Monday, June 29, 2015

Bob Lobel: From Bert Bell to Roger Goodell

By Bob Lobel (@boblobel)

Starting with the stupid subject of transparency, I offer this brief explanation: I have worked with and have known Upton Bell for over thirty years. He was a great partner on the radio and brought cache to the table at a time when I had none. He always was a little eccentric, but that’s a plus, and perhaps should be mandatory for a radio host. 

His cache came from being the son of Bert Bell, the NFL's first commissioner following World War II, and a founding father of the modern league. Since Upton has been inside the NFL ropes from day one, I thought it might be interesting to compare the job of commissioner and the league since Bell to Goodell. 

Bert Bell was followed by Pete Rozelle, then Paul Tagliabue and now Roger Goodell. Four commissioners, one league, and a much different mission statement.

Bert Bell's league was run by football people. Bell was, himself, a former player, coach, general manager and owner before becoming commissioner. His style was a unique model that the present holder of that job, Roger, would be well served to emulate if he could. 

Why not? Well, Bert Bell was a decision maker and respected as a leader. He worked  for other football people throughout the league. Football people were in charge. Not today. The job has evolved through Rozelle as a public relations cash cow. While football people were once in charge, they have been replaced by money people. 

The Bert Bell/Pete Rozelles were still footballers for the most part, but the tide was rapidly changing. Football was the product and now making money  was the new mission statement. So much so that Goodell works for money people  as a decision maker. Bert Bell solved problems instead  of creating calamities.  

As an example, this Brady thing should never have gotten to this point. Never, ever. Two sides now trying to save their legacy is not what this league is about. Making decisions has becoming a consensus thing.  Fantasy leagues are the future. Gambling is the past, present an future. 

A note that should be added. When then-commissioner Rozelle found out Paul Hornung was gambling, he was suspended for a year. And it was done by the commissioner, without 500 page reports from an outside parties.

Bell was also a fan, and the players knew it. 

Bell was one of them first, and keeper of the product second. 

Right guy, right place, right time. 

On the other hand, Rodger Goodell has a mess to clean up. His remarkable lack of institutional knowledge could well become his undoing. The point of this is simply to show in a very short period of time, this football product that owns the TV markets, continues to be obsessed with power and money. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the leader is the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

While it seems every issue becomes a disaster, only to be fueled by the owner's pick for commissioner, indicates how different things are in this universe. Maybe TB12 played loose with the air in the footballs. Maybe so. Maybe not. 

My conversations with Upton, Bert's son, would indicate how different things are. Not just rule changes on offense and defense, but the keeper of the game.  The game will survive, but many more of these front office fumbles and Roger will have to take his balls and leave.

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