Even as unwatchable as the NFL product has been this season, how is it that a $14 billion enterprise is so dysfunctional that its two most powerful people are going for each other’s throats?
Jerry Jones wants to stop Roger Goodell’s five-year contract extension and has threatened a lawsuit. Goodell is counter-punching and league owners are threatening to take away the Cowboys franchise from Jones.
It all stems from Zeke Elliott’s six-game suspension for domestic violence, a penalty depriving Jones of his best player for five more games in the toughest part of the season when Dallas is fighting for a playoff spot.
I don’t think Jones would be attacking Goodell if he was a candidate for the Hall of Fame class of 2018 and risk this intense power struggle costing him votes. Instead, after Jones was enshrined in August, he seems empowered by his gold jacket and is using it to shield him from the sparks flying in his direction out of 345 Park Avenue.
About 18 months ago, I was told by a member of Goodell’s inner circle that he was having doubts whether he wanted to continue as commissioner once his contract expired in March of 2019. He had already made enough money to last many generations of Goodells and the aggravation and the pressure, especially after the Ray Rice case in 2014, were wearing him down. He had gone so far as to identify candidates in the NFL office to succeed him.
Goodell is a stubborn and prideful man. I’ve known him for 35 years back to when he was a public relations intern. If he still was undecided whether to stay, there’s no way he would leave now and let Jones win.
Besides, he’s only 58 years old and even though he’s made $200 million since he became commissioner in 2006, who leaves what is now $40 million a year on the table even if this is no longer the dream job and the only job he’s ever wanted?
I was covering the Cowboys for the Dallas Morning News when Jones bought the team 28 years ago. Immediate impression after the Saturday Night Massacre press conference in the team meeting room at Valley Ranch on Feb. 25, 1989 after Jones fired Tom Landry even before NFL owners had approved his $140 million purchase: J.R. Ewing was no longer a fictional character. Jones is powerful, manipulative and smart and usually gets what he wants.
Jerry Jones threat to Goodell: ‘I’m going to come after you’
The end result of this high-stakes showdown: Goodell will get his extension and Jones will still own his $4 billion franchise. Can you imagine the lawyer fees if either one of these issues went to court? Goodell makes the owners too much money for Jones to get enough of them to overthrow him. This is not the NBA and Donald Sterling and it’s just not realistic that Jones would lose his franchise because he’s challenging Goodell’s contract.
This is not just two rich and powerful men staking out their turf. This is Al Davis (Jones’ hero) vs. Pete Rozelle (Goodell’s hero) nearly 40 years later. This is vicious.
Let’s take a couple of steps back:
On Feb. 4 in Houston, Jones received at least the 80% minimum votes required from the 48-member Pro Football HOF selection committee to gain entry in the contributor category.
Jerry Jones requests meeting with fellow owners, quickly denied
One night before the induction ceremony six months later, Jones tossed himself quite a party at a country club in Canton under a huge tent that took days to construct. Party cost: Many, many, many millions.
Justin Timberlake and The Tennessee Kids provided the entertainment. Imagine JT’s invoice for that one. Huge hamburgers in aluminum wrap, a box of donuts and a bottle of water in a keepsake Jerry Jones gold HOF box were the parting gifts.
The guest list included Cowboys greats and assistant coaches from past eras; Cowboys mascot Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey in his spare time; Warren Buffett, the only person in the room worth more than Jones; the current Cowboys team and coaches; and Goodell, one of Jones’ biggest allies for the past three decades.
Jones stood on a second level that enabled him to survey his A-list guests. Elliott was hanging out with friends in the main room not far from the stage. Goodell was 20 yards away near the hallway that led into the tent. Elliott and Goodell didn’t cross paths.
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The next night, Aug. 5, Jones was glowing in his gold jacket and wearing a Texas-sized smile as he gave his speech at the HOF ceremony. As part of his long dissertation, Jones said:
“As a young man, I always knew why this game was great and why it had such value, certainly individually, for me. As someone who owned a team, I was always thinking how we could go to the next level, how do we make it better. We have a leader today in Roger Goodell who really does live by that standard. We have a group of owners and coaches and players who cherish their opportunity to carry the ball for a while.”
We interrupt this lovefest for this urgent announcement:
Seven days later, on Aug. 11, Goodell suspended Elliott, concluding a year-long investigation. Elliott was suspended despite never being charged in the case. He was suspended even though Jones, speaking with the assurance of someone owning inside information, insisted all summer and as recently as the day before his induction that Elliott would not be suspended.
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Back in May, the NFL owners voted 32-0 to give the six-member compensation committee the authority to open negotiations with Goodell and come to an agreement on a five-year contract extension through March of 2024 that would not require a vote by the full membership. Jones was part of that 32-0 vote. But once Elliott was suspended, Jones declared war on Goodell. He has said it has nothing to do with Elliott but that things had changed in the league since May and he wants the entire ownership to be able to review the contract and vote on it.
After Goodell informed Jones of Elliott’s suspension before it went public, ESPN reported Jones responded, “I’m gonna come after you with everything I have.”
Jones is the only owner who has threatened his players that he will bench them if they don’t stand for the national anthem. Goodell wants the players to stand but won’t make it mandatory. The protests are costing the NFL fans and sponsorships.
Jones last week asked for a special league meeting to discuss Goodell’s extension. He was turned down and told to wait for the regular scheduled winter meetings in Dallas on Dec. 13. A couple of weeks ago, Jones hired high-powered attorney David Boies to represent him in his fight against Goodell and the league. Boies is an interesting choice because he successfully represented all the NFL owners in the 2011 lockout battle against the NFLPA.
