Roger Goodell has been the commissioner of the National Football League since August of 2006. During those five years, Goodell has sought to leave his mark on the game in a number of ways, first among them being his attempt to control and improve the image of the league through tough punishments for player misbehavior on and off the field. Other notable goals include increasing the global reach of the game– London, Mexico City, and Toronto all have hosted games– and expanding the regular season to from sixteen to eighteen games, something he failed to achieve during the summer’s labor disputes.
Goodell has been a controversial figure with players almost since the beginning of his tenure, and the summer’s labor disputes carried the natural consequence of ill will from fans. His most recent decision regarding supplemental draft hopeful Terrelle Pryor has drawn heavy criticism from players, fans, and media observers. Yet the game has done anything but flounder under his watch. For this imagined interview, I caught up with Goodell in the Mile High City, which he was visiting in advance of tonight’s Bills-Broncos game.
AD: Thank you for taking a few minutes to talk to me, Mr. Goodell.
RG: My pleasure.
AD: What are you looking forward to most about this season?
RG: I’m just glad there will be football. We had a stressful summer, but I think the players, owners, and most importantly, the fans, are glad we’re back.
AD: Do you consider the result of this summer’s negotiations successful?
RG: We’re playing football, and that’s number one. We also made some changes, including a new rookie pay scale, that I think both owners and most players are in support of. Fans should like the new rookie pay scale too, because if their team has a top overall pick, it won’t look like such a burden anymore. Draft day should be more exciting, which is good, because it’s about the only think the NFL Network is good for.
AD: But what about the eighteen-game regular season? That didn’t happen…
RG: It appeared too decisive an issue during negotiations with the players. I’m confident we’ll get it, even if the players and fans don’t want it. In the meantime, I’m just pretending the regular season includes the last two preseason games.
AD: Are the days of the hard-hitting football over? Are the players right when they say the fines you implemented for hard hits have changed the very identity of the game?
RG: We have to evolve. We know more about the effects of head injuries– even just hits to the head– than we did ten years ago, or even more recently than that. We have a duty to make this game safer. Fining NFL players for “devastating” hits based upon a subjective rubric is easier than encouraging the teaching of proper tackling techniques at the youth and college level, and it certainly is cheaper than a pension structure for retired players that fully compensates them for the long-term injuries they suffer in their playing days.
AD: Speaking of the college level, can you provide any rational, legitimate explanation for your decision on Terrelle Pryor?
RG: I was trying to balance the desire of some owners who are interested in Pryor with the fact that he’s unpopular and a lot of people thought he would somehow be gaining an advantage by violating NCAA policies. But to answer your question, no, not at all. I’m way out on a limb here and I don’t know how I’m going to follow it up.
AD: The Buffalo Bills have been playing part of their regular season home games in Toronto. Other people think the Bills’ franchise is the best candidate to move to Los Angeles. Can you assure football fans in Buffalo that their team is safe?
RG: Absolutely. I care about the Bills more than any other team in the league. That’s why I wouldn’t let Michael Vick make his return to the NFL there. The Bills are to me what the Brewers are to Bud Selig, except I don’t own the Bills, although I wish I did.
AD: Thank you for your time, Mr. Goodell.
RG: You’re welcome. Go Bills.