Ball Of Incompetence: Part I
The Mismanagement Of The National Football League
By Michael A. Maynard
January 26, 2015

The National Football League (NFL) is a $10 Billion international enterprise. The local pizza parlor is run more competently.

This week, the United States will experience it’s 49th edition of its national pagan holiday, The Super Bowl. Over 100 million people will watch the big game on television. The 2013 contest drew 163.9 million viewers.

The Super Bowl Sunday is a national day of gluttony:

8 million: Total pounds of popcorn consumed on Super Bowl Sunday.

28 million: Pounds of potato chips consumed.

53.5 million: Pounds of avocados consumed.

222,792: Number of football fields worth of farmland to grow all that
corn, potatoes, and avocados.

11.8: Depth, in feet, of guacamole consumed if it were spread across the football field.

293,000: Number of miles of potato chips, laid end to end, consumed during the game.

1 billion: Number of chicken wings consumed on Super Bowl Sunday.

325.5 million: Gallons of beer drank by Americans that day.

493: Number of Olympic-sized swimming pools that could be filled with all that beer.

20%: Increase in antacid sales the Monday after the game.

7 million: Number of employees who will not show up to work Monday.

“According to the National Federation of Retailers, those viewers will spend an average $68.27 on game-day food, team clothing, decorations and televisions. The NRF estimates total spending will hit $12.3 billion, an amount that has been trending up over the past few years except during the recession.”

For 2014’s Super Bowl, approximately $120M was bet at Las Vegas casinos. Add to this figure all the monies bet in international betting parlors and on the Internet, inter-office pools, illegal gambling and friendly bets between friends. My guess is that the total bet is at least double the $120M. To attend the game is expensive, too. Tickets for the 2014 Super Bowl at the 50 yard line cost $10,000 each. A 20 ounce cup of Bud Light cost the attendee $14.

The Super Bowl is big business. The National Football League is BIG BUSINESS. Current NFL revenues is estimated to be $10 Billion. The NFL’s goal is to reach at least $25 Billion by 2027.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell gave the magic number at a meeting of NFL team owners in 2010: a goal of tripling league revenue in 17 years. If it happens, the NFL would have more income than the gross domestic products of dozens of small countries and would be in the same financial district currently occupied by gigantic global brands such as McDonald’s, Nike and Goodyear Tire, each of which recently took in about $21 to $28 billion annually.

That is rapid growth for a business started in 1918 that failed and was restarted in 1920.

There is a lot to question about the National Football League. Many of its 32 wealthy owners have questionable backgrounds and legal problems. Many of the 1600+ players have questionable backgrounds and criminal records. Many of the 32 head coaches are paranoid control freak megalomaniacs. The NFL is a $10 billion non-profit business, exempt from antitrust laws, yet holds cities and fans hostage to meet its demands for building new taxpayer-funded stadiums for its billionaire and mulit-millionaire owners.

But, in light of the events of the 2014-2015 season, the actions and quality of the management of National Football League are the most questionable of all. In the last week of the NFL season, the Detroit Lions’ thuggish defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh, twice deliberately stepped on the leg of the best player in the league, Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Suh was caught on camera stepping on Rodgers’ leg twice during Sunday, December 28, 2014, 30-20 Packers’ victory. Rodgers had injured the leg earlier in the game while throwing a short touchdown pass to receiver Randall Cobb.

Suh was suspended for one game but had that overturned on appeal. Suh was not flagged on the play, but the NFL ruled Rodgers was “in a defenseless posture” when Suh stepped on his leg the second time, “applying pressure and unnecessarily pushing off Rodgers’ unprotected leg with his left foot, violating playing rules prohibiting unnecessary roughness.”

Rodgers said Tuesday he initially thought he may have torn his Achilles tendon.

“My initial thought was I popped my Achilles,” Rodgers said on his radio show, according to ESPN.com. “That’s why I kind of stayed down. It was a very painful sensation.””

Didn’t Suh’s action affect the quality and integrity of the NFL and the competitive balance of the playoffs?

