Roger Goodell and Jerry Jones kiss and make up

By Mac Engel, The Sports Xchange  |  Dec. 13, 2017 at 11:47 PM
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IRVING, Texas -- Roger Goodell has his exit date set, and there will be a new NFL leader in 2024.

The much-criticized league commissioner, and subject of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' ire, agreed to a five-year extension with the league that will carry him through the 2023 season.

Per an NFL spokesperson at the NFL owners' meeting in Irving, Texas, the league and Goodell agreed to an incentive-laden deal.

Goodell's contract includes no post-retirement payments, and any use of a private plane will be at his own expense.

Goodell's contract, which reportedly could pay him approximately $40 million a year, became the subject of great speculation, and intense scrutiny, since Jones led a charge to block this extension.

At the meeting, all of the men presented a unified front, and that everyone involved is ready to move forward and put what has been an ugly season off the field behind it.

"I know how much Roger Goodell loves the National Football League," Jones said. "He should love it even more now."

Jones was kidding, but he's also dead serious.

The commissioner himself downplayed such talk of being done after serving out this extension, but the timing would make sense. Assuming Goodell serves the remainder of his new deal, he would have been the NFL commissioner for 18 years, one longer than his predecessor, Paul Tagliabue.

"The job changes and the challenges are different," Goodell said. "I think there is a limit to how many years you should serve. That's a determination for this league, and ownership, and yourself and your family."

What became apparent at the conclusion of the meetings is that Jones may not have had his way on this issue, but he had influence, and he has concerns.

In a move loaded with unintentional symbolism, Goodell spoke at the podium and took questions. Then he introduced Jones to follow him at the lectern.

The two said their relationship is fine. After introducing Jones, the two exchanged a brief hug. Jones was the only owner to formally speak behind the podium with the NFL logos behind him.

The other owners, most notably Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who did talk to reporters did so in small groups.

"More than anything what we stressed is the unity we know as owners," Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said. "That is critical to our success."

That unity recently came under question when Jones personally challenged Goodell's contract, which included the threat of a lawsuit.

The timing was curious since it was Goodell who suspended Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott for six games in August. After a prolonged battle in the courts, Elliott recently gave up his fight against the league and is currently serving the suspension.

From a business standpoint, Jones never felt the league should be paying an employee so much money when the person had no leverage. He thought more of Goodell's contract should be performance based.

The league revealed that about 90 percent of Goodell's contract now is based on performance.

From a football standpoint, Jones repeatedly expressed frustration with the league toward its due process when it came to player discipline. He never had made such strong comments until Elliott was suspended.

On Wednesday, Goodell denied that he ever promised Jones he would not suspend Elliott.

What neither Goodell nor Jones disagreed on is the need to update the league, and specifically how it handles player discipline.

"Let's address the way we are dealing with discipline," Goodell said. "There are better ways to do this and we just have to come to agreement on that. The reality is there are very few circumstances, and they get a lot of attention."

Jones spoke of the need for the NFL to update its constitution, and to adapt to a rapidly changing entertainment world where the league is now more vulnerable than ever in his nearly 30 years of owning the team.

"It's just changed," Jones said. "Everything needs to be updated. I'm not saying I've got the answers. I don't."

The concerns for Goodell now are to address the anti-league sentiment from fans who were upset by players who knelt during the national anthem; TV ratings; attendance issues, which he said were off by one percent, and the fear about playing the game itself.

The league made a pair of doctors available to a small number of reporters to have an off-the-record conversation about the state of player safety, and specifically concussions.

These are some of Goodell's concerns, and they are now safely his through 2023.

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