Since taking over for Paul Tagliabue, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has implemented drastic changes to the league. While it seems his intent is to make the league safer, there have been far too many instances of him making contradictory decisions that leave NFL fans scratching their heads.
Safe is one thing. Soft? That is a whole different animal.
He started out by getting rid of celebrations. The majority of fans loved players' little gimmicks when they found the end zone, but Goodell decided that they took away from the game's integrity. No longer will fans get the enjoyment of watching players pull cell phones out of the goal posts.
Celebrations are an argument all their own. Where Goodell went entirely too far is when player fines became more frequent than Harlem Shake videos.
Steelers linebacker James Harrison has endured the wrath of Goodell more than anyone. At one point, he even contemplated retirement due to the fact that he did not know how to play football under Goodell's rules. He has been fined numerous times including the $75,000 he coughed up due to this legal hit that didn't even draw a penalty flag.
Harrison basically got fined for hitting Massaquoi too hard. Players understand the risk at hand and the fact that they are putting their health and even their lives on the line to play a game they love. With great risk comes great reward. Putting their health at risk is an insane way to make a living, which is why they make millions of dollars.
Fines have become more and more frequent due to the fact that Goodell has become too focused on money. His monetary motives overshadow his desire to create a safer league for players. If money was not his ultimate concern, he would not be pushing so hard to implement an 18-game schedule as well as sending teams to play overseas.
When players get fined, the money goes directly to the league. When a player gets suspended without pay, the team gets the money. This just goes to show why Goodell hands out all these unnecessary fines. Obviously they are not working seeing as how players still lay out punishing and sometimes illegal hits, yet he continues to eschew suspensions.
His fines are also misguided. Chad Ochocinco's mid-game preseason tweet garnered a $25,000 fine, the same amount that Andre Johnson and Cortland Finnegan received for starting a brawl. Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams received a fine of $250,000, more than his defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth got for stomping repeatedly on a players' bare head.
All of his methods have incited confusion and made tackling weak and uncertain. Quarterbacks these days can barely be touched without drawing a flag. Defenders cannot hit defenseless receivers anymore even though old-fashioned hard hits used to be an art form. Safeties flying across the middle of the field and crushing their helmets squarely onto the ball to jar it loose from receivers is a play that has been all but eliminated in the modern NFL.
Goodell also handled the Saints' bounty scandal about as poorly as he possibly could have. He was consistently indecisive with his suspensions and sanctions to the point where Tagliabue stepped in and made the decision himself. The players involved had their suspensions vacated, proving just how much of a giant hypocrisy Goodell's reign is. The bounty went against everything Goodell has tried to do in this league and he handled it awfully.
Instead of turning the entire league against him, Goodell could have used more useful methods if he cared so much about player safety. The league has taken concussions very seriously in recent years, but it took until last week for Goodell to begin work to upgrade the helmets. Newer helmets being used have been proven to reduce head injuries, yet Goodell has not yet made them mandatory.
What it comes down to is players know what they are signing up for when they play football. If they get knocked unconscious, they will not be angry at the commissioner as that is just part of the game. There will undoubtedly be injuries that are unavoidable, but throwing fines around to try to solve the issue accomplishes nothing. If the NFL is to continue on this road and becomes softer and softer, it will inevitably lose more and more fans.