Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: The Ice Is Getting Thinner Under Roger Goodell

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterNovember 8, 2017

CARSON, CA - OCTOBER 01:  Commissioner of the National Football League Roger Goodell looks on prior to a game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Philadelphia Eagles at StubHub Center on October 1, 2017 in Carson, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Roger Goodell has crossed Jerry Jones, which isn't good news for the commish. What is everyone fighting about? And no, Joe Flacco is not elite. All that and more in this week's 10-Point Stance.

    

1. Is Roger Goodell in Trouble with NFL Owners?

After the mishandling of Ray Rice's domestic violence case, team and league officials first wondered if NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was going to be fired. He wasn't.

After the mishandling of Deflategate, team and league officials again wondered if Goodell was going to be fired. He wasn't.

After the mishandling of kicker Josh Brown's domestic violence case (both by the Giants and the NFL), team and league officials once more wondered if Goodell was going to be fired. He wasn't.

There have been other Goodell errors, stretching from the Bountygate screw-up to his most recent fumble, that of Colin Kaepernick. Once again, the commissioner reacted too slowly, failing to understand the arc of what the case would become. He didn't see how Kaepernick's movement would grow. He then made the mistake of conflating what Kaepernick did as anti-flag.

So here we are again. Team and league officials are privately wondering if Goodell may be fired. Again, chances are he won't be. Again, chances are he'll survive, this time with a contract extension.

The greatest survivors in the universe, roaches and rats, must look at Goodell and go: "You da real MVP."


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Still, even if he does remain, the past few weeks have left Goodell in the weakest position of his 11-plus-year tenure.

Not only has he been battered and bruised by the drip, drip, drip of bad press, he now faces what might be his greatest challenge yet, a foe who stands about six feet tall, is in the Hall of Fame, likes to give press conferences and is perhaps the most powerful owner in all of sports.

The difference between now and the past is that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones appears to be angry with Goodell. The explosion from Papa John's owner John Schnatter, calling Goodell an example of poor leadership, was widely seen by almost everyone I know in the NFL as a proxy statement on behalf of Jones, who has an ownership interest in 120 Papa John's stores. Jones also has yet to distance himself from Schnatter's comments. 

Jones' beef with Goodell, numerous sources say, is over the handling of the Ezekiel Elliott case. This isn't even close to a shock. Jones has an old-school mentality that says if you send one of his to the hospital, he sends one of yours to the morgue. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 15:  Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones talks with Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys before the NFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Green Bay Packers at AT&T Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Joe
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Before the Zeke case, Jones strongly and publicly backed Goodell during the commissioner's battle with Patriots owner Robert Kraft over Deflategate. Notice the strong words of support Jones made to ESPN's Todd Archer in 2015.

"He's got obviously a very tough job. Now I see some people doing that, that's that old violin that's not feeling too sorry for him because that's why you pay the big bucks is to deal with the big problems. But he's doing an outstanding job. I can tell you firsthand that in his spot you have to with people that you are counting on to help build and to help excel as far as the National Football League, I'm talking about the owners, you have to know that you're going to make some decisions that are very unpopular with that particular group. This is the case."

That isn't the case now.

Jones is among the owners trying to stop Goodell's contract extension, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter, and I've been told Jones is still trying to stop it. But how much traction he has gotten is hard to tell; the ownership group is a secretive bunch. On Tuesday, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported Jones hasn't yet converted the majority of owners to his thinking.

Despite Jones' angerand his vaunted powerit's probable Goodell still has the support of a majority of owners.

Why? Goodell still serves as a valuable heat shield for them.

His screwups mostly are blamed on him and not the 32 men for whom he works. And that type of security blanket is worth its weight in controversy.

There's also no telling whether that could change, as there are more questions about his future now than ever before. But swapping out Goodell for an unknown replacement could be more problematic than keeping him.

Not every owner agrees with (or even likes) Jones. Goodell still has plenty of allies, and it's still more probable than not that he gets an extension. 

What's clear, however, is that Goodell's list of friends is dwindling while his enemies grow.

    

2. Fight Club

NFL players have always gotten into fights. On the practice field. In games. In parking lots. In stadium tunnels. I've covered dozens of dust-ups, brawls and kerfuffles.

Last Sunday's throwdown between A.J. Green and Jalen Ramsey, though, was one of the top five nastiest. I've never seen a player put another player in a chokehold during a brawl. It might be unprecedented.

Ramsey regularly gets on the nerves of receivers, but it was also strange to see Green as a combatant. For someone who's normally as quiet as a mouse, it was quite a personality transformation.

That wasn't the only fight to occur over the weekend. I have no data to prove this since I don't keep track of fights (hmmm...light bulb moment), but I can't remember a season where there were so many in so short a period of time. Former Steelers safety Ryan Clark made this same point on ESPN. 

I could be wrong, but to my naked eye and flawed human recollection, players are going after each other like never before. It's something to keep an eye on, for sure.

3. 'You Put 200 Yards On Their Ass!'

Most of the time, a video look inside a locker room provides little insight. They're often extraordinarily sanitized.

This one from the Eagles isn't that. It gives you a genuine look at head coach Doug Pederson and how he reaches his team, praising them before wisely cautioning that as fantastic as their 8-1 record is, they are still only part of the way home.

