Goodell Must Be Good … Morning Cup O’Chiefs

Will NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell be smiling or grim faced this week as league owners meet to discuss negotiations with the players?

Back on March 10, Roger Goodell earned approximately $10 million a year as Commissioner of the National Football League. Bonuses were extra.

When the owners’ locked out the players on March 11, Goodell’s salary dropped to $1, with no bonus plan.

Whether the Commish and his skills are worth that $10 million paycheck, or one buck will be seen in the next 48 to 72 hours as the league owners head to Chicago for a meeting tomorrow that will have a big effect on whether we have NFL football in July, August, September, or not at all.

Pete Rozelle, Paul Tagliabue, Roger Goodell, all the men who held the position as NFL Commissioner over the last 50 years have tried to sell the fact that they are the representative for the entire game. Of course, they are not – they are an employee of the NFL owners. They are the men who decide who they’ll hire, how much he’s paid and how much power he actually has.

Since he took over from Tagliabue in 2006, Goodell has shown that he appears to have both hands on the NFL wheel. His willingness to go after the off-field behavior of players has drawn some criticism – the concept of innocent until proven guilty comes to mind – but the owners have loved the moves. It has been a PR victory and owners like those sorts of things. They pay off in big measure in many different areas of the business, plus it takes the pressure off the individual teams to always handle discipline for players.

But the success of a commissioner – any commissioner – really depends on only three factors:

  1. Increase revenue.
  2. Keep the U.S. government out of the business.
  3. Limit labor costs, specifically involving players and coaches.

Item No. 3 is where Goodell stands as the owners fly their private jets into Chicago for Tuesday’s meeting. They’ve been told to bring their jammies because the meeting may slide into Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. There is much to be discussed and the agenda has just one item – the players and the negotiating process.

Those not-so-secret secret meetings between Goodell and a handful of owners and the players have produced movement on a labor agreement. The calendar is ticking for both sides; the goal for both is to get training camps open on time, the pre-season played without deletions and the regular-season kickoff to go down as scheduled in early September.

Progress made in a hotel meeting room with the players does not guarantee progress in getting a deal done in a hotel meeting room with the owners. This is where Goodell’s skills will be tested.

Handling the NFL owners is a bit like trying to herd cats. All 32 teams may arrive together, but it’s only a matter of time before some of them begin to stray off from the pack. All it takes is nine of those cats to jump off the reservation and wander away and a deal cannot go down; any agreement must be approved by 75 percent of the owners, or 24 teams.

What’s made the NFL so great over the years is the success of the league and the business of football with so many diverse ownership situations. These are men from many different backgrounds, who acquired their money in many different ways. They can be broken down into several groups:

HEIRLOOMS, or teams that do not have a big monthly nut to pay, having bought their teams long ago – Bears, Bengals, Bills, Cardinals, Chiefs, Colts, 49ers, Giants, Lions, Packers, Steelers, Titans.

A PLANET ALL THEIR OWN, or a team that struggling financially and really should not be – Raiders.

INVESTED RIGHT TIME, RIGHT PLACE, or ownership that got in during the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s when credit was cheap and equity grew by double digits on a year basis – Broncos, Browns, Chargers, Eagles, Falcons, Panthers, Ravens, Saints, Seahawks, Texans, Jets

INVESTED RIGHT TIME, WRONG PLACE, good idea but a bad market that has never paid off for ownership – Jaguars.

OVER-EXTENDED NEW GUARD, teams that have been recently acquired, or have gone into major hock to make stadiums happen or own teams in others sports and other countries – Buccaneers, Cowboys, Dolphins, Rams, Redskins, Vikings.

The Bears and Lions have nothing in common with the Cowboys and Redskins. The goals of the Vikings are not the same as the Eagles. The Raiders? Who knows?

Here’s where Goodell has to show his talents. He’s been called a politician due to his background as the son of a former U.S. Senator. Now is when he must be at his best. Again, whatever progress that’s been made with the players means nothing until the men in that room buy into the proposals.

That’s not going to easily happen. There are owners that want to crush the players association – their No. 1 goal is to neuter the NFLPA. They don’t want the players as partners. Any give to labor without some sort of big return is not going to be met with open arms.

One of the prime problems the NFL has faced in recent years has been the alteration of the level playing field between the 32 teams. New stadiums, new revenue streams and more aggressive marketing by some teams has sent their income spiraling higher and higher. The base income for the teams coming from television and gate receipts remains the same. The extras have started creating a land of haves and have nots. In the framework of what they pay the players, that internal problem must also be addressed by ownership.