The controversies about the officiating in the two Dallas Cowboys’ playoff games started the renewed questioning of the competency of the NFL Commissioner.

First, there was the blown pass interference call during the Detroit Lions game:


Former NFL official Mike Carey stated, “This team of NFL officials had not worked together all year”. So for the important playoff games, the NFL throws together a team of officials, part-time employees, who have not worked together previously and expects the teamwork essential for the proper adjudication of the game.

The soundness of this personnel decision was further compounded by the Cowboys’ Dez Bryant’s catch/non-cath next week against the Green Bay Packers.

The Green Bay Packers’ cornerback, Sam Shields, who was covering Dez Bryant, said Bryant caught the ball.

Sam Shields is here to open old wounds. The Green Bay Packers cornerback, who was covering Bryant on the controversial Jan. 11 play, believes the call shouldn’t have been reversed. “It was a catch,” Shields told ESPN this week at Pro Bowl practice in Phoenix. “But the new rule and at the last minute what happened, that’s what the refs came up with. “I never said he didn’t catch it. He made a helluva catch I was in great coverage. Like I said, it was good on good and he came up with the catch.”

The Nation’s Dave Zirin’s wrote about NFL referees:

It’s embarrassing that replacement referees with highlights on their resumes like working for the Lingerie Football League have been bungling calls throughout the preseason. This has included screwing up the small detail of which teams were actually on the field. It’s embarrassing that in a league where any play could be the last time someone walks without a limp or concussion, these incompetents are in charge of monitoring the health and safety of players. It’s embarrassing that members of the NFL Players Association, who are part of the AFL-CIO, will, once on the field, be under the authority of scabs.

It’s also bewildering. Consider the multi-billion dollar entity that is the National Football League. Then consider that NFL referees are 119 part-time employees who make $8,000 a week. As Jeff MacGregor calculated at espn.com, at a cost of $50 million a year—less than one percent of total revenue—NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell could hire 200 full-time officials at $250,000 a year. Conversely, if Goodell gets everything he wants from the referees union and he doesn’t have to spend too much in legal fees, it works out to league-wide savings of just $62,000 per team.

Locking them out is like using an Uzi on a field mouse. The question once again is why? Why has NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, taken such a hard line? After a year defined by the tragic suicides of former players suffering from post-concussion syndrome and a looming lawsuit brought by 2000 former players contending that the NFL didn’t take their safety seriously, why would they engage in such naked contempt for the well-being of players and the integrity of their game? Simply put, because they can.

My concerns about the management of the National Football League were first heightened when I wrote “Ball Of Concussion” and learned that NFL management withheld information about the severity of concussions from the players, possibly for decades. It took a lawsuit by 2,000+ former NFL players to get the league conducted studies about concussions released and to get a first settlement of $675M to these critically damaged warriors. It took the suicides of former NFL players Mike Webster and Junior Seau, suffering from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy – brain damage from concussions – for action to be taken.

Roger Goodell is the current NFL commissioner. He is a “company man”, meaning he has had no other business experience other than as an employee of the National Football League. His bosses are the 32 NFL owners, most of whom are billionaires and many of whom are not the world’s finest citizens. Even the NFL owners had reservations about whether Goodell should become their commissioner.

Goodell’s career in the NFL began in 1982 as an administrative intern in the league office in New York under then-Commissioner Pete Rozelle – a position secured through a letter-writing campaign to the league office and each of its then 28 teams.[11][12] In 1983, he joined the New York Jets as an intern, but returned to the league office in 1984 as an assistant in the public relations department.[13][14][15]

In 1987, Goodell was appointed assistant to the president of the American Football Conference, Lamar Hunt, and under the tutelage of Commissioner Paul Tagliabue filled a variety of football and business operations roles, culminating with his appointment as the NFL’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer in December 2001. As the NFL’s COO, Goodell took responsibility for the league’s football operations and officiating, as well as supervised league business functions. He headed NFL Ventures, which oversees the league’s business units, including media properties, marketing and sales, stadium development and strategic planning.[16]

