By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Jerry Jones is reportedly trying to stand in the way of Roger Goodell securing himself tens of millions of more dollars for many more years to come.
Upset with Goodell’s handling of the domestic violence accusations against star running back Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys owner is fighting back against the commissioner any way possible. And reportedly, that means trying to step in to halt a contract extension with Goodell at the last moment.
This is a foolhardy endeavor for the Cowboys’ owner. For some details as to why, here’s a story.
A little more than two years ago, Robert Kraft felt pretty darn good about his standing among NFL owners. His team — annually among the very best in the league — was just coming off its fourth Super Bowl victory in the new century. Personally, he still held plenty of goodwill among his wealthy brethren for the work he put in to ensure that the 2011 lockout ended without the league having to miss any games. He sat on several NFL committees, and he chaired the all-important broadcast committee.
Kraft was as “powerful” as powerful gets among the owners.
So when he went looking for a comrade or two in the throes of DeflateGate, he likely felt confident that he’d have no trouble finding them. After all, anyone who watched the matter closely saw how the league office had lied and manipulated its way through the whole ordeal. Surely, one of Kraft’s colleagues would see that and join his fight.
Yet much to Kraft’s surprise, he couldn’t find a taker. Not a one.
That’s the main reason why, after showing fire and brimstone upon arriving in Phoenix prior to Super Bowl XLIX, Kraft eventually folded his tent and accepted the league’s punishment.
“At no time should the agenda of one team outweigh the collective good of the 32,” Kraft reluctantly stated in May of 2015.
It’s up for debate just how seriously Kraft continued his fight behind the scenes — many believe he was merely going through the motions in order to appease his fan base, but his relationship with Tom Brady shouldn’t be discounted in assessing his true intentions — but Kraft ended up writing a letter to Goodell in March of 2016, requesting that the league give back the Patriots’ first-round draft pick.
Surprise, surprise: The letter did not work.
From The Boston Globe’s Ben Volin on March 23, 2016:
Four NFL owners told the Globe at the conclusion of the meetings Wednesday morning that the 32 owners never talked about giving back this year’s first-round pick to the Patriots, and that Kraft never addressed the topic in the league’s closed-door meetings.
One NFC owner, when asked if there was any appetite for considering the Patriots’ pleas and reducing the penalties, stated bluntly: “No. Not at all.”
Giants owner John Mara and Steelers chairman Art Rooney reiterated that sentiment.
Bleacher Report’s Jason Cole said on May 26, 2016 that multiple NFL owners were extremely disappointed that Kraft wrote a letter to Roger Goodell to request the return of the draft picks.
Clearly, NFL owners had zero appetite to hear Kraft’s case. Even though Goodell’s staff members executed a comically inept episode of “CSI: Foxboro” to derail the situation from the start, even though a high-ranking NFL official openly threatened the Patriots in the middle of an AFC title game, even though the league had no specific protocol in place for the pregame handling of footballs, even though the head of officiating publicly told a bald-faced lie prior to Super Bowl XLIX, even though a high-ranking NFL official leaked false information to the media in the course of the “investigation,” even though the league flat-out refused to publicly correct that false information, even though the league’s senior VP of football operations sent a letter with false information to the Patriots in order to get them to open their doors to an “independent” investigator, even though the league hid the fact that league executive vice president Jeff Pash edited the final “independent” investigative report before it was released to the public, despite the league employing a shady scientific company to manipulate photos and bend scientific data to prove a preconceived hypothesis, even though the commissioner wrangled his way into serving as the hearing officer to determine the validity of his own decision, and even though the commissioner told a black-and-white lie in his final ruling against Tom Brady, the NFL owners did not want to hear it. Stop your complaining, take your medicine, and move on.
Jones himself displayed utter delight when being interviewed during the 2015 season at the opportunity to revel in the Patriots’ misery.
“I do support the commissioner,” Jones said, “and I support the commissioner for what his position [is] relative to the rules and the sanctions.”
Jones felt the same way as most of his fellow owners; he was merely the only one to willingly express those feelings time and time again in public.
Now, the Patriots were hardly the only team to feel Goodell’s arbitrary, inconsistent and largely unjust wrath. In fact, the Kansas City Chiefs — who were hit with an unprecedented loss of a third- and sixth-round draft pick for tampering — arguably got it worse. Despite the fact that every team tampers to a certain extent, there were no owners standing up for Clark Hunt and the Chiefs. Quit your crying, take your punishment, we don’t want to hear it.
It’s a regular routine for NFL owners: If the perceived injustice doesn’t hurt their teams, then they really don’t care, so long as the league remains profitable.
Which brings us to Jones. An important distinction must be made in the ongoing battle between Elliott and the NFL, and it involves the matter at hand. No longer are we talking about inflation needles or PSI or texts from Andy Reid to Jeremy Maclin or anything else involved with the game. The discussion here centers around domestic violence — a touchy subject in any walk of life, but particularly in the NFL.
Ever since Goodell and the NFL tried to sweep a horrific act of violence under the rug with Ray Rice in 2014, the league has done everything it can to put forth a strong public face against any domestic violence. The validity of this concern remains very much doubtful — a one-game slap on the wrist last year to Giants kicker Josh Brown, who admitted to years of abusing his wife, stands out — but it is nevertheless an important public relations point for the league.
Now, in the case of Elliott, even though we know that authorities opted to not press charges and even though we know that the NFL’s lead investigator on the case expressed skepticism of the alleged victim and recommended there be no punishment for the player, the waters remain murky. Surely, if Elliott were indeed 100 percent guilty of what he’s been accused of doing, he would not be the first man in America to avoid any and all punishment from the legal system or his employer.
In the matter of assessing Elliott’s guilt or innocence, it’s truly not possible for those of us far removed from the case to offer a wholly confident opinion.
But the police report is out there, and it simply does not look good. The idea of another owner sticking out his own neck to stand up for the man in that police report is such a laughably implausible event that it’s not worth considering for one single, solitary minute.
(Tangential point: It is absurd for Jones to suggest that Goodell’s compensation is too high, just months after Jones managed to successfully drive a franchise move of the Raiders in order to secure millions upon millions of dollars in private profits for himself.)
The owners weren’t there to support a fellow owner when the league led a preposterously slanted investigation over the silliest of trivial matters. The owners weren’t there when an always-overlooked “violation” of tampering drew excessive punishment.
The owners certainly won’t be there on a matter of domestic violence — especially when the player in question has exhibited a habit of questionable decision-making and looks unlikely to make anyone look good in the long run by sticking up for him. And surely, Giants owner John Mara wouldn’t turn his back on his friend Roger by suddenly fighting back against the inconsistent and prejudiced doling out of domestic violence punishments.
Nope, Jerry Jones may be obscenely rich, he may be the newest member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and he may have significant sway over the owners when it comes to making business deals. But when it comes to discipline that impacts his team and only his team, he’s likely finding out right now that he’s on an island unto himself.
We’ve heard enough, Jerry. We’re not interested, Jerry. Not our problem, Jerry.
Much like Kraft in recent years, Jones is set to receive a dose of reality from colleagues who consider themselves to be peers more than they consider themselves to be friends.