Jerry Jones’ fight against the NFL Compensation Committee in Roger Goodell’s contract extension is chaos.
League commissioner contract negotiations are not usually interesting, but yonder in the NFL — where people are talking about everything but the games — things are getting really wild. Sports Illustrated is reporting an impending overthrow; the New York Times is calling Jerry Jones an “erratic insurgent.”
Will there be a coup? Will Jerry Jones really sue? Is Jones our next NFL commissioner? Does he even want that? What’s his endgame? That all remains to be seen. More likely than not, Roger Goodell will sign a new contract with a mostly-agreeable ownership group for a boatload of money (and health insurance!). But until then, here’s a brief guide to what the heck is going on with Jerry Jones, Roger Goodell and the chaotic NFL commissioner’s contract extension fight.
In theory, Goodell’s contract and future lie in the hands of a six-owner group called the Compensation Committee. In May, all the owners agreed — by unanimous vote — to empower the committee to make a deal with Goodell. Chaired by Falcons owner Arthur Blank, the committee also includes Clark Hunt (Kansas City Chiefs), Robert Kraft (New England Patriots), John Mara (New York Giants), Bob McNair (Houston Texans) and Art Rooney II (Pittsburgh Steelers).
Jerry Jones is not and was not ever an official member, but he was very involved, participating (actively) in conference calls and was even offered a formal vote — that he declined — during an October meeting. His unofficial advisory role ended when he threatened to sue the committee. (He also said he was hiring Harvey Weinstein’s former lawyer, David Boies, because sure, why not?)
This is also the committee that has been the focus of all the delightful quotes and anonymous-source-reports in Sports Illustrated Sunday:
“Are you telling us you’re prepared to file litigation against us?” committee member John Mara of the Giants asked, according to the source. Jones, a former disciple of the late, contentious Raiders owner Al Davis, said he was, per the source.
The committee chairman, Arthur Blank of the Falcons, spoke, and said this, per another source who heard the call: “I’m shocked. I’m disappointed. We may have differences, Jerry, but this is not the way we resolve them. This is not the way we do things in the NFL.”
I asked what the feelings of the Compensation Committee members were after they got off the call. “Shocked,” the source said. “Totally shocked. Emotional. Angry. In disbelief. This was an owner [Jones] who, earlier this year, voted in favor of authorizing the committee to do the deal with Roger. He was still in favor early in August.”
Patriots owner and committee member Robert Kraft told Jones words to this effect: Jerry, my franchise got killed for a BS incident with so-called deflated footballs. We lost our quarterback for 25% of the season. We got fined a million bucks. We lost first- and fourth-round picks. For hogwash! But I took it. My fans killed me for it, but I try to be a good partner.
The compensation committee will have a call Monday to keep this contract chaos train moving. Presumably, Jerry Jones will not be provided call-in information.
For those inclined to speculate, the timing surrounding Jones’ anti-Goodell advocacy is a little suspect. (Others, including Peter King, who wrote the Sports Illustrated story, report that Jones had independently concluded Goodell was overpaid and “suspension-happy.”)
Apparently, Jones raised no serious concerns on an Aug. 9 conference call, two days before Goodell suspended Elliot for six games. The New York Times reported that the compensation committee met at a restaurant in Manhattan. Per the Times:
In a private room, the owners discussed the structure of Goodell’s new deal and some of the finer points the commissioner wanted added. Jones was not in New York, but was listening on a speaker phone. “We got to a good place that night,” one person involved in the dinner said. “Jerry was on board with all of it.”
After the announcement of Elliot’s suspension on Aug. 11, it became very clear that Jerry — “an erratic insurgent among owners who prize order” — is not on board with it anymore. Draw your own conclusions.
To be fair to Jerr, who may or may not be spiraling out of control in a petty and pointless power struggle, the contract Goodell wants is bonkers.
There is, of course, the matter of the (truly unfathomable amounts of) money. Behold this detail from his previous deal, which netted approximately $30 million a year, per Sports Illustrated’s exhaustive report:
There was a provision in the old deal that mandated Goodell receive an average of $25-million per year in guaranteed bonuses in a rolling three-year period over the life of the deal. If Goodell did not receive $25 million in bonuses in one year, it would have to be made up over the next two years, and in each three-year period, he’d be guaranteed approximately $75 million in bonuses.
In theory, Goodell, allegedly, was willing to forego guaranteed money on his new contract, instead getting a base salary of $4 million a year with 88 percent of the contract incentivized based on league performance. That said, the prevailing assumption among critics of the contract is that the vague framing essentially results in Goodell receiving the same pay regardless of how the league performs.
And so, this payout structure is what Jones wants the Compensation Committee to send back to the whole ownership group for edits and a vote. Which, again, is very much just not done in the NFL.
ESPN also reports Goodell is asking for $50 million a year with “lifetime use of a private jet and lifetime health insurance for his family,” which is unbelievable and, in fact, has been denied by the NFL.
Jones is reportedly not alone in thinking Goodell should take a pay cut and yet, the majority of NFL owners are onboard. According to the New York Times:
In October, when all 32 owners met in New York, Blank, the chairman of the committee, briefed them on the structure of the deal. There was little opposition. But several weeks ago, Jones held a conference call with more than a dozen owners not on the compensation committee to discuss Goodell’s extension.
When that failed to turn the tide against the extension, Jones spoke on a conference call last week with the compensation committee and threatened to take legal action.
Again, it seems likely that this will all end with Roger Goodell locked in as NFL commissioner for another five years (2024 contract negotiations here we come) and Jerry Jones redirecting his efforts to some new cause and all of us shaking our fists at the sheer amount of money in professional sports.
That said, with the way things are devolving and the heels being dug in, things could get even messier before the ink on any eventual contract dries.