Monday, 22 October 2012 10:36

Goodell’s pass to Tagliabue on New Orleans Saints Bountygate is bad play

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goodellNFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who is reviled in New Orleans as the BP of sports executives, took a big step toward mollifying his critics last week. Or did he? On Friday, Goodell asked his former boss, Paul Tagliabue, to step into his old shoes and oversee the appeals of current and former Saints players in the Bountygate imbroglio.



     Goodell's motivation was obviously to identify an individual with credibility in the players' eyes and let him make the decision on the next round of appeals. But his action also could be interpreted as an admission that his credibility is shot in certain areas of the globe and any decision he would make short of a blanket pardon for the perceived offenders would invite even more opprobrium. Handing off the responsibility to a third party would deflect any more slings and arrows being cast his way.

     Another view of the action is that Goodell realizes the age-old standard of "Commissioner’s Authority" is crumbling, at least in the minds of his parishioners, and he needs a respected voice to come in and validate the decisions he has made. Tagliabue was less universally loved than universally tolerated by the players because the NFLPA's late executive director, Gene Upshaw, usually got his way. Some NFL owners believe Tag's cozy relationship with Uppy resulted in too many concessions over the bargaining table, but, despite the cost, their relationship was marked by an era of labor peace. Tagliabue had a working relationship with the Players Association through Upshaw and did not invite the scorn that has been rained upon Goodell.

     The drafting of Tagliabue has evoked other opinions, none flattering to the current commisioner. Jarrett Bell of USA Today wrote that the uproar has forced Goodell to step aside, dealing a major blow to the commissioner's "dictatorship." If Tagliabue somehow disagrees with Goodell's previous rulings, the current commissioner will have some explaining to do. Yahoo! Sports' Dan Wetzel wrote that the decision to bring in Tagliabue creates a no-win situation for Goodell and the NFL. "Goodell and the NFL will regret not finding a true independent mind here. There is no shortage of retired judges out there who could have sorted this out. In an actual legal court, Tagliabue would have to recuse himself because of his past. And the idea that this is too complicated for anyone but an NFL commissioner, past or present, is the definition of arrogance."

     Whatever the result of Tagliabue's involvement, Goodell will be the loser. If Tag disagrees with Goodell's decisions, the "impeach Goodell" movement will gather steam.  However, if Tag upholds the decisions, it will be seen as another whitewash, with one former NFL commissioner merely validating the decisions of another.

by Jim W. Miller


His new book, "Where the Water Kept Rising," is now available in local bookstores, at and at his website:

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