It turns out Roger Goodell isn’t the great and powerful Wizard of Oz he thinks he is. The NFL commissioner has handed off the reigns in the Saints bounty gate case to the guy who was in office before him, former commissioner Paul Tagliabue.
Goodell isn’t off the case completely, but he’s putting Tagliabue in charge of hearing the appeals from the four suspended players. However, Goodell is giving Tagliabue pretty much all the power when it comes to a ruling, as he notified the NFLPA as well as the suspended players that Tagliabue has come out of the bullpen to ”decide the appeals and bring the matter to a prompt and fair conclusion.”
This has more than just a little significance and nostalgia.
If Tagliabue agrees with Goodell’s assertion that Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Anthonty Hargrove and Scott Fujita deserved the brunt of the punishment (and the severity of the punishments handed down), then all is good in Goodell’s court.
However, if Tagliabue rules in favor of the players and agrees with them that Goodell was out of line with his punishments, then this whole thing could come crashing down in Goodell’s lap and we could see some serious movements in the way the NFL is run.
All that’s missing from this drama is a docudrama from Dick Wolf that NBC can smear all over it’s primetime schedule.
This appointment of Tagliabue to “finish off” this whole case isn’t a demonstration of Goodell throwing up his arms and saying I’m out, do whatever you want but it looks that way if you twist it that way. And if there’s one theme that’s been constant throughout this scandal it’s the power of twisting stories (or as the players accuse, evidence) in your favor.
The hope from the NFL is that Tagliabue’s presence and his ultimate ruling will bring an end to this. Goodell must believe that he’ll rule in his favor, but that’s not a guarantee. We appear to be nearing the conclusion of this whole debacle but in a sport and business that revolves around trying to never lose, we’re likely far from seeing this thing through to the end anytime soon.