By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — There may be no group of men on earth more intent on asserting their own power than the men who run the National Football League.
This past week or so has done nothing to dispel that notion, as Cowboys owner Jerry Jones remains dead-set on derailing the league’s plans to extend commissioner Roger Goodell.
Jones reiterated his stance on Tuesday, a day after The New York Times reported that the other NFL owners might go so far as to try to suspend Jones from the league.
“Roger has almost 18 months left [on his current contract]. We’ve got all the time in the world to evaluate what we’re doing, and all the time in the world to extend him,” Jones said in his weekly interview on The Fan’s Shan & RJ Show. “We just need to slow this train down and discuss the issues at hand in the NFL.”
Clearly, Jones has been trying his damnedest to slow the train down, but it doesn’t seem to be working. After being kicked out of the compensation committee (on which he never held an official seat), Jones reportedly threatened to sue his fellow owners if the committee did not heed his advice on Goodell’s contract.
And because threatening such action against business partners is generally frowned upon, several owners issued a cease-and-desist warning to Jones, according to the NYT.
“The league could take a range of steps, including fines, docking draft picks and even suspending Jones,” Ken Belson reported.
That news comes after Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio — a well-connected man — reported on Sunday that some owners could attempt to “trigger forfeiture of the Dallas franchise.”
Florio described the league bylaw in detail, which sounds similar to what the NBA executed with former Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
“If the Commissioner believes the available sanction (a $500,000 fine) is ‘not adequate or sufficient,’ the Commissioner may refer the issue to the NFL’s Executive Committee, which has the power to compel ‘[c]ancellation or forfeiture of the franchise in the League of any member club involved or implicated,’ with a directive to sell the team,” Florio wrote.
Clearly, Jones’ threat to damage the league is much less than what the NBA faced with Sterling, but the fact that some high-ranking officials are dropping that information to Florio suggests that the fight taking place behind closed doors is very, very real.
Despite all the scuttlebutt, Jones denied the cease-and-desist letter’s existence and dismissed the talk of forfeiture. He also suggested he has a lot of support in his quest to halt the contract extension talk for Goodell.
“I’ve had not one inkling of communication from the league office or any owner that would suggest something that laughable and ridiculous,” he said on Tuesday’s radio interview about the forfeiture report. “That’s about where that is. They really haven’t read the — if someone is asserting that or thinking about that kind of thing, they haven’t, they’re not knowledgeable about how things work in the NFL.
“I have had communication with the committee chairman, but other than that I’ve had no notice or anything that owners — quote, owners — I speak to a lot of owners. A lot of owners,” he continued. “And I know them to be really supportive of the idea of being able to on their part see what and guide and give input to the committee, particularly the chairman. And I have well over half this league that is very interested in not only being a part of what is negotiated but having it come back to them for approval.”
Jones was asked by Shan & RJ if he plans to back off on his efforts to interfere with Goodell’s extension.
“Again, no, I think is the best way to answer that,” he said.
And when asked what NFL storyline he’s most tired of hearing about, Jones essentially admitted what this grandstanding is all about.
“The almost two-years saga of Zeke Elliott particularly comes to my mind,” he answered. “I would agree that you should basically address the issues that we really do consider when it comes to social issues. I think it’s real important to all of us and fans that we basically get that right and these are hard issues for the league to address for everyone. But it’s so important that we get it right, and we need good leadership to do so.”
So there you have it. Despite thinking not long ago that the commissioner was “doing an outstanding job” and that he did “support the commissioner” and that Goodell was “doing a great job” and believed that “one of his best qualities is fairness” and argued that he is fully in support of “the commissioner having the power” Jones has determined Goodell is a bad leader.
And, in an interesting twist of fate, he’s mostly right. But the majority of owners likely enjoy the way the NFL dominated the last round of CBA negotiations with the union, and they likely enjoy all of the increased profits from the TV deals and the franchise relocations, and they don’t really give a rat’s patoot whether Ezekiel Elliott has to miss six football games.
So Roger will probably get his $50 million and might even get his lifetime access to a private jet. But, even in the face of growing discontent from his fellow owners, Jones does not plan on sitting idly by and letting it happen.
Jones remains very unlikely to win any part of this fight with the league. But his complete commitment to fighting the owners and Goodell at every step of the way promises to generate some spectacular entertainment for those of us on the outside.
As a controversial Dallas wideout once said, get your popcorn ready. This show is not ending soon.