There’s a lot of moving parts here and it’s Goodell’s job to make sure there are no gnashing of gears. He will have to strong arm some owners, rub others on the neck and tell them it will be OK. He will have to cajole, threaten, deal and just about any other adjective you might want to use.

Right now, nothing else that he’s done in his five years on the job matters. He needs to make 24 owners willing to vote yes, and he needs to find a way to make it palatable for those eight others to live within the next decade.

Goodell stumbled a bit coming out of the gate with this owners’ lockout. But his willingness to cross the line and build a relationship with the players and especially NFL Players Association head DeMaurice Smith, has helped push the process down the road and created a positive atmosphere.

But whether it stays optimistic depends on the job Roger Goodell does this week. This is when he makes his bones as NFL Commissioner.


5 Responses to “Goodell Must Be Good … Morning Cup O’Chiefs”

  • June 20, 2011  - ChuckP says:

    Its truly getting very difficult to have empathy or to feel sorry for either side at this point. I think the GREED FACTOR is getting the better of both sides at this point. I can’t help but think what will the quality of football be like if they don’t settle this real quick. Probably lots of INJURIES and lots of SLOPPY FOOTBALL would be my guess. I’m still very DISSAPOINTED IN CLARK after seeing BOB’S CHART of just how little he spent towards the salary cap the last 5 years.


  • June 20, 2011  - RW says:

    The owners have to make up their minds on the authority they want their commissioner to have. Do they want him to continue in his present role as a floor walking manager or do they want the face of the league to be a CEO?

    Then too, Goodell has to come to grips with the basic notion that power is not granted to anyone, power is something you simply TAKE. Goodell’s performance during this labor war has been abysmal thus far.

    In order to save the owners and the league from themselves, Goodell’s opportunity is right now. If he’s unable to rise to the occasion, take charge, mandate a solution and drag all the maverick owners kicking and screaming to the final resolution, then the impasse continues and further threatens us having a 2011 season.

    The cartoon character Pogo once stated, “We have met the enemy and he is us”. NFL owners, take note.


  • June 20, 2011  - Tom says:

    How does greed even enter into the players side of things. I have read quite a bit about this disagreement and it seems the basis is that the owners want to reduce the amount of pie they share with the players. The owners get tax payers to build them stadiums and then fill those stadiums. They get the players to sacrifice their bodies and in return they want to pay them less next year than they did last year. How is defending the pay that you have rightfully earned greedy in any sence. Yes these guys are highly paid, but they can do something few can. The owners are equally highly paid, and there is a line of people that would love to own NFL teams but arent allowed. Who is over paid. Greedy exclusive owners. This whole thing is a non issue with the Chiefs anyway. Clark Hunt uis far to cheap to over pay. This franchise has moved in a very positive direction under the new regime. But Cheap Hunt wil wreck the thing. Eventually Pioli and Haley will be sought after commodities and they will go somewhere wher the ownership wants to win not play cheap with kids.
    The youth movement has been positive for the Chiefs, but eventually in order to get over the hump we will either have to over pay to keep someone (HAli) or over pay to bring in a vet to fill a dire need to win a championship. Hey Cheap Hunt, sell the team and go play soccer. Good enough isnt good enough anymore.


  • June 20, 2011  - R Helm says:

    I can understand why the Chiefs have been so far under the salary cap in recent years, you dont pay top dollar for average or below average players. But things are changing under Pioli and Haley. If Hunt doesn’t open his purse strings and move at least into the middle of the pack,players will quit wanting to play for the Chiefs, and if we cant get quality players we wont get quality coaches and management. Hunt already has a major stike against him in that he doesn’t understand the concept of loyalty being a two way process. Chief employees and coaches are loyal now because Hunt holds the check book. But when things get back on track all of these Coaches and employees are going to remember how there pay was cut, and at the first better opportunity are going to move on. Pay your damn employees &*%^&*.


  • June 20, 2011  - Mark says:

    This is, and always has been an owners vs owners scenario. The players are just caught in the middle. It’s up to the rational owners to convince the GREEDY ones that the good of the league is paramount, and that revenue sharing must be far more encompassing then it is, to avoid a have vs have not situation that no one wants, least of all the players side. Decades ago, Lamar and Wellington Mara were able to convince their brethern, hopefully there will be owners now that can do so.




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