Mac Engel

Goodell won, and now he should listen to Jerry

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, left, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones talk during the owners meetings in December in Irving.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, left, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones talk during the owners meetings in December in Irving. AP

Watching Jerry Jones and Roger Goodell exchange a bro hug at the Four Seasons Hotel projected the sincerity of a politician’s apology and the warmth of a divorced couple.

There they were, putting on a show for the cameras after the NFL finalized what will likely be Goodell’s final contract.

After the NFL’s owners meeting finished on Wednesday, which could have passed for a geriatric convention, Goodell introduced Jerry to the lectern to talk to the media; it was the NFL’s version of Thing 1 and Thing 2.

So what exactly was this all about here?

A bunch of old, rich, white guys finally agreed on the amount to over-pay an employee who had no leverage to make even a fourth of what the NFL will hand him to baby sit these guys. And they also agreed that their rules need tweaking. A lot of them.

Before that, the NFL wants you to know that Goodell pays for his own private planes, thank you very much. And that he agreed to an extension through the 2023 season that is worth up to $200 million, and tied closely to the financial performance of the league.

So prepare for seven more years of Roger Goodell.

Did Jerry win? No, but he should have. Jerry was not elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame because of his football acumen. He is in Canton because the league grew to historic highs, in part because his influence and ideas. The NFL, and Roger, would be dumb to ignore him now.

What’s become clear is that unlike former NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, or NBA czar David Stern, Goodell is not a visionary, so he needs to lean on those who are.

Jerry’s concerns were never invalid but his timing undercut his message; he looked like a pouting brat when he challenged the NFL over some of its handling regarding his star running back, and there was no way to separate the two.

Jerry was 100 percent right to fight his fellow owners on a contract that would reportedly pay Goodell nearly $40 million per season. Nowhere else would Roger command that type of salary from any other organization, but the NFL fought over this compensation.

Exactly how much of his salary is tied to financial performance of the league wasn’t released, but what does it matter? Roger is rich, and he’s not going anywhere.

If he’s not going anywhere, then at the very least he should listen to Jerry’s concerns, and ideas.

The NFL is not dying, and despite the criticism of the President of the United States, the league is fine. What the NFL is not doing is growing, nor is it the monster that it was when Goodell took over in 2006. The world, and the sport, are not the same since Goodell entered.

“It’s just changed,” Jerry said. “Any document of anything needs to be updated, and certainly we’ve got good things about the way we present our game, play our game, who’s playing our game, social habits. All of those things need to be talked about. I’m not waving my arms saying I’ve got those answers, because I don’t.

“I’m with a group of people, ownership, men and women, I’m with them. That’s who’s best qualified to make those changes more so than staff.”

Jerry missed his calling; he’s thrived as the owner of an NFL team when his services and talents would have been better served as the commissioner of the league.

Jerry has missed on more football player moves than there are miles in the United States, but he’s seldom wrong when it comes to the business of making money. Or knowing what people want, and will pay, when it comes to entertainment.

Jerry may be 75 but he’s young enough to never forget that any business needs to eventually cannibalize, and reinvent, itself. The NFL’s product — football — is under a level of scrutiny, and fear, like no other sport. People are scared to play football now.

“We have the greatest entertainment product in America,” New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft told a small number of us before lunch. “We lost our focus. I don’t think we’ve talked about the game on the field.”

Instead, talk about the NFL has focused on protesting players, some contrived flag controversy, a President who can’t stop Tweeting, TV ratings, attendance, a fight between the league’s highest profile owner and its commissioner, and the real concern regarding the consequences of playing a game so many of us have loved for generations.

Jerry’s spat with Goodell is over, the concerns about this league are not.

“Do I look like I take it personally?” Goodell asked. “People having the ability to disagree within our structure makes us stronger.”

Now that Jerry has lived through the Goodell’s “investigation and suspension process” he knows this must change. Jerry knows the entertainment world rapidly moves now and the NFL has to evolve to keep its place in good standing.

Jerry may not know a lot about football, but he does know about the business of football.

Roger would be dumb not to listen to him. He’s got seven more years.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

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