The 2016 NFL season opened with the league’s most accomplished player in exile, the recipient of a four-game suspension that cost tens of millions for Roger Goodell to ultimately carry out.
He got it done. But in the process, the deceitfulness, vindictiveness and hypocrisy unearthed did more damage to Goodell, the “Shield” and the owners that pay him than it did to Brady.
And now, the 2016 season will conclude with a painful franchise relocation for the San Diego Chargers. Quite a legacy Roger’s carving out for himself, isn’t it?
ESPN’s Seth Wickersham, wrote a piece Thursday about the Chargers move to Los Angeles. Wickersham recalled Chargers owner Dean Spanos standing to speak to a room of his fellow owners last month in Texas, Spanos explaining how bleak it was becoming in San Diego.
“It became clear why Spanos was speaking: He was telling them … that he was planning to move to L.A. It was sad and dire and unprecedented in Roger Goodell's decade as commissioner: An owner unwillingly moving a team to a city that doesn't seem to want it, sharing a stadium with an owner, Stan Kroenke, who doesn't want to split it, witnessed and engineered by a group of owners whose sympathy only goes so far.
" 'I have no choice,' Spanos said."
This is life in Goodell’s NFL. Or, rather, the NFL that Goodell serves as the figurehead CEO/Sheriff/Human Shield/Pissboy for.
He’s got one team that moved from St. Louis to the coveted Los Angeles market – the Rams – which despite league efforts to prop it up wound up somehow causing NFL ratings in the city to go down.
He’s got another team trying to extricate itself from Oakland to go to Las Vegas, which means another pissed-off fanbase that the league really couldn’t care less about. San Diego will join that list now so another team can set up shop in a city that is unmoved by the presence of one team and will be doubly unmoved by the presence of a second.
The league’s rudderless operations department butchered investigations (Josh Brown), events (The Hall of Fame Game) and selectively enforced its rules so that its pet franchises remained above the fray.
This weekend, you can guaran-damn-tee the product – the game itself – will be undercut at some point by a subjective judgment from a game official that the entire nation will know is wrong thanks to instant replay. But the official won’t be privy to it because why would you want the guy making the decision to have all the information.
All in the quest to get to $25 billion.
That’s what this is all about. The ultimate Viagra moment for the NFL came in 2010 when at the Annual Meeting in Orlando, Goodell told the 32 member clubs he could get the league to $25 billion in revenue by 2027.
It was at $8.35 billion then.
It’s over $13 billion now.
The key to wringing networks, sponsors, you and me for the next $12 billion over the next decade means there’s no time for feelings, loyalty or tapping the brakes to ask whether the whole operation is headed in the right direction.
Growth. Growth. Mommyscratching growth.
That’s what the owners -- 15 of which have come into possession of their franchise since 1990 -- understand because that’s what their own businesses did to make it possible for them to buy NFL teams.
Goodell’s made a mockery of the word “integrity” over the past three years. And 2016 has become a stain on his legacy that hopefully remains visible long after he’s put out to pasture to wallow in money the game earned him. He likes to describe himself as a mere “steward”, in service to the fans and the game. By now, we all know that’s not true. He’s a strip-miner in service to his owners.
Dean Spanos didn’t want to leave San Diego. But San Diego wasn’t going to bend over and allow a publicly-financed stadium to be lodged in its behind by a league that thinks it’s going to be earning – again - $25 BILLION a year in a decade.
So now there are two franchises that will share one stadium in a town that doesn’t care. You’re killing it, Roger. Killing it.