Goodell, Smith Should Resign for Good of Game

The owners opted out of the CBA three years ago. Yet here we are, with the Packers scheduled to kick off the season in 100 days, no closer to a deal now than back in May 2008. It's time for these stubborn men to step aside and allow fresh faces to save the season.

I have no doubt that Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith, the leaders of the NFL and used-to-be NFLPA, respectively, are smart men who are passionate about what they do.

That's why both need to step down. A few months ago would have been ideal, but now wouldn't be a bad time, either.

As of today, there are 100 days remaining until the Green Bay Packers are scheduled to kick off the NFL season and defense of their world championship by hosting the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 8 at Lambeau Field.

As the lockout continues with no end in sight and the threat of the season being delayed becomes more and more real, it's increasingly clear that Goodell and Smith are leading the game and the people they represent on a bullet train toward a cliff.

In May 20, 2008, the owners voted to opt out of the collective bargaining agreement. Here we are, more than three years later, and it appears the sides are no closer to striking a deal.

Calling that ineptitude "ridiculous" doesn't begin to do it justice. The only thing accomplished during the last 157 weeks is a dangerous buildup of animosity and mistrust. By now, they probably couldn't agree that 1 plus 1 equals 2.

The owners opted out of the CBA because they say player salaries are growing at a far faster rate than revenue. That's what the league claims, anyway, but in asking the players to take a pay cut, the teams have made little effort to prove their financial dire straits.

With that, it's little wonder why Smith has been so headstrong. Still, the Packers open their books every year and the evidence of the NFL's troubles are as obvious as Smith's ego is big. Even with revenue reaching new heights every year, the Packers have seen their profit fall from $34 million to $9.8 million over a four-year span from fiscal-year 2006 to 2009, according to team data released in July. In 2006, the Packers' player costs were $111 million. In 2009, the last year available, salaries and bonuses had soared to $161 million.

That's not exactly a good business model if the Packers' ledger is similar to the rest of the league's.

Then again, Goodell played a key role in negotiating this mess when a revamped collective bargaining agreement was agreed upon in March 2006, during Paul Tagliabue's final months as commissioner. The lockout started under Goodell's watch and he's done very little to get the pressing issues resolved.

What's sad is neither side really seems to have the players' best interests at heart, and Goodell and Smith are turning a blind eye to all of the collateral damage they've created.

The NFL canceled the annual Rookie Symposium recently. How is that good for anybody? Even if rookie attendance no longer could be mandated without a CBA, at least hold the event and invite the players to attend. If it keeps one or two players off of the crime blotter or a few players from being broke when they're 35, it would be time and money well spent.

Speaking of the rookies, the lockout is putting so many of their careers in jeopardy, even if the NFL at least temporarily allows expanded rosters to start the season. If a fifth-round pick is thrown into the fire for the first time in August, with barely a clue on a playbook he hasn't been allowed to see and NFL techniques he hasn't been able to train, how is he going to seriously compete for a roster spot against a battle-hardened veteran who's been ensconced in the scheme for four years?

Then there are the 300-plus undrafted rookies who would have signed with teams by now. That taken-for-granted group captures between 30 and 50 roster spots every year. Could the Packers have won the Super Bowl without the likes of Sam Shields and Frank Zombo playing such key roles last season? If the lockout drags into August, though, why bother signing many of them since they'd be taking valuable coaching and snaps away from the draft picks and young veterans?

The strategies espoused by Goodell and Smith aren't doing the veterans any favors, either. The longer the lockout drags on, the shorter the period for free agency and the shorter the period for those players to digest a playbook and help their new team. The lockout probably won't impact a guy like Cullen Jenkins, who will be one of the top players available. But a player like receiver James Jones might have made a mint as a free agent but now that teams drafted 28 receivers last month, how many openings are there for a good-but-not-great player like Jones? Not all teams, obviously, but many of them probably would rather try to groom a minimum-salary rookie than hand out $10 million in guaranteed money and hope Jones' hands improve.

What's nauseating is that the league and the players say they want to negotiate but the only talking that's being done are lies and half-truths spewed on Twitter. Both sides will wait for the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to rule on their Friday hearing. That ruling won't be rendered until mid-June, at the earliest, leaving precious little negotiating time to ensure training camps will begin on schedule.

Not that Goodell or Smith seem to care. From all appearances, Goodell is fighting to save his legacy and Smith is fighting for his ego. This wasn't the way business was conducted when Tagliabue was commissioner and the late Gene Upshaw led the union.

So, do everyone a favor: Step aside and let the adults take over.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.


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