Goodell was heavily involved in the negotiation of the collective bargaining agreement with the NFLPA and NFL owners during the summer of 2011.[17] He also played an extensive role in league expansion, realignment, and stadium development, including the launch of the NFL Network and securing new television agreements.[16]

Goodell’s selection as Commissioner following the retirement of Paul Tagliabue came as no surprise, but it was not a fait accompli. Tagliabue initiated a substantive, wide-ranging search for his successor, appointing a committee headed by owner Dan Rooney of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Goodell was one of five finalists, joining Gregg Levy, Frederick Nance, Robert Reynolds, and Mayo Shattuck III. With 22 votes from the owners needed to make a choice, Goodell, who oddsmakers had installed as a prohibitive 2:5 favorite to be selected, only garnered 15 votes to Levy’s 13, with three votes scattered among the other candidates and the Oakland Raiders abstaining.

Goodell is paid well for being a company man – his total compensation in 2012 was $44.5 million. In contrast, Jamie Dimon, the Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Office of J.P. Morgan Chase, and CEO of the Year in 2011, was paid $20 million in 2013 for an international business with $24 billion in sales.

No offense, but being CEO of one of the largest financial institutions, which impacts the world’s economy, is much more important than someone who oversees a company where approximately 1,600 large men run into each other at full speed, once a week for 16 to 20 weeks each year. The major difference between Dimon and Goodell is that Dimon makes mucho dinero using your money to place bets and gets bailed out from his losses by your tax dollars. Goodell makes mucho dinero getting bailed out by your tax dollars to build stadiums to play the games on which you bet and lose your money.

In Roger Goodell’s term as commissioner, the NFL has had (among other controversies) “Paid Assassin-gate”,;“Racist Bully-gate”; “Wife Beating- gate”; “Can’t Find The Video- gate”; “Child Beater-gate”; the most recent “Hot Air-gate”; and the most famous/infamous of them all, “Hand Gestures-gate”. Most of them wound up exonerating the Commissioner’s office from any role in the wrong-doing through hiring a term of $500/hr+ lawyers, and with “Can’t Find The Video-gate”, the former FBI director, Robert Mueller. Most required the law firms writing a “white paper” or report exonerating the NFL management’s involvement. When you have one white paper written, then there may be a management problem. When you have to have 4 white papers written in the course of 2 years, there is definitely a management problem.

(Note: for those readers who are not sports junkies, Paid Assassin-gate involved the New Orleans Saints’ coaches and players creating a betting pool on which opposing players they will injure, a/k/a Bounty-Gate. Racist Bully-gate was the Miami Dolphins’ Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito confligration. Wife Beating-gate was the Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice’s one-punch knockout of this then girlfriend-now wife in a lobby elevator. Can’t Find The Video Gate was Roger Goodell’s claim he didn’t see the elevator video from Wife Beating-gate, even though the tabloid TV magazine, TMZ and the rest of the modern world, did. Child Beating-gate was the Minnesota Vikings’ Adrian Peterson’s using a switch on the naked buttocks of his son.)

Adding to the controversy surrounding the Ray Rice, was Roger Goodell’s appearance on CBS “Good Morning”:

And then Goodell’s following press conference:

What Goodell fails to mention is that the NFL Commissioner’s Office has its own security force headed by Jeffrey B. Miller, former head of the Pennsylvania State Police force. Mr. Miller, the NFL’s Director of Strategic Security, was hired by the NFL in 2008, presumably to prevent any more “Hand Gestures-gates” from occurring. This is another reference to the incompetence of Roger Goodell, an incompetent manager creates new positions with non-industry standard undecipherable titles in reaction to events, instead of correcting the problems with the existing staff. Certainly Mr. Miller’s hiring has not stopped any more gates from happening.

The highly respected NFL insider, Mike Florio of NBC Sports and Pro Football Talk, reports that the video of Ray Rice’s was sent directly to Jeffrey Miller.

Fifteen days ago, the Associated Press reported that the elevator video of the punch from Ray Rice that knocked out his then-fiancée had been sent by a law-enforcement official to the NFL. Tonight, the AP reports that the video specifically was sent to NFL security director Jeff Miller….

