Column: Memo to Goodell: Tips from Tags good idea

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 13, 2012

NEW YORK - APRIL 22: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is interviewed by Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets for the 'Ocho Cinco New Network' on the red carpet during the 2010 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 25, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
(Eds: With AP Photos.) By JIM LITKE AP Sports Columnist Paul Tagliabue has become one of those guys we come to appreciate much more out of office than we did when he was in it. Part of that is because history has been kind, so far, in assessing his 17-year run as commissioner. Some of it may have to do with his successor. Tagliabue lacked charisma, but never smarts. Low-key and pragmatic to the end, he rarely made himself the story. He reminded us of that again this week by giving both sides in Bountygate enough to tone down their feud, even as it was about to get uglier. Instead of bluster or threats, Tagliabue used legal jujitsu to solve a problem quickly and quietly, so everyone could get back to the field and the real business of making money. The same principle he applied in that decision could have characterized Tagliabue's no-nonsense reign: It's the game, stupid. Contrast that with Roger Goodell. While the current commissioner doesn't suffer in any comparison on the business side, he should learn to tone it down. The NFL has never been more popular and a look at this weekend's slate of games demonstrates why. There are so many matchups between contenders spread over a half-dozen towns that Week 15 looks like the playoffs have already begun. It would take considerable luck and scrambling for the postseason to come up with three games that look as entertaining as San Francisco at New England, Denver at Baltimore and Chicago at Green Bay. But that wasn't enough for Goodell. Speaking after an owners meeting Wednesday in the Dallas area, Goodell took issue with Tagliabue's ruling in Bountygate, contending his predecessor let the players off the hook too easy. Never mind that Tagliabue did the same for Goodell, shoring up the shaky scaffolding of an investigation that couldn't afford to take many more hits. ''My personal view is I hold everyone responsible,'' Goodell said. ''Player health and safety is an important issue in this league. We're all going to have to contribute to that, whether you're a commissioner, whether you're a coach, whether you're a player, and we all have to be held accountable for it.'' Considering the week he just had, and the two previous weekends trying to soothe grieving families and teammates following senseless tragedies, you would think Goodell would be laying low. So naturally, he went against the grain and let slip that the league will charge a committee with looking into expanding the playoffs to 14 or even 16 teams. Not surprising, it drew about as much support from players as an earlier proposal he floated for an 18-game regular season. In a tweet, the Packers Tom Crabtree suggested that while Goodell was at it, he might as well lengthen the preseason, too, expand the regular season to 82 games ''(like nba)'' and turn the playoffs into a ''like triple elimination?'' More to the heart of the issue was this from Sports Illustrated magazine's Peter King: ''The NFL has to stop thinking of ways to make more money, and start thinking of ways to keep the game the best game in America.'' To be fair, Goodell has tried. He might have been reluctant to take on the concussion-related issues that cloud the game's future - the same ones that flew under the radar during Tagliabue's tenure, and those of his predecessors. But he's made a largely good-faith effort since. No doubt it's difficult striking a balance as both CEO of an enterprise that rakes in $9 billion a year while at the same time protecting the employees that make the game go. With mounting litigation over those very same player-safety problems, everything he says is likely to be parsed for its value in a court of law one day. But the more he stubbornly defends every one of his positions - even the ones, as in Bountygate, where Goodell cherry-picked evidence and arrived at the wrong conclusion - the less of an honest broker he becomes. Not to mention a bigger distraction. The more headlines Goodell grabs, the less there are for the games themselves, which is where a commissioner's focus should be directed. Besides, the league has plenty of high-priced lawyers to help it chart a course through what already resembles a legal minefield. And nobody rushes generals to the front in fights anymore. So maybe a few weeks in the background and away from the bully pulpit would do Goodell's reputation a lot of good right now. --- Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org and follow him at Twitter.com/JimLitke.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Jose Fernandez has 'soured' on Marlins brass

Zach LaVine dedicates dunk contest win to Flip Saunders

Alleged Manning sexual assault cited in Tennessee lawsuit

Arian Foster: It's hard for me to watch football

Isaiah Thomas recruiting players at All-Star weekend

Report: Charles Woodson joining ESPN's Sunday NFL crew

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Best and worst from NBA All-Star Saturday night

WATCH: Klay Thompson can't go home unless he beats Steph Curry in 3-Point contest

Star players are hurting Houston Rockets

Emmitt Smith: Adrian Peterson only current player who could break rushing record

Coach K gets buzzer-beater win over Virginia for his birthday

Baylor approves new measures to deal with sexual assault

Fans want Floyd Mayweather to buy their soccer team

Tennessee shares Valentines-themed photo of packed stadium

NY Post writer takes harsh shot at Jason Pierre-Paul

LaVine, Gordon put on best NBA dunk contest in years

WATCH: Thompson beats teammate Curry in 3-point contest

NFL teams, players hand out awesome Valentines

Earl Campbell ‘disappointed’ in Johnny Manziel, wants to help

Big man Karl-Anthony Towns wins NBA skills challenge

MLB commish: Cubs will host All-Star Game in near future

WATCH: Memphis forward recreates Vince Carter's elbow dunk in game

Bruins forward is goal scoring machine after suspension

Michael Jordan gives Kobe Bryant complete set of Air Jordans

Drake has Kentucky edition of custom ‘OVO’ Air Jordan 8s

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

LaVine dedicates dunk contest win to Flip Saunders

Ranking the ten best free agent pitcher signings

Who had the best NBA All-Star Game of the last 40 years?

The winners and losers of the 2016 MLB offseason

On Kobe Bryant and taking greatness for granted

Bucks need to choose between wins, development

Fantasy booking WrestleMania 32

Unrestricted free agents each team must consider re-signing

QUIZ: Name the winners of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest

Thank you Daniel Bryan

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker