Roger Goodell has been at the helm for six NFL seasons.
In many ways, he was the right man for the job at the right time when he stepped into the role.
But is he still?
Roger Goodell’s biggest contribution as commissioner would probably be recognized as his ability to curb the bad behavior of NFL players and wannabes off the field. He set the precedent by suspending players often and for long durations anytime there was clear evidence of inappropriate off-the-field activity.
He’s been popular for a while. During NFL Draft day, draftees don’t shy away from showing their respect for Goodell. He gets dozens of bear hugs. Also, many current players have talked openly about having him in their lives as a good thing, including Michael Vick and Chad Ochocinco.
Maybe his single biggest coup was getting last season started on time and avoiding any lockout or strike. He brokered the peace agreement between players and owners so the game could continue without interruption as the most watched and followed American sport.
In recent weeks, though, it is becoming more clear that the name “Goodell” seems as big or sometimes bigger than even the initials, N-F-L. He’s in the news constantly.
Is this due to the news cycle of the times or is it because of his negligence in certain matters?
Goodell has handled many of the challenges of Commissioner in a superior fashion, but there are just as many that he has fumbled along.
He’s been transparent in his handling of NFL media concerns, including BountyGate and SpyGate. Also, he’s doing his best to address the deep emotional issue of concussions with as much respect for the game and the players as possible.
The concussion issue was unavoidable and destined to be a major issue for the NFL. Whether Goodell’s leadership on concussions has been adequate looks like it may be judged in the courts of public opinion and justice.
It is in the courts of justice that Goodell looks like he will be spending a lot of his time in the near future.
He’s being sued from all directions, personally and as part of the NFL organization, the latest being a suit the players union is pushing regarding unfair labor practices among free agency from the 2010 season. They are alleging collusion, which if found, could mean huge settlements against the owners.
If collusion happened on Goodell’s watch, it’s an obvious blunder that would take him down for sure. He must be on the inside with both the players and owners. He can’t afford to be part of any misdirection.
Another suit is directed against Goodell for defamation of character from recently suspended New Orleans middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma.
Goodell may have it exactly right on BountyGate and is standing his ground with integrity and morals for the good of the game. But the facts seem to indicate he knew of these Bounty tactics for up to three seasons. He may have not acted soon enough.
The Vilma lawsuit is another that is indicative of why Goodell’s time is running out. He has turned his job responsibilities into personal risks and judgments when he could have avoided the negative media onslaught with some more prudent diversions or earlier action.
It’s not nearly all his fault. So many controversies and so many unusual, unpredictable schemes have taken place over his short reign.
Is it the right time for somebody else to take on the job and try to keep better order in house?
Could somebody new at the top other than Goodell be the right leader in taking the game towards a future with less antagonism and more values and compatibility?
Or, is Goodell still the right man for the job?
What do you think? Comment below.
Howard Alperin is Managing Editor of AmericanizeSoccer.com