Roger Goodell Has More Problems Than Jerry Jones

NFL commissioner's "endless growth" plan is flawed, say critics.

Roger Goodell
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell attends the game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on September 10, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Bob Levey/Getty Images)
By David Kiefaber / November 20, 2017 10:00 am

As reported elsewhere (including RealClearLife), NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s contract negotiations are a lot naster than anyone expected thanks to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Jones has raised questions about the specifics of Goodell’s contract and his overall leadership, stirring up a lot of controversy and acrimony in so doing.

The heat between them may be more personal than professional, however. ESPN reports that Jones was furious about the August 2017 suspension of Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, who had spent a year under investigation for domestic violence.

Elliott was suspended for six games, but Jones claims to have been assured by Goodell that no suspension was coming. Since Elliott is a big part of Jones’ Super Bowl ambitions, Jones saw Goodell’s decision as a betrayal and vowed revenge.

“I’m gonna come after you with everything I have,” Jones said in a phone call to Goodell. “If you think Bob Kraft came after you hard [referencing Deflategate], Bob Kraft is a p-ssy compared to what I’m going to do.”

But even beyond Jones’ anger and resentment of Goodell’s contract from within the league, the NFL commissioner’s leadership has come into question. Goodell’s goal for the league to generate $25 billion in the next decade includes fan-unfriendly measures like full price pre-season games and personal seat licenses, as well as player-unfriendly measures like mid-week games and a planned NFL franchise in London.

Goodell’s critics argue that the commissioner’s plan for limitless financial growth comes at the expense of player health, fan engagement, and overall quality of the game. It also fails to take falling TV ratings and live attendance, public doubts about the safety of the game, and household cord-cutting (getting rid of cable TV altogether) into account.

Goodell is, in short, running into the classic problem of empire-building: oversaturation. The NFL is expanding beyond the market’s interest, and the only way to keep profits consistent is charging less people more money at home and gambling on renewed interest elsewhere. Whatever you may think about Jerry Jones’ crusade against Goodell, the commissioner has bigger problems looming overhead.