Roger Goodell and the New NFL Model
November 27, 2010 (due to technical glitches, this article could not be published when originally written)
Is the league �targeting� the Stillers, as claimed by many fans as well as the Bleacher Report website this week? You have to wonder.
Consider: Ben Roethlisberger remains the only player in league history to be suspended without facing criminal charges. James Harrison and Ryan Clark get flagged and fined when they make helmet-to-helmet hits, intentionally or not. Hines Ward�s own shot to the helmet goes unnoticed, at least by the NFL (of course, this was a Patriots player doing the dinging).
Most recently, Richard Seymour receives a mere $25,000 fine for sucker-punching a quarterback after the whistle, and no suspension. Those of you claiming he�d have been thrown out for the year if he�d hit Tom Brady instead may be closer to the truth than you think.
The refs flagged
All this noted, I think the answer is �not quite.�
No, the answer goes to something else, part of which can be found in the relationship between the Commissioner and the owner of the New England Patriots, Robert Kraft. This from the
�Goodell and Patriots owner Robert Kraft held a joint news conference; Kraft was on hand to introduce the commissioner to the crowd at
Long ago, in an NFL far, far away, a man named Rozelle ran the NFL show. As commissioner he presided over the massive growth spurt that put the league at the top of the American sports mountain. Along the way he was guided by such big-name owners as Al Davis and Art Rooney � Art occupied a high place even when his team scraped the bottom. They didn�t call him �The Chief� for nothing.
Then came Paul Tagliabue, and the Rooneys continued as perhaps the NFL�s elite ownership group, as exemplied by the �Rooney Rule� which affects each team�s very hiring policies. But that Rooney was named Dan, not Artie. Just as that Rooney resided in
The Rooney Family no longer has the pull they once did. So why then would the Stillers still occupy a favored position in the NFL? They don�t. And if you didn�t realize it before, you should now.
The owner who has filled the gap is Goodell�s good buddy Kraft. But it�s not just a matter of cronyism, it�s a fundamental shift in how the Commissioner sees the game of football itself � both on the field and as a business enterprise.
The Patriots represent the new model franchise as espoused by Goodell. The Pats bring a more finesse style (exemplified by their short-passing game which has tortured the Stillers of late); what�s more, they bring the look of marketability: they�re led by a QB known as much for his looks as his play. High-foreheaded Peyton Manning may have the stats, but Brady�s got the hair and the supermodel wife.
Think I�m joking? Well go back to the pre-game show before the Indy-Pats tilt: CBS featured a little joke visual where they �traded� Brady�s and Manning�s hairlines. The idea was to show how each would look with the other�s hair-do�s. (This is football?) What was communicated was the idea that Manning would look a lot better with Tom Brady�s head, not vice versa.
Which leads us to this season, and the sudden crackdown on so-called late hits and helmet-to-helmet shots.
It�s not that the league is targeting the Stillers, it�s in reality going after the style they play (same thing for teams like the Ravens). More importantly they�re shifting away from the very image Stillers football supposedly represents. Which is to say, it�s looking to wipe out the classic NFL model, the old smashmouth style. Oh sure, they�ll still run footage of Butkus, Lambert and the Ice Bowl, but that�s just for marketing purposes.
Bottom line: Goodell wants a longer season (made in part possible by a less violent game) to increase revenue. So sorry Stiller Nation, in the end it�s not about conspiracies, but that oldest of old motivations: profit.
Goodell knows he�s pretty much captured the American male market; there�s nowhere else to go with that. The expansion opportunities lie with the female fan base (ever-growing). Likewise, he�d love to plant a franchise over in soccer-happy
Yes, the Stillers remain important to the league as a flagship franchise, due in part to the huge numbers of Stiller Nation. It�s just that the Stillers are no longer � if they ever were in the first place � the franchise. Likewise, the old style of snot-bubble, dirty-jersey football, at least to Goodell, is as obsolete as the leather helmet. He wants a clean game in more ways than one.
Again, the new-era franchise model is more likely the New England Patriots. Along with the title comes all the favoritism that implies, as sure as there never was a �Palmer Rule� enacted to protect the QB from knee shots (think about it). Spygate scandal be damned, we�ll bury that one under the red-white-and blue rug I�m convinced Goodell has in his office. As for Coach Belichick's bad behavior, well we�re not going to get all conduct-code-policy over that one. No reason to get ol� Robert worked up, now, is there?
Same thing goes on the field: I mentioned in my last commentary how Brady got the refs to throw a late flag on Woodley simply by whining to them. What Tommy Brady wants, Tommy Brady gets � as for you, Big Ben, take your sucker punch like a man and STFU. In Roger�s brave new world there�s no room for thugs and headhunters � that is, if they�re wearing black and gold.
And in case you think this whole helmet thing is about concern for player safety, think again: the NFL has resisted acknowledging the effects of head injuries on players for years. And, seriously, would a league worried about injuries want to extend the season by two games? It�s all about image, which means it�s all about profits.
Some would call the relationship between Goodell and Kraft a conflict of interest. I call it the �New NFL Model.� Get used to it, Stiller Nation � especially the next time Clark or Harrison gets flagged. And remember: nothing personal, it�s only business.