Sports department for the student run radio station 90.3 WRST at UW-Oshkosh
By: Alexander Crowe
Station Manager at WRST-FM Oshkosh
“Change before you’re forced to change.” – Roger Goodell
Roger Goodell is the supreme ruler of one of the biggest cash cows in the entire world. The National Football League, of which he is the commissioner, reportedly makes just over $9 billion per year, that according to Forbes. That number makes the NFL the highest grossing sports league in the entire world, making it the most lucrative and most expensive franchise known to man. And yet, Goodell isn’t done, not by a long shot. He has been quoted as saying that even though the league is worth so much, he wants to more than double it’s worth by the time he’s done as commissioner. In fact, Goodell says that he wants his NFL to be worth a whopping $25 billion by 2027.
On the outside looking in, that seems like quite the goal for a man who hasn’t even spent ten years as NFL commissioner. And yet, that number doesn’t seem to be far out of reach for a man who has done nothing but blaze new trails and leave his mark all over the league since taking over as commissioner for Paul Tagliabue back in September of 2006. Since then, Goodell’s salary isn’t the only thing to have changed (he now makes $29.5 million per year). The league has changed quite a bit under his reign, from the way the game is played to the types of rules enforced to the way we even watch the game. Let’s take a look at the NFL has changed since Goodell took over as commissioner, and get a better look at the twenty-nine-and-a-half million dollar man.
Goodell started in the league as an intern in the league’s front office under Pete Rozelle, who was the commissioner of the NFL at the time. He spent some time with the New York Jets as an intern, but eventually made his way back to the league’s front office as a member of their Public Relations department.
In 1987, Goodell got his first big-time job in the NFL, as an assistant to the president of the American Football Conference, or AFC as it’s more commonly known. When Tagliabue took over as commissioner, Goodell began doing a variety of front office jobs for the league. By the time Tagliabue was ready to retire, Goodell had worked his way up the ladder in the front office of the NFL, and was the Chief Operating Officer for the entire league. In August of 2006, after an extensive search lead by Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, Goodell was named the next commissioner of the National Football League.
After taking over as commissioner in September of 2006, Goodell wasted no time in implementing change into the world of the NFL. In April of 2007, after a year of scandal and bad press for the NFL due to the off-the-field actions of many professional football players, Goodell made his first big move as commissioner. He announced that the NFL would be implementing a new Personal Conduct Policy, aimed at putting a stop to the reckless and dangerous behavior of players in the league.
His first victim was Adam “Pacman” Jones of the Cincinnati Bengals, who had been arrested nine times since joining the NFL. On April 10th of 2007, Jones was suspended for the entire 2007 season, and his teammate Chris Henry was suspended for the first eight games of the season. Terry “Tank” Johnson of the Chicago Bears was next, who also received an eight game suspension. Michael Vick and Donte Stallworth both received suspensions of longer than a season, Vick for his role in a dog fighting operation and Stallworth for pleading guilty to DUI manslaughter in which he hit and killed a construction worker while driving under the influence.
Those weren’t the only hefty suspensions Goodell would hand out during his tenure. In March of 2012, Goodell made public evidence that the players and coaches on the New Orleans Saints had in place a bounty system, in which players were paid often in the form of a cash reward for taking out players on opposing teams. Head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the entire 2012 season, GM Micky Loomis for eight games and assistant head coach Joe Vitt for six. In addition to those coaches, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was suspended indefinitely, due to the fact that he was the alleged administrator of the program. Several players were suspended in the scandal as well, a scandal that later became known as “Bountygate”.
Change for the league didn’t just come in the form of suspensions, however. Goodell has altered the league in other ways as well. One of those ways was by moving the spot of the kickoff five yards forward, from the 30 yard-line to the 35 yard-line. The goal of the move was to increase the number of touchbacks, thus resulting in less injuries. There tend to be quite a few violent injuries on kickoffs because players get running at top-speed right at each other and collide head on. The move may not seem like much, but according to a report published in USA today, the number of touchbacks on kickoffs in the NFL increased from 16% in 2011 to 40% in 2012. The move was made in the name of safety, an area where Goodell has been trying to improve since he took over as commissioner.
It’s no secret that the game of football is a violent one. What isn’t known, however, is whether or not there is a direct link between the game of football and head injuries that plague players long after their playing days are over. While it can be assumed that the connection is there, and the science is there to prove it, the league has time and time again refused to admit any direct link exists. In a huge settlement between the NFL and former players, the league agreed to pay a lump sum of $765 million to the players named in the suit, however there was a clause in the paperwork that cleared the league of any wrongdoing, and stated that there is still no direct link between the game of football and the types of head injuries players receive later on in life. Steps have been taken under Goodell, though, to ensure that the league is getting safer.
One way the league is trying to make the game safer is by implementing new rules against hitting another player in the head, or lowering the crown of one’s helmet and using it as a weapon when running with the football. These changes have resulted in some hefty fines and even suspensions handed down from Goodell and his front office to the players, but he feels that by having these rules in place he can make the league safer for everyone involved in the game.
The list can go on and on. From bringing more regular-season games to London, to changing the logo of the league, to helping make the NFL Network the successful powerhouse that it is today, Goodell has done quite a bit since taking over as commissioner in 2006. The only question that remains is, what will he do next? It’s well known that he wants a team back in Los Angeles, the second biggest television market in the United States. Outside of the US, Goodell has also talked about creating a team based in London.
As far as the structure of the league is concerned, Goodell isn’t above trying to change that either. He has spoken for a few years now about reducing the number of pre-season games from four to two, and increasing the number of regular-season games from sixteen to eighteen.
There’s no doubt that change will continue to come in the NFL under commissioner Roger Goodell. The league that exists today is vastly different from the one most people grew up watching, and it’s clear that it won’t be the same ten years from now either. While all this change continues to come to the league and alter it for better or for worse, just remember that line that Goodell spoke while presenting his case to the NFL owners way back in August of 2006, when he was applying for the job of NFL Commissioner:
“Change before you’re forced to change.”