NFL owners' filth has stained Roger Goodell, and he may no longer be useful | Opinion

Commissioner Roger Goodell has long been a shield for NFL owners, but after years of protecting Dan Snyder and others, he may be too damaged for them.

Mike Freeman

We all know what NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is. He is a human heat shield. He's a protective blister on the backsides of the owners to prevent chafing. He was paid $63.9 million each of the last two years, according to the New York Times. Forbes says that makes him one of the highest-paid leaders in all of American industry. The NFL owners are oligarchs, and Goodell is their $100 million flame-retardant suit.

Forbes also reports that his salary is more than five times larger than his commissioner contemporaries. The NBA's Adam Silver and NHL's Gary Bettman both earn, Forbes says, $10 million a year, while MLB's Rob Manfred is paid $11 million.

This is cash well-spent if you're NFL owners. You didn't see any of them being grilled by Congress on Wednesday, did you? No. The hearings devolved at times into a clown show, but what's clear is the vile owner of the Washington Commanders, Dan Snyder -- who has ruled over a sewer system empire of alleged miscreants, misogynists, perverts, and gropers -- didn't testify. Thus the hearings without Snyder were like putting on Hamlet without Hamlet.

Again, this is what Snyder and the owners pay Goodell to do. They don't pay him to be smart. They don't pay him to be effective. They don't pay him to be decent (among the oligarchs, decency is a weakness). They pay him to get his teeth kicked in before Congress so theirs shine, nice and untouched.

But I'm going to tell you something. I can almost guarantee it. At some point soon, very soon, Goodell's empty suit-ed-ness will no longer be useful to the owners. He will be too damaged a product even for them.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell testifies virtually Wednesday as Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., listens, during a House Oversight Committee hearing on the Washington Commanders' workplace conduct. Team owner Dan Snyder did not attend the hearing. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

We are quickly approaching that point, if we already haven't passed it.

The theory among the owners is that Goodell is supposed to be a clean-ish stand-in for them, but he can't do that if he's drenched in the slop, too.

Goodell is not supposed to be scandal-plagued himself. His job is to defend the scandal-plagued. Goodell is in trouble when you cannot differentiate between him and the scandals.

MORE:Will Deshaun Watson face NFL punishment? Multi-step process lies ahead.

OPINION:Time for transparency from NFL? Congress, legal battles could put pressure on Goodell

You cannot untangle the mess that is Snyder's Commanders without catching bits and pieces of Goodell throughout. Goodell and Snyder are intertwined. We could go down the list of things that happened inside that organization during Snyder's tenure, and while Goodell may not have known everything, he has known enough, and still there's been no significant punishment of Snyder by Goodell.

Goodell fining Snyder $10 million last year was a joke. Ten mil is what Snyder pays to fuel his yacht and eat chocolate in the South of France while evading Congress.

There's been no serious restraining of Snyder by Goodell and that fact, along with many other scandals during Goodell's tenure, will finally be his ruin.

Despite the ugliness of the Snyder situation, and how it has put Goodell in the hot seat, Goodell was, in some ways, still playing his role as heat shield as he testified. When asked by Rep. Rashida Tlaib if he would remove Snyder, the commissioner said he didn't have the power to do so.

He does, however, have the power to initiate such a move. Why hasn't he done it when it's clearly deserved? Because he still sees his role as oligarch protector.

"In his inexplicable and apparently unending desire to protect Dan Snyder, Goodell continues his refusal to release the findings by Beth Wilkinson, citing reasons that do not withstand even minimal scrutiny," the two lawyers who represent over 40 Washington Commanders employees said in a dual statement Wednesday. "Confidentiality can be protected in a written report by redacting the names of witnesses, which is common practice, including by the NFL."

MORE:Recap of congressional hearing

After workplace allegations were levied against the team in 2020, the NFL commissioned an investigation led by Wilkinson. Goodell refused to release the findings of the report, saying he needed to protect the identities of the women. This is an excuse no one believes, because the NFL doesn't believe in protecting women.

The more likely reason is the report contains massively embarrassing information that encompasses more than just the Washington team. 

Goodell remains the dutiful protector of Snyder and other owners. He's earning that paycheck.

The owners, I believe, are starting to see that Goodell is no longer useful to them. He's too burned, the heat shield too worn by not just multiple scandals, but the poor way Goodell has handled them.

The owners are likely thinking it's time for another stooge.