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.

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

Union emotional after Maurice Edu's season-ending injury

USA Today Images

Union emotional after Maurice Edu's season-ending injury

CHESTER, Pa. — On the eve of his comeback after missing nearly 13 months with a left tibia stress fracture and other related injuries, Union midfielder Maurice Edu fractured his left fibula on Saturday, keeping him out for the 2016 playoffs and beyond.

“I was trying to take the shot on goal and my foot got stuck in the turf,” Edu said Sunday, in his blue Union-issued suit and supported by crutches. “My ankle rolled and twisted and it kind of snapped a little bit. I heard it crack, and a lot of pain from there. I got a scan afterward, and there was a break.”

There's no timetable his return.

Edu, 30, has spent over a calendar year fighting various injuries that have kept him out of game action. His trouble began on Sept. 30, 2015, when he played through the U.S. Open Cup final with a partially torn groin and sports hernia. It was during Edu’s recovery from those injuries that he developed a stress fracture.

"A little bit frustration. A lot of frustration, to be honest," he said. "But all I can do now is get back to work, focus on the positives and make sure that my situation isn’t a distraction from the team."

Edu’s teammates were equally devastated by the news. Edu, the Union captain when healthy, is popular and well-respected in the locker room.

"I feel so bad for him," said Alejandro Bedoya, who wore a dedication to Edu under his jersey on Sunday. "He’s one of my good friends, so I was looking forward to playing alongside him. I know how hard he’s worked to get back, and to see him go out like that, it’s heartbreaking. I’m sad for his loss and I hope he stays strong."

Edu, who has been with the Union since 2014, returned to training in July and played three conditioning appearances with the Union’s USL team, Bethlehem Steel FC. He was on the bench for the Union’s last three games and was set to make his first appearance in over a year against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, a game the Union eventually lost, 2-0 (see game story).

"We’re gutted for Mo," Union manager Jim Curtin said. "He was slated to start today. It’s real upsetting because he’s worked so hard to get back on the field. It’s been a tough 2016 for him, but I know he’ll come back stronger."

While he was visibly shaken by recent injury, Edu is driven to return.

"What happened, happened," Edu said. "I have no control over that. The only thing I do have control over is my next steps from here, how I prepare myself mentally and emotionally and how I continue to support this group."

Flyers-Canadiens 5 things: Long week starts with a bang

Flyers-Canadiens 5 things: Long week starts with a bang

Flyers at Canadiens
7:30 p.m. on CSN, Pregame Live at 6:30

The Flyers’ mettle will be tested this week with a stretch of five games in seven days.

That’s a lot of pucks.

It starts Monday night when the Flyers (2-2-1) visit the hot-starting Montreal Canadiens (4-0-1) at the Bell Centre.

Let’s get you set with five things to know for the matchup:

1. Goals, goals, goals
There should be an abundance of them Monday night.

The Canadiens are scoring an NHL-most 4.00 goals per game while the Flyers, coming off a six-goal outburst, are third at 3.80.

Montreal has been scary good through five games. Not only are the Canadiens lighting the lamp at a league-best clip, but they’re also allowing the fewest goals per game at 1.60 a night. They have hockey’s No. 1 goal differential (plus-11) and No. 8 penalty kill, having thwarted 23 of 25 opponents' power plays (92.0 percent).

The Canadiens' offseason additions of defenseman Shea Weber and backup goalie Al Montoya have paid instant dividends. Weber, acquired in a blockbuster trade that sent P.K. Subban to the Predators, has one goal, four assists and leads all NHL blueliners with a plus-8 rating. Montoya, who filled in early for a flu-stricken Carey Price, is 2-0-1 with a 1.30 goals-against average and .962 save percentage. Price, the 2014-15 Hart Memorial Trophy winner (NHL MVP), looks in form after playing just 12 games last season because of a knee injury.

2. A fresher Ghost
Shayne Gostisbehere went off for three points (one goal, two assists) in the Flyers’ 6-3 win over the Hurricanes on Saturday, his biggest output of the season.

It just so happened to come in a game in which Gostisbehere registered his lowest ice time of the season at 16:45, a significant drop from his previous low of 20:57. Before the defenseman’s three-point game, Gostisbehere played an average of 23:14 over the prior three games while totaling one point and a minus-3 rating.

Is it a coincidence Gostisbehere’s best game yet was in far less ice time? Maybe, but the 23-year-old is playing the Flyers’ most minutes (21:29 per game) after undergoing offseason surgery and finishing the longest year of his hockey life.

Defensemen Mark Streit (22:45), Nick Schultz (19:44) and Brandon Manning (18:41) all played season highs in minutes on Saturday, and there’s no way that was by mistake.

If head coach Dave Hakstol can manage Gostisbehere’s ice time and not rely so heavily on the second-year blueliner, it can only help the Flyers. A more rested Gostisbehere is a better Gostisbehere — and we all know how vital the 2015-16 Calder Trophy runner-up is to the Flyers’ power-play success, as well as defensive coverage.

3. Stop and start
Speaking of defensive coverage, while the Flyers are scoring quite a bit, they’re not stopping anyone. The orange and black are surrendering 3.80 goals per game — tied for fifth most in the NHL — which is exactly what they score on average.

The Flyers can’t consistently bank on winning goal-fests.

Starting fast will be critical against the Canadiens, who close games as well as anyone. Montreal is outscoring its opposition 17-6 through the second and third periods. The Flyers have just one goal in the first period.

Facing this Habs team, it’ll be problematic if the Flyers fail to get going early.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Matt Read, why not? With five goals, the 30-year-old is astoundingly tied for second in the NHL with Maple Leafs phenom Auston Matthews. Last season, it took Read 29 games to score five goals. The previous season, he needed 56 games. This year, just five. Until he comes back to Earth, Read will be worth watching as much as any other Flyer.

Canadiens: The 22-year-old Alex Galchenyuk racked up career highs last season in goals (30) and points (56). To start this season, the 2012 No. 3 overall pick has a goal and four assists in five games. Young and offensive-minded, Galchenyuk has given the Flyers trouble in the past with 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 11 career games against them.

5. This and that
• Steve Mason has played in the Flyers’ last four games with three starts and one relief appearance. Michal Neuvirth has not played since last Tuesday. He is 6-4-2 with a 2.14 goals-against average and .926 save percentage in 13 lifetime games against Montreal.

• Price is 11-9-0 with a 2.61 GAA and .916 save percentage in 21 career games against the Flyers.

• Jakub Voracek leads the Flyers in points with seven but is third in the NHL in penalty minutes with 24.

• The Canadiens have won three straight games by a combined score of 13-4.

• Defenseman Michael Del Zotto (knee) and forward Scott Laughton (knee) returned to practice on Sunday.