Goodell Looks Like a Lock
OXNARD, Calif. -- You would be hard pressed this morning to find anyone in the NFL who doesn't believe that Roger Goodell will be elected the sport's commissioner next week in Chicago.
Goodell, the league's second-in-command, has been the favorite to ascend to the top job from the moment Paul Tagliabue announced in March that he planned to retire. There was strong sentiment around the league last week that the necessary votes--at least 22 among the 32 teams--were in place for Goodell to be elected when the franchise owners conduct a three-day meeting at a Chicago hotel beginning next Monday.
But Goodell's front-runner status was reinforced Sunday when the eight-owner search committee announced its five finalists for the job. Joining Goodell were Washington-based attorney Gregg Levy, the league's chief outside counsel; Cleveland attorney Frederick Nance; Robert Reynolds, the vice chairman and chief operating officer of Fidelity Investments; and Mayo Shattuck III, the chairman, president and chief executive officer of Constellation Energy in Baltimore.
The committee didn't name a single high-profile candidate to challenge Goodell. The owners' main objective is to hire a commissioner capable of making them as much money as Tagliabue made them. But Goodell, after working side by side with Tagliabue, appears well equipped to do that, and there's no candidate on the list of finalists who seems to have the sizzle to prompt the owners to make a choice other than the obvious one.
The most surprising thing about the finalists is that neither league counsel Jeff Pash nor Eric Grubman, the NFL's executive vice president of finance and strategic acquisitions, is on it. Both had been regarded as strong candidates. Team presidents Rich McKay of the Atlanta Falcons and Dick Cass of the Baltimore Ravens once had been regarded as potential candidates. But Cass is an attorney who formerly represented Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and might have suffered, in the eyes of some owners, from that association. McKay is a football man more than a businessman, and that's not what the owners are after.
Political figures like Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell and outgoing Florida governor Jeb Bush were, at various times, reported to be potential candidates. But people in the sport quickly dismissed their candidacies.
Tagliabue was a low-profile labor attorney in Washington (from the same firm, Covington & Burling, as Levy) when the owners elected him in 1989 to succeed Pete Rozelle. To elect Tagliabue, the owners passed over the obvious choice, New Orleans Saints General Manager Jim Finks, the pick of the search committee.
But Tagliabue's election was the function of a bitter fight among the owners, many of whom were upset because they believed that Rozelle had stacked the search committee with members of the league's old guard. This time around, Tagliabue has done all that he can to avoid such infighting. So far, at least, he seems to have been successful, and the result probably will be the election of the obvious choice, Goodell.
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Posted by: ChrisO | July 31, 2006 4:17 PM
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