Has Roger Goodell Lost His Grip on Reality?

Has Roger Goodell Lost His Grip on Reality?

Roger Goodell is the commissioner of the National Football League. He makes sure the public never loses sight of that fact through the frequent extension of his own authority.

Sure, there are by-laws for every league office, and there are responsibilities every commissioner has associated with his specific sport; but there also seems to be a growing gray area -- especially in the NFL -- related to the limits of a commissioner's power.

The personal conduct policy, the fines for on-field incidents, the NFL Lockout, and the penalties issued to the Saints in light of BountyGate: Goodell has been criticized by fans or players in each and every one of those instances. But at least in those cases, there was the feeling in the back of everyone's mind that the guy knew what he was doing, even if his decisions weren't the most popular.

There was the feeling that he was proceeding in the best interests of the league. 

That he was responding and acting in concert with the will of the owners.

That there was a logic to his judgments.

But this Redskins-Cowboys-Salary-Cap fiasco -- well, now it looks like Goodell and the owners who back him have actually lost it.

Let's recap: the Cowboys and Redskins have been stripped of a combined $46 million (10 for DAL, $36 for WAS) in salary cap space over the next two years as a result of willfully disobeying the league's directives with their actions in the uncapped year.  That said, to the best of anyone's knowledge, neither team broke any rules when they front-loaded new salaries and re-engineered old contracts in the 2010 season to take advantage of the one-time opportunity to exploit the system. 

Indeed, the only rules the teams violated were directives from the league that allegedly laid out guidelines for what teams could and could not spend, could and not do, despite the absence of actual, binding by-laws. The Cowboys and Redskins did violate those directives and have been penalized for it -- even after the league approved every one of the now-suspect contracts in the first place.

Beyond asking whether those teams should or should not be sanctioned (which by the way, they shouldn't), focus instead on the that fact the league has brought scandal upon itself... willfully.

Because now, without any consideration of what's fair or unfair for Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder, every football fan should be asking: if front-loading new contracts and and re-negotiating old deals to take advantage of this one situation made sense this one time (which by the way, it did), why wasn't every team doing it?

See, there's questions about Goodell's power to act as judge, jury and executioner when it comes to handing out fines for on-field hits. And there are clear gaps in logic in the application of the personal conduct policy. And there are compelling arguments that the commissioner's concerns for player safety are rendered hypocritical by his wanting to expand the season to 18 games and his apparent lack of concern for the financial restitution of the players. And there are definitely some fans down in New Orleans right now, and football analysts across the country, who think what happened to the Saints was downright outlandish.

But almost every one of those arguments and questions ultimately falls short of anything truly unreasonable on the grounds that Goodell could always be defended as protecting the brand of the NFL for its owners. Because even if he was "abusing" his power to suspend or fine, there was a sound, even if unpopular, logic behind it.

But this situation with Cowboys and Redskins has outed Goodell. The league's decision to sanction clubs for breaking rules that didn't exist has called every single one of Goodell's other suspect acts fans may have moved past back into question.

Because now, the league office isn't fining or suspending players for being too violent or getting arrested, or coaches and generals managers for breaking rules, it's sanctioning teams for not obeying it's interpretation of it's own authority. And in the process, 28 owners have been exposed for engaging in activities that are being labeled as "collusion" (note: the New Orleans Saints and Oakland Raiders have been cited by the league for lesser infractions).

Maybe it's unfair to pin all this on Goodell. After all, he only serves at the behest of the owners. So whether its just the commissioner, or the commissioner and the league's primary shareholders, its now evident that the powers that be in the NFL have lost touch with the limits of their right to govern.

By sanctioning the Redskins and Cowboys, the NFL has brought scandal upon itself in the name of punishing two franchises out of principle and not rule.

So, no, this might not all be on Goodell. But someone has become so drunk with power that its now harming the shield he's been fighting to protect. And, given his track record, it's hard not to look his way first.

Previously:
>>>Not Over Yet: Collectively Bargaining the NFL's Personal Conduct Policy

NHL Notes: Rangers' Kevin Hayes out 2-3 weeks with lower-body injury

NHL Notes: Rangers' Kevin Hayes out 2-3 weeks with lower-body injury

NEW YORK -- New York Rangers forward Kevin Hayes will miss two to three weeks with a lower-body injury.

The team announced the timeline Monday after Hayes underwent an MRI in the morning. Hayes left the Rangers' game Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings during the second period.

Hayes had seven points in his previous six games and is third on the team in points with 35. The 24-year-old has 13 goals and 22 assists in 47 games this season.

His injury is a major blow to New York, which holds the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The silver lining for the Rangers is that Hayes will miss fewer games because of the upcoming All-Star break.

Senators sign Zack Smith to 4-year, $13 million extension
OTTAWA, Ontario -- The Ottawa Senators have signed forward Zack Smith to a four-year contract extension worth $13 million.

The Senators said that the extension goes through the 2020-21 season and carries an annual average value of $3.25 million.

Smith, 28, has 11 goals and 11 assists in 43 games this season and is averaging a career-high 16 minutes, 13 seconds per game.