Jones calls report that he could be forced from NFL ‘laughable’
It was reported that Goodell is asking for $49.5 million per year and lifetime use of a private jet at the NFL reduced rate and lifetime health insurance for his family. If he can get that – good for him. But it seems out of whack he would get paid twice as much as the NFL’s highest paid player and receive lifetime health insurance when players who bang their heads against each other for a living don’t have it and then face endless red tape when they file disability claims.
Critics of Goodell blasted him for going too soft on Rice in 2014. Jones blasted him for being too tough on Elliott. Considering what’s going on in this country with the revelations about sexual misconduct, it’s better that Goodell is too tough than too soft.
Jones sees no reason to rush into signing Goodell up right now for another $200 million.
“He’s served about 60%, roughly 65% of his contract,” Jones said on his radio show. “He has 18 months left on there. We’ve got all the time in the world to evaluate what we’re doing. We’ve got all the time in the world to extend him. We just need to slow this train down and have a lot of time to discuss the issues at hand in the NFL and have a good, fair input from all the owners, which we’re not getting.”
Jerry Jones’ war against NFL commish Roger Goodell getting nasty
One night before the AFC Championship Game in January of 2015, Patriots owner Robert Kraft had a party at his house and Goodell was among the guests. The next day was the beginning of Deflategate. A few months later, Goodell suspended Tom Brady four games, fined the Patriots $1 million and took away first- and fourth-round picks from New England
Moral of the story: Never invite Roger Goodell to a party.
HAPPY FUMBLE DAY
Giants Stadium: Exactly 39 years ago, Nov. 19, 1978. Joe Pisarcik followed orders and tried to hand the ball to Larry Csonka instead of taking a knee to run out the clock (there were 31 seconds left) with the Giants up 17-12 against the Eagles. The call from offensive coordinator Bob Gibson: Pro Up 65. It was not a clean exchange on the snap to Pisarcik and his attempt to hand it off hit Csonka on the hip, Philly’s Herm Edwards scooped it up on the second hop and took it 26 yards for the winning TD.
Not to be outdone, the five-year anniversary of Mark Sanchez’s Butt Fumble is Wednesday. It happened in the Jets game at MetLife against New England on Thanksgiving Night when Sanchez slipped and his head slammed into guard Brandon Moore’s butt. New England’s Steve Gregory returned it 32 yards for a TD in the second quarter of the Jets’ 49-19 loss.
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Happy Anniversary, Joe and Mark. Happy Anniversary Giants and Jets.
FIT NO BILL
Tyrod Taylor helped the Bills get off to a 5-2 start, but after blowout losses to the Jets and Saints, rookie coach Sean McDermott benched him and will start rookie Nathan Peterman, a fifth round pick, against the Chargers in Los Angeles on Sunday. Taylor was brought in by Rex Ryan, so he’s not McDermott’s guy. He lost his job after he was 9-for-18 for 56 yards in a 47-10 loss to New Orleans last week. He was benched with just under five minutes left and the Bills trailing 40-3 one week after he was sacked seven times in a 34-21 loss to the Jets. The Bills have two picks in each of the first two rounds of the 2018 draft and have the currency to move up for a quarterback. They passed on Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes with the 10th overall pick this year and swapped spots with KC and picked up the Chiefs’ 2018 No. 1 pick. They also own the Rams’ second-round pick for WR Sammy Watkins and the Eagles’ third-round pick for CB Ronald Darby. They traded their own third-round pick to the Panthers at the deadline for WR Kelvin Benjamin. It wasn’t surprising that Taylor was benched as much as it was surprising that he held the job for 2½ years… If Todd Bowles was ever going to bench Josh McCown and give Christian Hackenberg, and to a lesser extent Bryce Petty, a chance to play, it would have happened after the loss in Tampa dropped the Jets to 4-6 going into their bye week. It seems clear that Bowles and his coaches and perhaps GM Mike Maccagnan, who drafted both of them, concede that neither can play.
The Giants have four home games remaining, including all three against the NFC East. If MetLife is more than half-filled with Cowboys fans on Dec. 10, Eagles fans on Dec. 17 and Washington fans in the final game on Dec. 31, it will be humiliating for John Mara and Steve Tisch and make it even harder to bring back Jerry Reese and/or Ben McAdoo. The NFC East games are always the most intense and anticipated on the Giants’ home schedule and this year they are meaningless except for draft position… The Giants scoreboard watching is not focused on the Eagles, Cowboys and Washington. Instead, it’s all about hoping the Browns and 49ers can win some games and the Giants can get the No. 1 draft pick. If the season ends with the Browns winless, they would get the first pick for the second year in a row. If the Giants and 49ers each finish 1-15, the second pick would not automatically go to the Giants just because they lost to the 49ers. The tie-breaker is strength of schedule (the won-loss records of the 16 opponents) with the team having the weaker schedule getting the higher pick. The reasoning is they had the same record against an easier schedule, so they are worse. My early prediction is the Giants wind up with UCLA QB Josh Rosen… Even though Darrelle Revis was terrible last year, I still thought at least one team would bring him in for a workout. Cornerbacks are such valuable commodities, especially a guy with a Hall of Fame resume, but Revis’ indifferent play for the Jets convinced teams he was no longer into it… It’s too bad for the Bucs that no more New York teams are coming to visit. After beating the Giants at home on Oct. 1, the Bucs lost five in a row until the Jets visited on Nov. 12.
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