leave our game alone. Not too much to ask if you ask me. Unfortunately, Rogeez is ruining for us because of one major problem; he doesn’t give a crap about the loyal fans of the NFL. He’s got our money, he’s got our loyalty, and he’s got our attention, and he’s smart enough to know that there’s not a whole lot he could do to seriously threaten any of those in his attempts to put more money in his and the owners’ pockets.
Roger Goodell’s first public “FU” to the loyal NFL fans was Spygate. To have a cheating scandal to that degree involve one of the highest profile teams and coaches in the league could have destroyed the league. The way Goodell chose to handle it, however, he just destroyed the evidence instead. The scandal that, in 2007 alleged the New England Patriots, at that time winner of three out of the previous eight Super Bowls, had been video-taping opponents defensive signals during either games or pregame walk-thru’s. Belichick actually admitted to a certain degree of the video-tapping, citing he thought he was within the rules as long as the footage wasn’t being used during the same game. This does explain why the Patriots, during their success, were just so damned good against teams in the playoffs in which they had already played during the regular season. 2004 AFC Championship anyone? Still makes me bitter just to think of it. But rather than rehashing every infuriating detail of Belichick’s clear “If you ain’t cheatin, you ain’t trying” coaching philosophy the takeaway is that rather than hold the coach and the team more accountable than a fine and a loss of a draft pick, the commissioner destroyed every single shred of evidence involved in the investigation, never to be reviewed by anyone else. That move will always follow Goodell for the remainder of his tenure as NFL Commissioner. Just unheard of to uncover a cheating scandal of that magnitude and destroy all evidence involved.
The next time Goodell was involved in a team-scandal was last year with the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal. In spite of being partly responsible for the brilliant PR move to highlight the Saints’ success in the wake of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, to the point where for a few years it almost felt like rooting against the Saints was akin to rooting for hurricanes, Rogeez waged an all-out war on the coaching staff and some players when a bounty/pay-for-performance program was discovered to be ran on the team for several seasons. The team was initially warned to stop the program immediately without any retribution but the warning was ignored and the story of the bounty program blew up across the league last summer. In response, Goodell immediately suspended then DC Gregg Williams indefinitely (which later turned out to be for just a year), and HC Sean Payton for the entire 2012-13 season. Then Rogeez set his sights on 4 Saints players. Without the proverbial “smoking gun” linking any specific player to a bounty to cause injury to another player, Goodell proceeded to suspend Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Anthony Hargrove, and Scott Fujita for lengths varying from the entire season for Vilma to three games for Fujita. Each player appealed the suspensions, which in the power-hungry world of Goodell means he just says no again, and lawsuits were filed all over the place. Most notably Vilma and Rogeez began a season-long pissing contest that even involved a defamation lawsuit filed by Vilma. Eventually, the matter was turned over to former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who overturned and vacated all player suspensions. The damage had already been done; the Saints finished the season 7-9 and missed the playoffs. Screw the fans; Rogeez was on a mission to discipline.
Speaking of discipline, the biggest bone of contention that I have with Rogeez is his policy on discipline. From his reaction to off the field incidents to the suspensions for what is now called “dangerous hits” Goodell has been extremely inconsistent with his interpretations of the personal conduct policy and the illegal hits he’s now trying to outlaw. Remember last offseason when player after player were being arrested for DUI’s, drug possessions, and various incidents? Guess how many of them were suspended under the league’s personal conduct policy? You guessed it, zero. Goodell was brought in partly to be the Big Bad Wolf and be tough on players and their behavior since that was never Tagliabue’s strong-point. Ironically, seeing has how many times we’ve seen shots of Goodell hugging it out with every Steelers favorite preaching linebacker Ray Lewis, Goodell was brought in to control the league’s discipline partly in response to the high-profile murder investigation Lewis was involved in. But the biggest problem I have with Goodell and his personal conduct policy is it seems he relies on fame and popularity of the player to determine how harshly, if at all, he will react to their conduct. Just 2012 NFL player arrests ranged from DUI to domestic violence and Rogeez never suspended a single player. For the on-field hits, so far James Harrison has been the only player suspended for being what he has been dubbed as a “repeat offender” of the violent hits club, although most of the hits he has been fined for in the past were questionable at best as to whether or not they were by the rule, illegal.
My final gripe with Rogeez and why I fear he’s ruining my favorite of all sports is his constant need to expand the season and/or bring it overseas more. Just leave it alone, dude. We all want more football because we enjoy it so much but we know that if you extend the regular season to 18 games it’s going to water-down the product and it’s going to suck. I don’t want to watch 4 weeks of teams resting players after they’ve already clinched their spot any more than I want to actually sit down and watch all 4 weeks of preseason games but I can recognize the purpose for the preseason games. I don’t want the playoffs expanded so that we have an 8-8 or 7-9 team making the playoffs each friggin year. And I don’t want more games in London. The biggest proof that Roger Goodell is an evil genius is that he scheduled the Steelers to play in London next season. None of us actually wants the possibility of a team in London or a Super Bowl in London, or any variation of that but Steeler Nation travels so damned well we just couldn’t resist buying up all those tickets and immediately sold out next year’s Steelers game against the Vikings in London validating Rogeez’s feelings that an NFL team can succeed in Europe. It’s a very scary thought to deal with the reality that someday in the future, the Super Bowl, which is already too far out of reach for the diehard fan that can’t afford the average $2K a seat, could also involve a flight to London on top of the cost of the game.
Basically, I would like to plead to Rogeez to leave my NFL alone. Just sit back and count the money. Now I’m not that old, so this isn’t a “old people can’t change with the times” kind of situation. I’m all for changes that will enhance the game and will enhance the fan experience of the game. I just don’t think Rogeez gives a crap about my experience of the game so the changes he wants to make aren’t with my preferences in mind. When the NFL’s new television contracts go into effect the NFL will go from printing their own money to crapping out golden footballs and my fear is that the greed will then take over the owners and Commissioner’s intentions and slowly phase out the diehard fan in attempts to gain more money from trying to get new fans. Might sound like an elaborate evil plot, but I wouldn’t put it passed them.
What are your thoughts, Steeler Nation? Do you think Goodell is hurting or improving the NFL?