Column: Goodell talks a lot, and says very little
PHOENIX (AP) No, Roger Goodell is not going to give himself a pay cut. Won’t trim even a measly $1 million off his $44 million salary.
Not voluntarily, anyway, even after a disastrous year that shook the NFL to its core.
He’s also not going to resign and, no, he doesn’t expect to be fired.
”Does that surprise you?” he asked the questioner.
It didn’t, and not much else did Friday as the embattled NFL commissioner put on a show of not being embattled at all at his annual State of the NFL presser.
To call this a dog and pony show would be insulting to dogs and ponies everywhere. Nothing about the format was conducive to getting actual answers rather than the talking points the commissioner had long ago committed to memory.
A few miles down the road, Tiger Woods was explaining as only he can about how he could shoot 82 on a relatively easy resort course and miss the cut in his first tournament of the year. Goodell took the podium at about the same time to explain why the NFL was going to wait until after the Super Bowl to determine whether the New England Patriots were conspirators in a scheme to deflate footballs.
Neither of them were terribly insightful, but at least Woods had an excuse. He had been out playing in the rain for five hours, and was just hoping to get somewhere dry.
Goodell, meanwhile, spent the morning working out, presumably while studying the talking points his aides had surely drawn up for any question that might come up. Like Woods, he had an answer for everything, even for the cute little kid who warned his question about league-sponsored exercise would be a tough one.
Not for the Teflon Commissioner, it wasn’t. Goodell informed the kid that not had he already done Play 60 for the day, but actually did 65 minutes on the elliptical.
Goodell was so on point that the only question that seemed to throw him for the slightest moment came from a Las Vegas television reporter who wanted to know about prospects for a team in that gambling city (not good).
To be sure, the annual appearance by the commissioner rarely offers much insight into the operations of America’s most popular sports league. The supremely insular NFL prefers it that way, and without follow up questions the questions bounce around from topic to topic with no clear theme.
This year, though could have been different. This year should have been different, if only because of two big controversies that cast doubt about fair and just the league really is.
Goodell had a chance to go deeper into the deflated ball controversy, and didn’t. He could have directly answered why his friend, New England owner Robert Kraft, wants an apology for the way the league has handled it, and didn’t.
He could have talked more about the whole Ray Rice affair, and didn’t.
Instead he talked in generalities about winning trust from fans every day and making ”enormous progress” on social issues.
”The NFL is made up of good and caring people,” he assured us at one point.
That may be true, but for now we’re going to have to take Goodell’s word for it. We’re also going to have to believe him when he says that the events have recent months have humbled him.
It might be easier, though, if those responses didn’t seem as scripted and full of generalities as his thoughts about players safety (he’s for it) and earlier kickoff times for games in London – giving the networks yet another 3-hour block of NFL television (terrific).
”Listen, it has been a tough year,” Goodell said. ”It has been a tough year on me personally. It’s been a year of what I would say humility and learning. We obviously as an organization have gone through adversity, but more importantly it has been adversity for me. That is something where, we take that seriously. It’s an opportunity for us to get better. So we’ve all done a lot of soul searching, starting with yours truly. And we have taken action.”
Speaking of action, Mr. Commissioner, how about that pay cut?
”That’s up to the owners,” Goodell said. ”They evaluate my performance. They evaluate my compensation every year. And I don’t argue.”
Come to think of it, after a year like the last one silence might be Goodell’s best option.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg