Is Roger Goodell Ruining Football?

DerekCorrespondent IApril 5, 2009

I can’t deny that prior to the 2006 football season, I wanted to see some reform in the NFL.

The league seemed to be out of control.  Tank Johnson was facing multiple gun charges, and Jamal Lewis had just finished a four-month stretch for setting up a massive cocaine deal. 

Adam “Pacman” Jones was involved in a number of off-the-field violations, including possession, assault, disorderly conduct, public intoxication, and was under investigation for an incident involving a shooting outside a Las Vegas strip club that left a man paralyzed. 

Cincinnati Bengals WR Chris Henry was arrested in a string of violations ranging from possession of marijuana and felony gun charges to driving under the influence.  And then there was Michael Vick and the dog-fighting fiasco.

The list goes on and on.

There was no doubt that something needed to happen.  Someone had to start holding players accountable.  The owners decided that man was Roger Goodell.

Dubbed “The New Sheriff in Town,” Goodell kicked off the 2007 season doling out punishment. He suspended Adam Jones for the entire season, Chris Henry for eight games, Tank Johnson for 10, and Michael Vick indefinitely.

And who could blame him?  The NFL needed to clean up its image.

But over the past year, Goodell has begun to misuse his authority and overstep his boundaries.  He’s proved himself to be an “owner’s commissioner” and has diminished the game in the eyes of many fans.  In my opinion, Goodell is ruining the game of football.

After a 2008 season which featured ridiculous fines, double-standard punishments, and now unreasonable rule changes, I think it’s time for the fans to take back the good old version of the NFL.


Ridiculous Fines

Goodell’s decision to start fining players for anything and everything is probably the commissioner’s most blatant abuse of power.

Here’s a list of ridiculous 2008 fines.

  • Richie Incognito was fined $25,000 for verbal abuse of an official, a violation the team was penalized for in during a key drive in a very close game.  Incognito was also fined for $5,000 for a facemask penalty and an additional $5,000 for an illegal chop block.
  • Plaxico Burress was fined $5,000 for tossing a ball into the stands after scoring a touchdown against San Francisco.
  • E.J. Henderson was fined $5,000 for illegal use of hands.
  • DeAngelo Williams fined $7,500 for throwing a couple balls into the stands in their game against New Orleans.
  • Lamar Woodley was fined $10,000 for sacking Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell “in an intimidating manner.”
  • Ryan Clark was fined $5,000 for honoring the late Sean Taylor by etching the number 21 into his eye black.

This list too, goes on and on.

Goodell won’t hesitate to fine a player for an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit but doesn’t mind the NFL making money off of it. 

Goodell fined Jets safety Eric Smith $50,000 and suspended him one game for a “flagrant violation of player safety rules” after his Week 4 hit on Anquan Boldin, but at the same time the NFL currently has a DVD on sale called “Moment of Impact,” which features such hits as its major selling point.

Notice the similarities?

The NFL is making money on both ends.

They "collect" $50,000 from Eric Smith for trying to break up a pass and $19.99 a pop from fans who want to see more big hits. 

The NFL donates the fines to charity to downplay the fact that they unreasonably took money from a player.  Who can argue if the money is going to a good cause, right?  The NFL has plenty of resources to raise funds to donate without taking money from players because they toss a ball into the stands.

The reason the NFL donates money to charity is to appeal to a wider audience by building its reputation as a charitable organization.  More donations equals more appeal, more appeal equals more audience, more audience equals more money. 

Expanding the audience is great, don't get me wrong.  But doing so by excessively fining players is wrong.

To me, it sounds like the NFL will do anything to make a buck.


Double-Standard Punishments

Everyone remembers the incident between Adam Jones and his bodyguard last season.  Adam Jones and a member of his security got into a physical altercation at a hotel on Oct. 8; allegedly there was alcohol involved.

