An Open Letter to the NFL's $200M Man, Roger Goodell: Do Your Job Better

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterDecember 8, 2017

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stands on the field during the warm-up before an NFL football game between the Cleveland Browns and the Minnesota Vikings at Twickenham Stadium in London, Sunday Oct. 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
Tim Ireland/Associated Press

Hi, Roger,

First, congratulations on the new contract. That is a boatload of cash$200 million!

Hopefully you can feed your family on that, and if you got the private jet, I'm not mad at you, bro. If the owners are dumb enough to give it to you, do you, Roger.

Second, I want to apologize for this cliche "letter." Normally, I hate these things. It's the journalism equivalent of a bachelor party in Las Vegas. But desperate times call for desperate letters, and there is one overriding message that needs to be delivered to you, and this is the best way to do it.

You've been terrible at your job.

Do better.

A squirrel on performance-enhancing drugs and purple drank could have handled the job better than you. Eric Winston, president of the NFL Players Association, once told Gabriel Sherman in a story for GQ: "You could be the worst bartender at spring break, but you'd still be killing it." He was talking about how the NFL has still succeeded in spite of you.

I'm not a hater, Roger. I like you. I always have. I've known you for years and consider you a decent man. Yet I'm not a sycophant; I'm not one of a handful of media who treats you the way Fox and Friends does Donald Trump.

You've changed dramatically. You've become obsessed with power and money. You've since wielded that power like a Game of Thrones character, pursued punishment more than partnership with your players and pushed making money over safety.

Under your leadership, almost no one knows what can trigger an NFL investigation, suspension or fine. ESPN's Jim Trotter had a staggering piece of data that stated last year the NFL had zero suspensions for first-time, helmet-to-helmet offenses. This year there have been nine such suspensions through 13 weeks. That shows the NFL isn't working from a well-established foundation of core beliefs. That wasn't always the case. Once, the NFL had standards for what was right or wrong. Now, it oscillates. 

We don't even know what a catch is any longer.

As the league has made more money under your leadership, it has dramatically lost influence and respect. Many players and fans have come to despise you with an almost cartoonish level of hate. They've watched teams change cities out of simple greed, the league push crappy Thursday games under their noses, the quality of the product fall and the desire to make money become the NFL's No. 1 pursuit.

Steven Senne/Associated Press

You've alienated players so much that Paul Tagliabue, the former commissioner who rarely criticizes anyone publicly, said this of you in GQ: "If [players] see you making decisions only in economic terms, they start to understand that and question what you're all about. There's a huge intangible value in peace. There's a huge intangible value in having allies."

But you haven't sought peace. You've started wars that didn't need to be started.

You got Bountygate wrong. You got Deflategate wrong. You got Ray Rice wrong. You got Colin Kaepernick wrong by waiting over a year to deal with player protests.

You mishandled the dangerous, trauma-induced brain disease CTE. The president ripped you on Twitter. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones tried to undercut your latest contract. And Kaepernick filed a grievance that said the NFL colluded to keep him out of football.  

Slowly, and steadily, your decisions have eroded trust in the NFL.

On the very day you signed your new deal, Pittsburgh's Mike Mitchell criticized you, saying, "We have to get better leadership as to who's running the league. Because obviously everyone from fans, owners and players are all disappointed in Roger Goodell."

He wasn't the only critic. When news of your new deal broke, a parade of players atomized you on Twitter. It's something I've never seen before:

Ryan Keith Russell @RKRelentless

Roger Goodell enters the Black Ski Mask Hall of Fame for that one!!! 🤦🏾‍♂️ #SecureTheBag

cameron jordan @camjordan94

Wonder if he had to fight for guaranteed 💰💰💰?! No just football players hmmm.... #skimaskthebag 🤒 https://t.co/mPVG5XOc1s

Joe Thomas @joethomas73

5 years $200 million for @nflcommish...who were they competing with to sign him?🤔🤔 https://t.co/ktlRc7xjrT

Cleveland's Joe Thomas later added another thought:  

Joe Thomas @joethomas73

Tom Brady makes $20.5mm per year; @nflcommish makes $40mm per year. So does that mean that Roger Goodell is twice as valuable to the NFL and twice as hard to replace?🤔🤔

Dave Tollefson, who won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants, tweeted:

David Tollefson @DTollefson71

What a joke....... https://t.co/hwQbdxGPk9

Tollefson later added:

David Tollefson @DTollefson71

This is a common misconception. He’s doesn’t run a damn thing. He is a puppet https://t.co/MoCpHPhen5

The social media stampede to bash you, Roger, was so fierce, it even stretched beyond NFL borders. Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers, who has 1.4 million Twitter followers, tweeted:   

Damian Lillard @Dame_Lillard

Commissioner get 40M a year? While players risking their lives/health out there on non guaranteed contracts still? Smh

And that prompted a response from one of the most popular players in the NFL, Rams running back Todd Gurley:

Todd Gurley II @TG3II

@Dame_Lillard Something got to change for sure.

Even before this latest gaudy contract, you made more than $170 million in seven years.

God bless you, fam.

Some of the problems around football aren't your fault. The science of head trauma has escalated at warp speed. It's not on you that fans are finally digesting the inherent violence of the sport after many ignored it for decades.

And you're also not to blame for the fact that ratings have slipped because the viewing habits of fans have changed.

But the lack of speed you've shown in adapting, or not adapting, to these and other issues is on you. As the NBA, under extremely capable commissioners, became more nimble, the NFL became fat and arrogant.

But the news isn't all bad. There are ways for you to salvage your legacy and better professional football.

Trash the idea of an 18-game season. The league already has plenty of money (we know you do) and more games means more head injuries.

Remove the prohibition against marijuana use among players (it's a far healthier option than many of the painkillers some use now).

Work toward guaranteed salaries for players. Professional baseball and basketball have them, and it's a disgrace the most violent sport in the world does not.

Work to establish continuity and stability. Again, no one—and I mean no oneunderstands what type of hit will draw a suspension or what a catch is. There is no room for uncertainty on the field and off as the league faces myriad problems. The game requires a steady hand, and you can still provide it.

Mostly, what the NFL needs to do is be less greedy. The league is awash in cash, and on that front you've been a success. But almost all of the problems you face now stem from that relentless pursuit of money. Putting two teams in Los Angeles was one of many examples of this.

So, do me a favor. Take this all into account as you embark on your new contract.

Do better.


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