He set career highs with 25 goals and 36 points in 2015-16. He has 75 goals and 61 assists in 443 games, all with the Senators.

Smith was Ottawa's third-round pick (79th overall) in the 2008 draft.

Stay or Go Part 8: Ryan Mathews to Steven Means

Stay or Go Part 8: Ryan Mathews to Steven Means

In the eighth of our 12-part offseason series examining the future of the Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster in 2017. We go alphabetically — Part 8 is Mathews to Means.

Ryan Mathews
Cap hit: $5M

Roob: The Eagles have to get better, younger, faster, healthier, more durable and more reliable at running back. I love the way Mathews runs when he’s healthy. The guy runs hard and he runs physical and he's aggressive. Then he always gets hurt. Mathews actually has the third-highest per-carry average among running backs in Eagles history, but they just can’t rely on him anymore. How can you count on a running back who misses significant time every year? Time to move on. Factor in the cap savings — $4 million if the Eagles release him — and it’s a no-brainer.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The Eagles can save $4 million in cap room to cut the running back who needed serious neck surgery after his season was ended in the Giants' game. Mathews played pretty well in his two seasons with the Eagles, but, as has been the case during his career, health was an issue. And now he’s 29 and will turn 30 early into next season. Time to move on. 

Verdict: GOES

Jordan Matthews
Cap hit: $1.57M

Roob: Matthews is going into Year 4 and I’d still like to see him make a jump and become a 1,200-yard type of receiver. Maybe it will happen with another year under his belt with Carson Wentz. Matthews has the 11th-most catches in NFL history by a player in his first three seasons — 225, or 75 per year — but his 2,673 yards are 50th most. Matthews is as hard a worker and as committed a player as you’ll see. He'll get the most out of his ability. I’d just like to see him take his game up one more level, and I think he will.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: It’s a shame the Eagles don’t have any legitimate threats at their outside receiver positions, because if they did, so much of the burden wouldn’t fall on Matthews. No, he’s not a great receiver, but he’s a very good one who has been solid in his first three years in the league. In his first three seasons, Matthews has 225 catches for 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns. There have been just 10 receivers in the league to put up those numbers or better: Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas, Odell Beckham Jr., DeAndre Hopkins, Emmanuel Sanders, Doug Baldwin, Mike Evans, Randall Cobb and Brandon Marshall. Matthews isn’t going anywhere and it’s time to think about an extension. 

Verdict: STAYS

Alex McCalister
Cap hit: $557K

Roob: McCalister, a seventh-round defensive end, spent the year on injured reserve but considering the Eagles’ lack of pass-rush potency, he’ll definitely get a look this summer. McCalister had 17½ sacks at Florida, so he’s got that going for him. Still a long shot.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: This is tough because McCalister was a seventh-round draft pick who was placed on IR with a injury that didn’t appear to be serious. The last year was a redshirt season for the defensive end who has some pass-rush ability but needed to work on packing more muscle onto his frame. Haven’t seen enough to think he sticks. 

Verdict: GOES

Leodis McKelvin
Cap hit: $3.45M

Roob: The Eagles have to do better than McKelvin. He made a few plays, gave up a lot more, and as far as I’m concerned, the Eagles should hang onto Jalen Mills and get rid of all their other corners. Not to mention the $3.2 million in cap savings the Eagles would gain if McKelvin is released. See ya.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The Eagles can save $3.2 million by cutting McKelvin, which will probably happen. If it doesn’t, it’ll be because the Eagles think his lingering hamstring issue played a big role in his play and because defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz goes to bat for him. Ultimately, I think McKelvin’s days in Philly are over. 

Verdict: GOES

Rodney McLeod
Cap hit: $5.6M

Roob: McLeod played really well most of the season, tailed off the last few weeks, and goes into next year a question mark because of that inconsistency. When he’s right, McLeod is a sure tackler, willing run supporter, big hitter and capable in coverage. But those last few weeks raised some eyebrows. There were times you just wondered what he was doing out there. If the Eagles can have the first-10-games McLeod for a full season, they’re fine. But he has to be consistent. He’ll be here through 2017 but after that is anybody’s guess. Another mixed year will likely spell the end here for McLeod.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: There were a few plays that showed questionable effort from McLeod this season, which was shocking based on his past. He was an undrafted rookie who worked his way into the league and into a contract with the Eagles. This ended up being a pretty good signing; he had a nice season. He’s under contract through 2020 and the Eagles hope he hasn’t yet fulfilled his potential. He and Malcolm Jenkins should only get better after more time playing together. 

Verdict: STAYS

Steven Means
Cap hit: $690K

Roob: Means, a veteran journeyman defensive end, played only 36 snaps all year. He did pick up one sack against the Vikings, but as far as his future? Most likely, he won’t be back.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Means did everything in his power last training camp to make the 2016 roster. He flashed every day and in the preseason games. But in 2016, he didn’t get to play very much and was clearly buried on the depth chart behind Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and Marcus Smith. The Eagles need to upgrade at the defensive end spot, which might be bad news for Means if more bodies come in. But for now, he's a good depth piece. 

Verdict: STAYS