Only eight days after the altercation, Roger Goodell suspended Jones indefinitely, although authorities determined that neither party would face any criminal charges.

On July 10, Jacksonville WR Matt Jones was arrested for possession of cocaine when police caught him cutting up lines in a car with a credit card. 

After searching the vehicle, police found six grams of cocaine in his possession.  The threshold for intent to distribute is one gram.  He was six times over the limit.

But Goodell didn’t suspend Matt Jones until October, and he wasn’t held out of play until December after his appeal was denied and the suspension upheld by the NFL.

Bottom line, Matt Jones wasn’t suspended after being arrested with enough cocaine to put a person behind bars for 10 years.  Matt Jones didn’t miss an NFL game until Dec. 14, over five months after his initial arrest and the Jaguars were out of the playoff race in the AFC.

Don’t you think the NFL should wait for a court to determine whether a player has committed a crime?  If our constitution says people have the right to due process, I think Goodell’s decisions should be held to the same standard. 

Who is Goodell to say someone is guilty of violating the law when courts have yet to rule on it?

To me, there is an obvious double standard.


Unreasonable Rule Changes

While rule changes are arguably a result of an evolving game, I feel the recent rule changes will cause more harm than good.

Having played football for more than 17 years, I know that more players get injured from being hesitant rather than aggressive.  Hesitation in such a physical game is dangerous.

The “Hines Ward” rule that prevents players from blocking a player in the head or neck when approaching from the side or from behind is ridiculous! 

Whatever happened to the saying “keep your head on a swivel”?  So, if Hines Ward wasn’t supposed to hit Keith Rivers in the chin like that, what was he supposed to do?

Keith Rivers, at 6’2” 250 pounds, is a much larger human being than Hines Ward who stands 6’0” and 205 pounds.

If you can’t crack back on a player in pursuit by hitting him in the head or neck or below the waist, how and where are you supposed to hit him? 

Are you supposed to throw a block at a player’s abdomen, the only part of a player’s torso not covered with pads?  Does that seem like a good idea?

The new “wedge rule,” which eliminates players from being too close together on kickoff returns, is unreasonable to me as well.  So now the kick returner doesn’t have the advantage of a wall of blockers to protect him from opponents who get a 50-yard running start?  Is that safe?

And it seems inevitable that quarterbacks will be wearing red jerseys soon with all the rules protecting them against every tackling technique in the book. 

You can’t hit them with your helmet, can’t hit their helmet with any part of your body, you can’t ride them to the ground, you apparently can’t be “intimidating” when you tackle them, and now the “Tom Brady” rule prohibits almost every hit to a quarterback’s legs.

Where does it stop?

Let’s face it, these rules aren’t for the “safety of the players” or so the “fans can watch their favorite players play the entire season” like the NFL claims; they are implemented to protect the owner’s investments in players receiving big paychecks.


Lengthening the NFL Season

Let’s not forget Goodell was elected by the owners, not the fans and definitely not the players.  While I wouldn’t mind a couple more weeks of football, Goodell’s suggestion to lengthen the NFL season is driven by greed; more money for owners.

What about the players?

Every extra game is another chance at getting injured and cutting their career short because owners have made it clear that if you get hurt, you can pack your bags.  Do you think a longer season is going to result in bigger paychecks for players?  Not a chance.

Roger Goodell is diminishing the game in the eyes of fans who have been loyal for decades in order to appease a small set of people who get offended when they see Randy Moss fake-moon people in Green Bay.  He knows we’ll be watching no matter what.

He’s attempting to grow the NFL audience by making it a different game than the one that made it so successful.  The only problem is expanding the audience and changing the game is done at our expense.

It’s done at the expense of fans who pay attention year round, the people who know their history and are students of the game, the diehards who participate in five different fantasy football pay leagues, and those who enjoy the excitement of big hits and don’t mind seeing players celebrate when they do something to help their team.

Roger Goodell is ruining the game of football for all of us.


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