Roger Goodell insisted the show that was the 2020 NFL draft go on. He got his wish. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the NFL turned the spectacle that is its draft into a virtual event featuring Zoom, FaceTime, and Tik Tok.
Roger Goodell rewrote his legacy Thursday night
Roger Goodell has a complicated legacy as NFL Commissioner. He has made the league and its 32 owners a lot of money and continued growing football as America’s game. Goodell’s leadership helped give the NFL a true global presence and the league is firing on all cylinders entering the 2020s.
Of course, Goodell’s 15 years as commissioner haven’t been without problems. Goodell’s handling of the Ray Rice situation in 2014 immediately comes to mind, as do the New England Patriots’ cheating scandals.
The NFL’s troubling relationship with Colin Kaepernick and how the league handled the aftermath of Kaepernick’s protests also doesn’t look good on Goodell’s resume.
With all of that said, Roger Goodell kicked the negatives to the side last night. During a global pandemic where the world is craving anything to get their minds off the coronavirus, Goodell delivered with one of the NFL’s more memorable drafts in recent years.
On a night where the draft’s top prospects sat with their families at home instead of Las Vegas, Roger Goodell made sure to emphasize family and brotherhood. The NFL aired several commercials promoting coronavirus awareness and dedicated parts of the draft to those affected by the pandemic.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institue of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appeared in a pre-draft spot. Fauci praised the NFL for conducting its draft as scheduled, albeit with changes that promoted social distancing.
The 2020 NFL draft was a success
The 2020 NFL draft opened at 8 p.m. ET and ended just after midnight on the East Coast. Although there were minor technical issues, the draft never needed an unexpected break to deal with lag or teams vanishing.
The joint TV broadcast between ESPN and the NFL Network did an excellent job covering the draft as if nothing was wrong.
That is why Roger Goodell deserves praise in the coming weeks. The draft provided a feeling of normalcy not seen since the major sports shut down over a month ago. Mel Kiper explained why he had certain prospects so high on his board, while NFL Network’s Kurt Warner provided in-depth analysis on the draft’s top quarterbacks.
Roger Goodell did his best to make things seem normal. The NFL partnered with Bud Light for a movement that endorsed booing Goodell, a staple of the NFL Draft. Goodell even had NFL fans appear through Zoom before the first pick to shower him with boos.
The draft provided a look at the leadership that has kept Goodell in office since 2006. Goodell allowed himself to have fun and even did a Tik Tok video with new Broncos receiver Jerry Jeudy.
Roger Goodell should consider building off the virtual draft
Roger Goodell told NFL Media he was “relieved” the virtual draft went well. Goodell will announce all of Friday night’s picks before turning that role over for the draft’s final four rounds on Saturday.
Goodell said the league may explore using aspects of the virtual draft in future years. Las Vegas, which was supposed to host this year’s draft, will host the 2022 NFL draft.
The 2020 NFL draft lacked the intended in-person booing or boat trips for prospects. But Goodell said he loved the idea of using FaceTime to talk with players and how many coaches and general managers spent the draft with their families.
“People were looking forward to it; it went way beyond interest in football. It struck a chord with people. I think, I hope, it sounds like we struck the right tone of recognizing health care workers and first responders while keeping the focus on football.”