“Since the NFLPA (National Football League Players’ Association) and NFL have launched separate investigations into the league and the Ravens’ handling of Ray Rice’s case, I want to make a few things clear,” the source said. “No one from the NFL ever asked me for the inside-elevator video. I mailed it anonymously to Jeff Miller because he’s their head of security. I attached a note saying: ‘Ray Rice elevator video. You have to see it. It’s terrible.’ I provided a number for a disposable cellphone and asked for confirmation that it was received. I knew there was a possibility Mr. Miller may not get the video, but I hoped it would land in the right hands.”

The AP originally reported that a call was received by the anonymous official, and a female voice said in a message, “You’re right. It’s terrible.”

So even if this video was not sent by the law-enforcement official or received properly, Mr. Goodell and Mr. Miller did not have the combined common sense of calling the head of security at the Atlantic City casino, where the Ray Rice incident occurred, to get the video tape(s) of what happened? Everyone else knows you can’t make a move in any casino without the Eye In the Sky watching you.

Critics, though, have concerned themselves with what the NFL knew about the video itself and when they knew it. Goodell admitted in a letter to team owners late last month that he’d erred in first assigning Rice a mere two-game suspension. He has maintained this week that the NFL tried but never succeeded in obtaining the video evidence from inside the elevator. Those gestures toward doing the right thing were good enough for Kraft (New England Patriots’ owner, Robert Kraft):

“I know our commissioner has taken some heat, and I just want to say that I spoke with him yesterday when this came out, not knowing what was going to happen and knowing I was coming in here, and he had no knowledge of this video,” Kraft said. “The way he has handled this situation himself, coming out with the mea culpa in his statement a couple weeks ago, or ten days ago, and setting a very clear policy of how we conduct ourselves in the NFL, I thought was excellent. Anyone who is second guessing that doesn’t know him.”

 

One way an incompetent manager holds on to his job is to become buddy-buddy with his boss or bosses. The commissioner of the NFL and the owner of the NFL’s most controversial team, the New England Patriots, are buddy-buddy, despite the impropriety involved. The irony is that the Patriots are involved in two of the “gates”: Deflated Footballs (Hot Air- gate) and the very serious Spygate (Hand Gestures-gate) that has diminished the integrity of the National Football League.

Part Two will discuss the ongoing battle between Roger Goodell and the Head Coach/General Manager of the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick.

If you enjoyed reading this article, please feel free to share with others. Also, there are more articles on a variety of subjects to be found at mmaynard119.wordpress.com. Thank you for support and interest.

Copyright ©  January 2015:  Michael A. Maynard

UPDATE: February 13, 2015

The NFL commissioner earned $35 million in 2013, according to tax return documents made available to SportsBusiness Daily. Goodell made $44.2 million in 2012, but $9 million of that came in deferred pay, according to The Daily, making the commissioner’s earnings in 2012 and 2013 relatively equal. Goodell’s $35 million salary largely was bonus-based, with $31 million coming in bonuses. The next-highest paid NFL executive, general counsel Jeff Pash, made $7.5 million in 2013, $1.3 million of which included deferred pay earned in previous years. “The Commissioner’s total compensation in 2013 is a fair reflection of his leadership and contributions during the year,” Falcons owner and chair of the Compensation Committee Arthur Blank said in a statement. “Compensation packages for Roger and other senior executives are reviewed annually; accordingly, the compensation committee will conduct a thoughtful review and make a determination of 2014 compensation in March.” It will be interesting to see whether Goodell’s 2014 earnings take a hit after a tumultuous season marred by domestic abuse cases, a child abuse incident and, of course, DeflateGate. Helping determine that number, ironically enough, will be New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who along with Blank and Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson make up the three-member compensation committee.

 

Columnist/Journalist/Writer/Book Editor Co-Founder/CEO of Azimuth Partners, high tech consulting firm for 30+ years. Former columnist for the Washington Post/Newsweek syndicate.

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