Jerry Jones’ feud with Roger Goodell lasted for the better part of the 2017 season. Of course its following us into 2018.
It’s been a quiet three weeks since the Super Bowl. There have been trades and signings and, ya know, some stuff related to football. But that’s still a while without any kind of controversy, mudslinging, lawyering, or adding of “-gate” to another word.
Right on cue, the New York Times reported today that Jerry Jones and Roger Goodell have stepped back into the ring.
According to the report from Ken Belson, who covers the NFL for the Times, Goodell is planning to fine the Cowboys’ owner “millions” for his actions last season. Jones’ public feuding included threats to sue fellow owners while sabotaging contract negotiations around Goodell’s extension. In all of this, Goodell and several owners believe that Jones “crossed an unspoken boundary”.
As the picture above (could have been their Christmas card) suggests, the feud between Jones and Goodell has’t always existed. Jones, one of the NFL’s most well known and vocal owners, had been a big supporter of Goodell’s to this point. Things began to sour when the league suspended Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott over an alleged domestic violence incident. No charges were filed, but based on pictures and statements from the victim, the NFL made the decision to sit Elliott for six regular season games in 2017.
Jones saw this as unfair plus he really likes winning football games which is harder without one of his best players. He vehemently protested the suspension and supported his record setting runner through the federal appeals process.
The appeal was denied, but during all of the disagreement over Elliott, Jones began lobbying the compensation committee to table negotiations around Goodell’s contract extension. He escalated to threatening legal action and through his lawyer, sent several letters to the committee of six other team owners.
ESPN’s Ian Rappaport later clarified via Twitter that it was not a fine but a “reimbursement of costs incurred by member clubs” and would be more than $2M.
The beginning of the report cites “five league officials with direct knowledge of the situation.” Five sources? That seems like overkill for any story at any time, let alone this day and age and a story that really didn’t need to be a story this far in advance. Usually when someone gets fined, the story just breaks when the fine comes out. There’s no ongoing investigation since this is all from months ago. Just a little odd.
It all snaps into focus by the third sentence, though:
“Goodell has been reluctant to be seen as exacting retribution for the way Jones tried to sabotage his contract talks, but he was urged to bring the penalties by several owners who believed that Jones had crossed an unspoken boundary by threatening his colleagues.”
“Reluctant to be seen as exacting retribution.” That’s like saying Peyton Manning has been reluctant to be seen as selling pizza or insurance.
That little detail doesn’t come out as part of the actual fine (or reimbursement of costs incurred). Not so subtly let the story out weeks in advance, have five sources back the story … that’s called controlling the narrative. It loses a bit of its effectiveness when the story is put out without even an attempt at subtlety, though. In fairness, it’s hard to be subtle or apply any nuance to Goodell’s reluctance to be seen as exacting retribution, since it so blatantly does not exist.
I bet Tom Brady and the Patriots wish they’d seen some of that reluctance around 2015. I developed a reluctance to watching ESPN or listening to sports talk radio for a couple months after hearing the Ideal Gas Law brought up a 37th time.
I’m sure the plenty of people within the Saints organization around 2009-2012 are as unfamiliar with all this reluctance too.
Jones’ lawyer is probably glad the NFL commissioner found a way around his reluctance too. He’ll have his work cut out for him if, as Rappaport suggested, the resolution has stood for 20 years.
The argument that Jones “crossed and unspoken boundary” is a tough one too. I’ve watched the replay several times, and it is impossible to tell if Jerry establishes himself as a runner before he crosses the unspoken boundary.