What does Roger Goodell’s Extension Mean for the Future of the NFL?

A New Five-Year Extension for Roger Goodell Might Keep Him in the NFL Longer than Necessary

Roger Goodell stands alone amongst all NFL employees when looking for someone to blame for all that is wrong in the sport of football. He is at the heart of every controversy and every decision, and because of it, he has become a target for both fans and players. Goodell has served as NFL commissioner since 2006, and he has had his highs and lows like any professional sports commissioner, but receives (and welcomes) more hate than any other commissioner.

Goodell’s power is questioned after every decision, and fans wonder what the NFL would look like without the him. The hatred Goodell endures is ubiquitous, and could not have been more apparent the last few seasons, as fans have begun to call the NFL the “No Fun League”. Yet, the NFL is reportedly nearing a five-year extension with Goodell that will last him through the 2024 season, keeping him through the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Barring a few minor setbacks, football will persevere through seven more years of Goodell. He has been booed. He has been protested. And most importantly, he has been hated. But Goodell will make the big decisions of the future. And it is our responsibility to question whether that is best for the NFL.

How have past decisions undermined Goodell’s legitimacy?

Roger Goodell has always received backlash for the way he’s handled many situations and for the decisions he’s made regarding controversies and suspensions. For years, fans have complained about the harshness (and lack of) when looking at Goodell’s decisions, whether they pertain to player celebrations, domestic violence, marijuana, or any other policy dispute. Goodell receives criticism for his on-the-field rules regarding touchdown celebrations and the legality of hits. But where he takes most of the heat is on his treatment regarding off-the-field issues.

Beginning with domestic violence, Goodell’s decisions have been all over the place. But we can be sure about one thing: Goodell hasn’t punished it harshly enough to further deter it. Back in 2014, news and a video of Ray Rice hitting his wife in an elevator had surfaced, and the NFL had to hand out consequences while also taking into consideration its public image. No organization or business looks good with criminals, so the NFL and Goodell began to search for a solution. The decision was a fairly lenient one, as Ray Rice was suspended for 2 games. In August of 2014, the NFL admitted its mishandling of the situation, and would institute a benchmark of a 6 game suspension for domestic violence. Rice, after being dropped by the Ravens, was suspended indefinitely by the NFL (and eventually reinstated) but he would never play another down of football. Goodell just couldn’t get this one right on the first try. He mishandled the first decision and over-compensated to fix it. Fast forward to 2015, and Goodell had to deal with Greg Hardy. Another player accused of domestic violence, Hardy saw a ten game suspension be cut down to four games. Goodell showed leniency in this case as well, putting Hardy’s suspension two games under the set benchmark. And most recently, former Giants kicked Josh Brown had an incident pertaining to domestic violence in the beginning of the 2016 season. The Giants made a well-received move by cutting him, but Brown only received a one game suspension. But in the latest case regarding Ezekiel Elliot, Goodell stuck to the benchmark, and it seems that he’s been able to figure out how these situation should be handled. It’s easy to see Goodell’s wrongdoings, because in the past, he repeatedly under-delivered on promises to crack down on those accused of domestic violence, and deservingly was criticized for it.

Goodell’s lack of consequences for Rice, Hardy, Brown, and others were only some of the reasons for Goodell’s tainted reputation. Goodell recently struggled with coming to a decision on Deflate-gate, and was again criticized for the time it took to make the decision and for how the situation was handled. Goodell suspended one of the league’s biggest stars for 4 games on circumstantial evidence. It wasn’t necessarily the suspension that was the problem, but rather the process. His credibility was questioned as the Patriots were upset with how the investigation was handled, and Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who has a great relationship with Goodell, was outraged. The mere fact that Brady was willing to take the NFL to court proved that the legitimacy of the NFL being judge, jury, and executioner should be questioned.

Goodell’s final main area of concern is marijuana. The NFL has held its ground on its strict anti-marijuana rules, and has levied ruthless suspension against players for smoking. Take Josh Gordon for example. His first drug offense earned him a two game suspension, but his second offense sidelined him for ten games (originally a season-long suspension, but was appealed and reduced). His third offense then knocked him out for an entire season. Gordon is no doubt a repeated offender, but originally getting a year-long suspension for a second drug offense seemed beyond harsh. Again, there’s a common theme: lack of consistency.

There’s no doubt we can question Goodell’s power, as he sits on a throne with ability to make decisions without limitations. We question this rightfully so, because Goodell’s decision making has been inconsistent and erratic, and his behavior has, on occasion, been inexcusable. This week, DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFLPA, claimed Goodell lied to the player’s union. And an image of a lying commissioner is not a good one for the image of the NFL. Goodell has made plenty of poor decisions in his past. And while he’s owned up to them, he can’t erase the fact that the fans don’t have confidence in him to make the right choice.

With Ezekiel Elliot’s suspension, is Goodell taking steps in the right direction?

The NFL can’t change the past, but it can look toward the future. The unusual leniency or ruthlessness of punishments can change, and Goodell can enhance the league’s image by punishing wrongdoers as we look down the line. Goodell’s latest big decision- regarding America’s Team- looks to be a step in the right direction. For the first time in a big, media-covered case, Goodell has stuck to the suspension benchmark. He’s showed no signs of backing down yet, and the NFL seems to be standing its ground on committing to harsher consequences for future wrongdoers. He used facts and evidence to make an informed decision. While the process took longer than most expected, Goodell has stood by the decision, which has been especially encouraging considering it pertained to a team in which his relationship with the owner is great.

Goodell’s punishments never seem to fit the crime. But for the first time, he has begun to understand the significance of sticking to a benchmark. He isn’t pitying Elliot, and he isn’t over-suspending him. This decision has more far-reaching implications, and if he can finally get it right, it may be a sign of a better future for the NFL. In fact, it’s a great sign that Goodell has held his ground on this situation. Let’s hope the step in the right direction isn’t a one-time occurrence.

Is Goodell actually bad for the league?

Even in the darkness surrounding Goodell, the NFL seemingly hasn’t been hurt (yet). Goodell has done a good job improving the safety of the players. Moving the kickoff up five yards has eliminated many kickoff returns, and in turn, lessened the number of high speed collisions. His rules protecting defenseless players and eliminating hits to the head have reduced the number of concussions. He’s increased the streaming options on NFL games, and has given fans better access to their respective teams. He’s put games in London and Mexico to increase international interest in the NFL. He’s even appeased the fans by exploring the idea of shortening the preseason. Goodell is  great for the popularity of the NFL. In fact, since taking office in 2006, the NFL’s net revenue has nearly tripled according to the Forbes. Roger Goodell runs the NFL like a business, and a very successful one to say the least. When it comes down to it, the NFL’s popularity has surged with Goodell at the helm, and the owners still seem to have no problem with him in charge. So we have to ask ourselves: Is it really as bad as we think?


Photo Credits: Bleacher Report

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