If there is one truth about Roger Goodell, it is that he deserves his job to Robert Kraft, owner of the now beleaguered New England Patriots. Kraft helped hire Goodell as NFL Commissioner, after all he is the one of the most powerful owners in the league; more recently, and arguably more importantly, he stood up for Goodell when more than one person, including myself, was calling for Goodell’s job in the wake of the Ray Rice fiasco, the NFL’s apparent impotence with regards to Greg Hardy and Adrian Peterson, and lack of action towards Ray MacDonald. While most likely motivated by money, and Goodell’s good business sense, Kraft is said by those who know him, including journalists, that is a truly loyal man, and made those statements out of sincerity, not seeking favor or gain.
Now, it is Goodell, whether directly or indirectly, who is causing Robert Kraft headaches. Unfortunately for both of them, Goodell still has the hammer with regards to all punishments in the NFL, and although the penalties against the Patriots for allegedly* deflating footballs in the AFC Championship this past year were supposedly made by Troy Vincent, executive VP for the NFL’s football operations, we all know that Goodell was in the loop somewhere. Furthermore, his refusal to recuse himself from Tom Brady’s appeal will hurt himself in the long run; the apparent conflict of interest, since he is involved in this matter more than he’ll admit but everybody is aware of, will play into the NFLPA’s hands when the next CBA rolls around. Maybe it’s Goodell’s way of payback for Brady leading the anti-trust suit during 2011 lockout; after all Brady v. NFL doesn’t sound really nice to him.
Meanwhile, Robert Kraft is angry. He did not like the report compiled and assembled by Ted Wells; he viewed it as all circumstantial evidence, and thought that while the Patriots were deserving of punishment (as implicitly stated when he initially said they would not fight whatever discipline the NFL decided on), what they received was excessive. The Patriots lashed out, via their attorney, and Brady lashed out, via his agent. Robert Kraft made a statement to Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback which left the door open for a legal appeal of the penalties. Brady could very well go to Federal court as well.
Let’s get a few truths out of the way:
- Robert Kraft never made an issue out of the Bounty-gate’s circumstantial case. Of course, lest we forget the only discipline to stand up ultimately was to a head coach, a general manager, and the Saints organization; and I have a feeling that Tom Benson, who owns the Saints, did not want to cause a rift with the NFL by suing it
- There are 31 other NFL teams who are all a little happy, if not more, that the Patriots received this punishment. Although this does not absolve all of Roger Goodells’ sins with the Saints or any other team, it does earn him some credit since he came after a staunch ally
- Robert Kraft is a reasonable man; he has been an owner for 20 years, and he knows the business. He would not be speaking out unless he really felt like he got a raw deal
Roger Goodell’s biggest fault is that he has a tendency to overreach with his punishments, (and he got hammered when he didn’t); however, a little flexibility goes a long way. Although Robert Kraft opted not to fight, a smart move in the long run, there is no doubt that this is not the ‘peace with honor’ NFL sources reported that the Patriots and other executives wanted to see. The reality is that this changes nothing with Tom Brady, who is going to fight for his reputation.
If anything, Robert Kraft backing off on his end works out better for the Patriots; it sets up a repeat of the Bounty-gate discipline result, where the player contests his suspension, and wins, but the organization takes the blow for public relations purposes**. It also allows the rest of the NFL at the franchise level to move on; something more important to Robert Kraft than endlessly fighting the good fight, a la Al Davis.
Despite its end, this feud will have lasting consequences. Although the 32 owners may not want to fire Roger Goodell, and certainly you’re not going to find the required 24 who do, there is nothing to say that this won’t come up when Goodell’s contract renewal comes up; or perhaps ownership will use this as part of their justification to restrict and/or re-organize the power of the commissioner’s office. In any case, it is apparent that the King won this round, but as long as he needs the Kingmaker, it will not go away anytime soon.
Thanks for reading.
*I don’t believe they are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt with regards to the deflation scandal, I want to be honest about that
**I’m assuming that the Saints knew they would lose the appeal and did so to buy time to come up with a plan for the next year, as was the thought of many at the time