I'm also shocked an NFL team didn't bleep out the curse words, as they are often obsessed with image. Kudos to the Eagles for allowing reality to win out.

    

4. One of the Greats

As disappointing as the Falcons have played of late, the NFL's Senior Director of Communications (and one of the true geniuses in the league) passed along this note placing Matt Ryan in historical context:

  

5. A Picture Says More Than Any Boxscore Can

Not much more to add to this snapshot of a Brock Osweiler throw captured by the Denver Post's Nicki Jhabvala. Yes, that's triple coverage Osweiler was throwing into, and yes, every defender has a better chance of catching the football than the receiver does.

    

6. No, Joe Flacco Is Not Elite Anymore

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 05:  Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens is sacked by Jurrell Casey #99 of the Tennessee Titans during the first half at Nissan Stadium on November 5, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Joe Flacco just doesn't look the same. He's been hurt this season, and Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso recently blasted him, but Flacco was struggling even before that .

It's important to keep this in mind in light of the criticism former Ravens safety Bernard Pollard leveled at head coach John Harbaugh, saying the crux of the team's problemsthe Ravens are a disappointing 4-5are due to Harbaugh and his oversized ego.

To be fair to Harbaugh, if teams failed because of oversized coaching egos, all that'd be left of the league would be headsets and tube socks.

Harbaugh wasn't a jerk egomaniac when the Ravens won a Super Bowl under him, and he isn't the reason why they're struggling now. The Ravens have been a mess because they are in the midst of a mild rebuild and Flacco hasn't been good.

Flacco could still rebound, but it isn't unfair to wonder whether we're seeing the beginning of the end for him.

     

7. Josh Gordon, Author

GREEN BAY, WI - AUGUST 12:  Josh Gordon #12 of the Cleveland Browns participates in warm ups before the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on August 12, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Josh Gordon's story is compelling. The recently reinstated Browns receiver told part of it to GQ's Clay Skipper in a stirring profile.

What isn't generally known is that Gordon wants to do a book, according to a source. Oh, what a book that would be. My guess is Gordon has publicly told only a small fraction of his personal stories.

There's also a good chance he'd tell some stories the NFL would not be excited about. But if you're a reader…hoo-boy.

     

8. Blunt Talk

SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 1: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers fires the team up on the field prior to the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Levi Stadium on January 1, 2017 in Santa Clara, California. The Seahawks defeated the 49ers 25-23.
Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

Turns out I wasn't the only one calling for the Texans to take a hard look at Colin Kaepernick in the wake of the Deshaun Watson injury and the desultory performance Tom Savage offered Sunday. 

"Sign Colin Kaepernick," NBC analyst and Pro Football Hall of Famer Tony Dungy said. "You don't have good quarterback play. When you have a mobile quarterback, your offense looks different. There is a mobile quarterback out there to get."

His TV deskmate, former Pro Bowler Rodney Harrison, brought more heat to the argument:

"I agree with you. As a player, I would lose all respect for my coaches and my organization if there was a guy out there that actually started in the Super Bowl that is better than the guy that we have. How do you have confidence in your coach? How can you trust what your coach is trying to sell, the system that he is trying to sell, when he is not doing everything in his power to win football games? Sign Colin Kaepernick, he gives you a great opportunity. Very similar to what Deshaun Watson is."

Harrison wasn't done going after some questionable moves we saw Sunday. He turned his attention to Giants head coach Ben McAdoo, whom Harrison believes the team's players have quit on.

"When you don't respect your coach, players will quit on you. I believe the Giants just flat-out quit. You can't come in as a coach and say, 'It's my way or the highway,' because players will not respond. In this league, you have to earn your respect. Tony Dungy earned his respect. Bill Belichick earned his respect. He has to do the same thing. He can't come in and try to bully these guys. These guys are young, they're rich, and they're not going to listen to a coach trying to bully his way around."

How do you really feel, Rodney?

Unfortunately for the Texans and Giants, he isn't wrong.

      

9. Add Another Name to the MVP Race

GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 06:  Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions throws a pass in the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on November 6, 2017 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford played a terrible Packers defense Monday night, but that shouldn't take much away from an impressive performance in a 30-17 Detroit win.

According to the Lions, Stafford's 132.4 quarterback rating marked the second-highest passer rating by a visiting quarterback in Lambeau Field history (minimum 20 passing attempts).

Stafford, who has the Lions in the thick of the playoff race, has emerged as a dark-horse MVP candidate. The Lions are flawed, but both the team and its quarterback will be factors in the second half of the season.

    

10. Priceless

GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 06:  Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers looks on before the game against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field on November 6, 2017 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Finally, I wanted to talk about worth. There are some players in sports who single-handedly transform a franchise, who are worth every penny they earn. Players like LeBron James or Joe Montana.

Aaron Rodgers is one of those few players.

There are a billion ways to see this, of course, but none was starker than the Packers' Monday night loss to Detroit. Entering the fourth quarter, with Rodgers on the sideline due to a broken collarbone, the Packers had three points. Three. I'm terrible at math, but I believe that's one point per quarter.

Rodgers is one of those guys who covers up the flaws of an entire franchise. The Packers' terrible defense? He makes up for it. The lack of running game? He makes up for it. Poor draft decisions? He makes up for it.

Only a handful of players throughout history are that good. Rodgers is one of them, and as long as he's out, the Packers are done.   

   

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL. 

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