Commissioner Roger Goodell doesn’t have many friends at the annual NFL Draft. We know that by how fans relish booing his appearance each spring to open the selection of top college football prospects.
And now it’s sounding like he’s losing friends who are a lot more influential within the league.
The NFL Draft is still scheduled for April 23-25
For a man who lives in one of the bedroom communities just north of Manhattan, where the coronavirus outbreak took hold before inflicting devastation on New York City, it appears Roger Goodell is approaching the April 23 NFL Draft as though it’s business as usual or at least close to it.
The NFL Network, ESPN and NFL Films reportedly had been discussing the complicated logistics for presenting the draft in the event that teams might have to stay home rather than send representatives to Las Vegas to announce their selections in the three-day event.
But Goodell seemed to discount the possibility by announcing at the end of last week that the league’s plans remain unchanged. At worst, that could be totally impractical. At the very least, it sounds insensitive to the plight of tens of millions of Americans whose lives have been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Remember, too, that Goodell’s decision comes on the heels of NFL owners going about the start of the annual free agency window by handing out hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts to players, again tone-deaf.
NFL front offices tried pushing back against Roger Goodell
A common criticism of managers at the top of a company is that they sometimes lose touch with what it takes for employees a few rungs down to perform their jobs.
That’s why some team employees began whispering at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis last month that perhaps the NFL Draft should be pushed back if travel became restricted. The country reached that point in the coronavirus pandemic two weeks ago, and it’s made it difficult for general managers, coaches, and scouting staffs to continue vetting the players they might want to draft. Conducting phone or video interviews is no substitute for meeting in person.
The fact that New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, one of the best in the profession, has tested positive and is quarantined doesn’t help the perception that Goodell might be self-absorbed.
Then-commissioner Pete Rozelle would later admit he erred by not calling off games on the Sunday following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, a decision widely condemned at the time. Roger Goodell may well be staring at his Pete Rozelle moment.
Commissioner’s memo appears to include a threat
On top of being insistent last week that the NFL Draft would go on as scheduled, commissioner Roger Goodell issued a memo to the 32 teams that threatens to punish anyone who publicly criticizes his decision.
Goodell runs a multi-billion-dollar corporation and as such has considerable responsibility. It’s understandable that he wants smooth sailing. Being second-guessed in public makes the water choppy.
But this isn’t a situation like Pete Rozelle had in repeatedly having to battle one rogue owner, Al Davis. All indications point to multiple NFL team executives being unhappy with Goodell. He has job security, but Goodell works for the owners and not vice versa, so the next set of owner meetings figures to be interesting.