Check out the most important takeaways from the key topics the NFL Commissioner discussed — and dodged — at the league’s annual pre-Super Bowl presser.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell took reporters’ questions at his annual Super Bowl Press Conference on Wednesday, and as is tradition, some of the answers to those questions raised even more questions.
With that in mind, Boardroom breaks down some of the biggest takeaways from the conversation, starting with the ongoing drama in DC.
Washington Commanders Sale
“The Commanders are under a process that is their process. Ultimately if they reach a conclusion and have someone that will be joining the ownership group or buying the team entirely, that’s something that the ownership will look at,” Goodell told media members Wednesday about franchise owners Daniel and Tanya Snyder’s ongoing exploration of a sale. The Commissioner also added that Mary Jo White, an attorney hired to investigate sexual harassment allegations against Dan Snyder is still ongoing.
“There is no timeline for her to come to any conclusions. When she does that she will let me know and we will let the public know at that point in time,” he said.
In November, Snyder announced he and his wife had hired Bank of America Securities to consider a potential sale of some or all of the Washington franchise, and the process of locating suitors has unfolded with surprising speed. The first round of the bidding process took place in December, and by mid-January, NBC Sports reported a sale could be agreed soon.
As of now, however, we lack clarity as to who’s most likely to buy the team, as well as the final price of the transaction. For reference, the Denver Broncos sold for $4.65 billion last year to the Walton-Penner ownership group; Sportico valued the team at $3.8 billion before that sale went final. Currently, the Commanders are valued at $4.78 billion, with a sale is expected to exceed $5 billion at the barest of bare minumums.
For years, Snyder has faced internal pressure from his fellow billionaire owners to sell the team, and a web of looming investigations from the DC Attorney General, US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, and US House Oversight Committee may prove to be more than enough to force his hand and part ways with his claim to fame at long last.
Concussions & Injuries
In the wake of reported concussion totals among NFL players rising to 149 over 271 games this season, Roger Goodell said he attributed the increase in concussions to a better process and more transparency regarding how the league deals with head injuries. “We had a broader definition… if you have more evaluations, you’re going to have more concussions.”
The number constitutes an 18% hike from 2021 when the league reported 126; it was also higher than the three-year average of 130 from 2018 through 2020.
The league and the NFL Players Association agreed to modify the league’s concussion protocol system after Tua Tagovailoa suffered a concussion and official protocols were not observed. The change in the system added the diagnosis of “ataxia” to the mandatory list of “no-go” symptoms. (John Hopkins Medicine defines Ataxia as “without coordination; those affected can lose muscle control in their arms and legs. This may lead to lack of balance, coordination, and trouble walking.”)
As Goodell added, “I think there’s more work to be done with helmets. The other part of it is rules [and] taking the head out of the game.”
Meanwhile, the league’s helmet partners are currently in the midst of developing a helmet specifically designed for quarterbacks and another that is for linemen.
In reference to Bills defensive back Damar Hamlin, who collapsed on the field during Week 17 in Cincinnati and had to be resuscitated following a frightening cardiac event, Goodell said he was proud of the way the league and its medical officials responded. “[They help] to save a young man’s life. Our medical professionals do an extraordinary job.”
Goodell and the league declined to announce any additional games outside the US. As it stands, there will be five total games overseas next year, including the Titans and Bills meeting at London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the Jaguars returning to Wembley Stadium in London, and the Chiefs and Patriots playing in Germany, though the specific city and venue for that game have yet to be announced. The NFL has previously stated Munich and Frankfurt will host regular season games over the next four seasons.
The NFL’s global expansion continued this year with a particular emphasis on the market in Germany. Nearly 70,000 fans attended the sold-out game in Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena; those spectators recorded Fanatics’ highest-ever merchandise sales for a game outside of the US to date.
As for Mexico City, the league will not return to city in the 2023 season due to renovations currently underway at the Estadio Azteca ahead of the 2026 World Cup. “When the stadium is renovated and completed we’re coming back,” Goodell said. Mexico City has hosted five games since 2016.
The Rooney Rule at a Crossroads
The never-ending conversation about the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview one external minority candidate for any GM or head coaching vacancy, continued Wednesday. As Goodell began in addressing a question on the matter, “I still feel like there’s better work and more work ahead of us. It’s never enough.”
At the conclusion of the 2022 regular season, the league had five head coaching openings. Thus far, three of the five have been filled and DeMeco Ryans is the sole Black coach that has been hired, bringing the league’s total of Black head coaches to three (Mike Tomlin, Mike McDaniel and Demeco Ryans).
Of particular note was Goodell’s response to a question from NFL.com’s Jim Trotter:
On a related note regarding the league holding its first Front Officer Accelerator program in May of 2022 at the spring league meeting in Atlanta, Goodell mentioned that the NFL will look into rescheduling the next edition of the event so that coaches are not in the middle of their club’s offseason programs when the next generation of rising personnel and football operations execs arrives to gain as much expert knowledge as possible.
“I do, but I still feel like there’s more work ahead of us. I think that there’s progress but it’s never enough. We always look to say, ‘How can we do better?’ The accelerator program really helped clubs and candidates to get to know each other, but that’s just one. We’ve had a number of programs put in. We want the changes to be fundamental, sound, and sustainable,” Goodell said.
Thursday Night Football Flexing
The NFL made its full-time debut on Amazon Prime Video this season and although the broadcast brought new consumers, one of the main subjects of discussion was the matchup quality within them. The league often flexes in and out of games among media partners like FOX, CBS, and NBC in order to maximize exposure of certain teams and matchups strategically, but hasn’t done so with TNF on Prime.
But it sure sounded like that day is coming.
“Not today, but it’ll be certainly something that’s on our horizon,” Goodell said of introducing Thursdays into the game-flexing mix.
That sound you hear is Amazon executives celebrating like mad.
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