Phoenix – Super Bowl week would have worked out much better if Roger Goodell and Marshawn Lynch had traded places.
Reporters would have had three hourlong tries at getting the NFL commissioner to honestly answer a question.
And if he had said, “I’m only here so I don’t get fined,” for the first time we wouldn’t have had reason to immediately administer a polygraph test.
Lynch could have taken the podium Friday in Phoenix, instead of Goodell, to offer a blunt assessment of the state of the NFL. Instead of trying to paint the league as a humane work environment that cares about its players before and after concussion and has constructed some semblance of an enforceable set of rules in place, Lynch could have said, “I’m only here so you will buy my hat.”
Lynch and Goodell have one thing in common: Both blow off the media for their own reasons.
Goodell said Friday that he is available on a daily basis. That’s a lie. The president of the United States — not this president; every president — is more accessible than Goodell.
So it’s funny to hear Goodell talking about Lynch’s obligations. He’s right; speaking during Super Bowl week is simply a part of Lynch’s job, something he agreed to when he signed his contract. But Goodell is the wrong guy to send that message.
There was one victory for Goodell on Friday, when he wasn’t bristling at a rare tough question or spinning the league’s inconsistent handling of various transgressions.
Nobody asked about Adrian Peterson.
Perhaps by accident, or perhaps out of sheer fear of sponsors’ wrath, or perhaps because of the “learning” Goodell was forced to do when he botched the Ray Rice investigation as a result of ineptitude or corruption, he got one right.
The Vikings looked ridiculous when, after making Peterson inactive for one game after it became public that he severely beat his son, they reinstated him the following week. The Vikings seemed shocked when, while trying to justify that decision, they came under fire from sponsors and other facets of the public.
Goodell finally stepped in, placed Peterson on the commissioner’s exempt list, and kept him from playing all season.
Whether Goodell knows it or not, by punishing Peterson so thoroughly, he did his buddy Zygi Wilf a large favor.
If Peterson returns to the Vikings next season, the story, like Tiger Woods and Zach Parise, will lack teeth. There may be protests and tough questions, but they will be muted, because Goodell and Wilf can rightly say that Peterson was punished far more harshly than any other football player accused of a similar transgression.
Goodell removed a season in Peterson’s prime, in the same year in which he suspended Ravens running back Ray Rice just two games for knocking out his fiancée in an elevator.
Goodell will benefit because he, for once, looks strong.
The Wilfs will benefit either by trading Peterson and receiving value for an overpaid 30-year-old running back, or by bringing him back with legs refreshed and the scandal far removed.
Peterson’s body will benefit from a year off.
When Goodell replaced Paul Tagliabue, Goodell tried to portray himself as a tough guy. He never really was.
He rose through the ranks of the NFL on the public-relations and business side, as a functionary who knew how to kiss up to owners. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that; that’s how the sausage gets made in lots of corporate settings.
But he was never a disciplinarian. He was the friendly guy in the next office.
When Goodell looked either incompetent or corrupt when dealing with Rice, he was bound to re-establish his authority the next time a star player misbehaved. That player was Peterson.
Friday, Goodell started his state-of-the-game speech by talking about extra points, a tone-deaf choice given what he admitted was a difficult year for him.
It could have been worse. He could have been answering questions about why he let Peterson play in 2014 after he severely beat a child.
Somehow, Goodell got that one right.