Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell acted like gentlemen at the NFL owners winter meeting Wednesday.
They did the obligatory hug following the closing press conference at Four Season’s Hotel in Irving and declared the league unified and moving forward after months of contentiousness over Goodell’s contract extension.
Jones didn’t win that battle but he believes he won the war because of how the deal is structured and prospective changes to the contract and the commissioner’s power. Meanwhile, Goodell gets an extension through 2024 worth up to $200 million in likely his last contract with the NFL.
“Do I look like I take it personally? Jerry, do I look like I take it personally?,” Goodell said, pointing to Jones who was in the room. “No is the answer to that question. As I have said before, I think people disagree. People who have the ability to do that within the context of our structure is something that makes us stronger.
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“My relationship with Jerry has been great. We don’t always agree. I’m not paid to agree and he’s not paid to agree with me.”
Said Jones: “I hope Roger earns every dime. That means he’s doing a great job, and we’re doing good.”
But the truth is they haven’t been “doing good” over the last few months, stemming partly from the six-game suspension given to Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott for allegedly committing domestic violence against former girlfriend Tiffany Thompson.
Per sources, Jones was told by Goodell that there would be no discipline.
Elliott was never charged or arrested in the case.
Asked on Wednesday if he ever led Jones to believe Elliott would not face suspension.
“No,” Goodell said before repeating his answer.
Jones was angered by the Elliott suspension but it is also true that he has lobbied to get the NFL out of the investigation business prior to that. He believes potential changes to the commissioner’s power would solve some of those problems.
Jones’ opposition to Goodell’s contract, which included a threatened lawsuit, wasn’t just about Elliott’s situation but other league concerns over the last year, including a TV ratings decline and player protests during the national anthem.
“They have a term in business called a mac,” Jones said. “Material adverse circumstances happen between the time that you shook hands and the time you did the deal. It’s a very valid change of scenery. ... Anybody who says we haven’t had any changes since last spring would be an exaggeration.”
While Jones didn’t get his way in blocking or tabling the extension for six months as he proposed, he did get to walk away feeling some accomplishment over how the commissioner’s contract will be handled going forward.
Per NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart, “almost 90 percent of the compensation is performance-based and not guaranteed.”
And the incentives in the deal will have oversight by at least 24 owners on various committees, including finance and broadcast.
It all falls in line with Jones’ desire that the owners should have more power over the commissioner.
“We all are in agreement that we want to have owners that are elected that basically – on the committee – that are elected by the owners,” Jones said. “Right now they’re not. The chairman is chosen by the guy that gets the money. That’s simple. And so now owners will select that in some form. But more importantly not just future commissioners but right now in this incentive-based contract, these owners who can vary in what they might think the incentive should be, they will be the ones deciding the amount in this contract moving forward.”