Originally written on The I in Team  |  Last updated 3/20/12

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - FEBRUARY 05: Commissioner of the NFL Roger Goodell speaks to members of the media during the NFL Commissioner Press Conference held at the Greater Ft. Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center as part of media week for Super Bowl XLIV on February 5, 2010 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

I’ve always been a bit leery of Roger Goodell’s reign as czar of the NFL. I don’t remember a commissioner that was so perpetually at the center of controversy in the NFL. I realize that that is partially a by product of the 24/7 news cycle, but Googell often comes out with these unilateral decisions. Whether it be fines and suspensions on hits or suspensions for being disqualified from college (Terelle Pryor), it has always seemed to be Goodell’s way or the high way.

Some would argue that this is good for football, that the commissioner needs to be tough and strong willed to affect change. I can accept that argument, but I think we’ve reached a point where we can all agree that Goodell has gone too far. It came out the day before the opening of free agency that the NFL would take $10 million of cap space from the Cowboys and $36 million from the Redskins and redistribute that to the remaining teams in the league. As a Bears’ fan, that’s great news, but it strikes me as patently unfair.

The issue arose due to the fact that the Cowboys and Redskins (two of the richer teams in the league) gamed the system a bit to take advantage of the uncapped year in 2010. The uncapped year is a bit of an odd duck, but due to the quirks of the CBA that all teams were working under, it was perfectly legal to spend with wild abandon. With the pocket books of Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder backing the teams, that’s what happened in Dallas and Washington.

That should have been the end of the story, especially as that competitive advantage didn’t lead to winning football (both teams finished 6-10), but Goodell has, in essence, made it retroactively against the rules. Since there was no rules on the books to counter the CBA, the only way by which Goodell could penalize the two teams was by getting the player’s union to sign off that it was a violation of the labor deal. Normally, the NFLPA would tell Goodell to go to hell; after all, members of the union benefited from that spending. Goodell was able to get the NFLPA on his side by agreeing to help pump up the average team salary cap. This move turned out to be a win-win for the players’ union and for Goodell. It means more money, both in the past and now in the future for players and it gave Goodell the meat to his warning for team’s to not overspend in the uncapped year.

Collusion is an ugly word, but in a sense, Goodell’s warning served as notice to the league’s owner’s that they shouldn’t spend large amounts despite no legitimate reason not to. The fact that Goodell can now enforce the de facto collusion by punishing Dallas and Washington after the fact is farcical. It leaves no bounds to the levels of his power. It would be akin to Bud Selig retroactively fining and punishing teams that had admitted steroid users in the early 90′s. Yes, steroids were a bit of a cheap way to get ahead, but it wasn’t against the rules. It’s not a perfect analogy, but it does help illustrate the ridiculous level of control that Goodell wields. At the rate he’s going, since the union can’t check his control, he’ll rechristen the Commissioner’s office as the Czar’s chambers and appoint himself Czar for life.

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