Unpopular NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Has Seen Better Years

By Harry Dole

If NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was a career politician, as his father was, he would be at imminent risk of being canned by his constituents.  With even Mitt Romney smoking Goodell in popularity numbers, there have been better years for the 53-year-old league commish, who is currently in his seventh year at the helm.

During a recent poll of NFL players, 61% disapprove of Goodell’s leadership.  With only 300 players polled by USA Today and with those who fear voting against the affable tyrant, it is not unreasonable to assume the disapproval rating is hovering around three quarters of the players.  We are talking Ross Perot approval ratings here.

The major points of contention against Goodell include his handling of the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal and the league’s expensive fines on players for illegal hits.  Other factors which have certainly contributed to Goodell’s slide in popularity include the replacement referee situation earlier this season, his idea to expand an already watered down playoff field, and the numerous complicated rules which are hampering the quality of the league product.  You can also throw into the mix a league schedule of terribly-played Thursday night games, mostly due to a short week of preparation by teams.

Earlier in the season, Former league commissioner Paul Tagliabue took aim at Goodell and alleged in his report that the commish was unreasonably biased and excessive in the punishment he doled out to the Saints organization and its players for the bounty incident.  Ever since the report, everyone seems to be coming out of the woodwork to pile criticisms on the embattled commissioner.  Defending Goodell has become just as difficult as defending passes with all the recent ridiculous rule changes.

Goodell attempted to display some good will by cutting down Saints head coach Sean Payton’s suspension by a whopping two weeks.  This had more to do with the Super Bowl being played in the Saints home stadium than anything else, and will hardly make a dent in even beginning to repair Goodell’s tarnished image.  Proving the early reinstatement of Payton was just a superficial public relations gesture, Goodell stated New Orleans will still have to forfeit a 2013 second round draft as punishment for the bounty scandal.

Although the Saints situation remains a thorn in Goodell’s side, a potentially more damaging situation for the league is the class action lawsuit filed by 2,000 former NFL players alleging the league hid information relating football head trauma injuries to permanent brain damage.  The family of the late Junior Seau, who committed suicide in May of 2012, was the latest to file a wrongful death litigation against the league.

In response to the lawsuits, the NFL has pretty much outlawed tackling where there is any sort of contact anywhere near a ball carrier’s head.  It has reached the point where super slow-motion video is required to review alomost every questionable tackle.  The myriad of new rules have transformed a game, where tackles that were once considered clean, are now fined severely.  With today’s rules, the old Steel Curtain, Purple People Eaters, Fearsome Foursome and Monsters of the Midway would have been fined a year’s worth of salary practically every game.

Whether or not the new rules are protecting the players from future health issues remains to be seen.  But what the new rules have done is diminish the on field product and subject physical defensive players to hefty fines.  Outlawing the intimidation factor in a blood sport like football has turned the game into an arcade video game version of its former self, where completing passes is as easy as chucking the ball aimlessly into the air.

So while wannabe karate kid Tom Brady receives only a $10,000 fine for kicking Ed Reed with his cleats during a slide, Frank Gore gets fined $10,500 by the league for wearing his socks too low.  It is a good thing for Brady he did not pull his socks down prior to attempting the kick.

These are the type of idiotic league decisions which have Goodell and league administrators looking like complete bozos to both fans and players.  It is as if Goodell and company are auditioning for a future in the New York Jets front office.

To help Goodell recover from the relentless hits he has taken this year, maybe he should consider using some deer antler spray, since nothing else seems to be working.

Twitter: @HarrisDole

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