Roger Goodell’s failures as a commissioner

Zach Epstein | Contributing Writer

The highest paid player in the NFL for the recently concluded season was Aaron Rodgers, who earned $22 million. Roger Goodell, the commissioner, made twice that. Yet a recent survey conducted by Public Policy Polling concluded that Goodell’s approval rate rests at a paltry 18 percent—and for good reason.

Goodell entered this turbulent season already up to his ears in controversies, such as the heavily scrutinized rule changes designed to increase player safety and the Washington Redskins’ debatably offensive name. In addition, his dreadful handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence incident proved that this season would be engulfed in controversy before it even kicked off. Shockingly, though, the league was not searching far and wide for a replacement, even as Goodell continued to demonstrate his incompetence throughout the season.

His eroding grasp on the league continued to wither away with the Adrian Peterson scandal, the continued emergence of player arrests for domestic violence, the peculiar and inconsistent handling of Josh Gordon’s drug violations, and the still-unresolved Deflategate controversy.

This seems like a list of scandals and public relations nightmares that would span decades for a national multi-billion dollar industry, but not when Goodell is in charge; he will ensure that this much controversy goes unresolved in a single season.

On Jan. 30, Goodell conducted his yearly state of the league address, and it transpired more like an onslaught. Even though some questions seemed tailor-made to try and highlight the NFL’s recent administrative accomplishments, it was clear that several questions caught Goodell off guard and left him quite shaken.

The most notable instance came from CNN’s Rachel Nichols, who flustered Goodell by asking about the NFL’s conflict of interest when it hires investigators to look into teams’ alleged wrongdoings, since he is on the owners’ payroll. Although this is admittedly an extremely difficult question to answer, the rambling response Goodell struggled to piece together was even by that standard clumsy, vague, deflecting and even somewhat hostile.

“Somebody has to pay them, Rachel,” he replied. “Unless you’re volunteering, which I don’t think you are, we’ll do that.”

Someone should explain to Goodell that just because he is not doing his job, that doesn’t mean the reporters and journalists won’t do theirs. Sadly, this press conference simply scratched the surface of the issues that keep piling up on Goodell’s desk, never to be resolved.

One reporter rather candidly alluded to the general discontent with the commissioner’s current track record, asking if Goodell can imagine any scenario in which he would choose to step down from his position. Goodell probably should have taken a hint—because when someone is doing a good job or even a mediocre one, reporters don’t typically ask if he has intentions to resign.

Eric Winston, the president of the NFL Players Association, recently gave a rather blunt review of the job he thinks Goodell is doing: “Hey, even the worst bartender at Spring Break does pretty well. Think about it, a two-year-old could [be the NFL Commissioner] and still make money.” Though it is an odd comparison, Winston is right; the NFL’s profitability cannot be used as an indication that the commissioner has been doing well; sports is a business of popularity, and Goodell’s approval continues to plummet. That doesn’t seem like the best way to attract more fans, especially with ticket sales that have been declining annually since 2007.

Anyone watching the Lombardi Trophy presentation after the Super Bowl would have heard the unmistakable booing and jeering when Goodell presented the trophy to the Patriots. Ultimately, as commissioner of the NFL, Goodell was handed the keys to a hot, new, expensive Ferrari, but at this rate, he is recklessly driving the Ferrari through a minefield, accelerating as he approaches a cliff. But the sad part is, no one with any power to do so seems to care enough to stop him.