By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Roger Goodell, quite simply, does not lose.
He may deceive when it comes to overseeing investigations. He may be a living, breathing PowerPoint presentation when it comes to regurgitating league talking points. To outside observers, he may provide no real obvious value for the NFL.
Yet the man cannot be defeated.
Tom Brady? Lost. Robert Kraft? Lost. Ezekiel Elliott? Lost. Jerry Jones? Losing.
Goodell might as well start making plans for retirement trips in his private jet, because the commissioner is currently riding a hot streak that can’t be stopped.
The latest development came Wednesday, when Elliott officially dropped his appeal. Despite his claims of innocence, despite the NFL investigator recommending he face no punishment, and despite no formal charges from law enforcement, Elliott is going to serve his six-game suspension. He fought it as best he could, but ultimately he learned that there is no winning when it comes to taking on the commissioner.
It wasn’t always this way, of course. Back in 2012 Goodell’s predecessor, Paul Tagliabue, did the impossible by reversing a ruling issued by Goodell. Tagliabue ruled that Goodell was wrong in suspending Saints players for the big bounty scandal, and so he rescinded the punishments.
Roger did not like this. He wanted the ability to be wrong and get what he wanted out of such situations. And so, he adapted.
In the case of the Patriots and air pressure, he stacked the deck against Brady and the team, giving them little recourse to fight. Kraft showed some early fight but eventually understood the impossible challenge facing him if he wanted to really combat the claims. Brady fought and actually earned a win in court, but that victory was short-lived. Two of three Second Circuit judges took Goodell’s side, thus empowering Goodell to take on any fight with any player he wanted.
And, having knocked off one marquee franchise, Goodell continued his big game hunting exercise by targeting the Dallas Cowboys. After almost completely overlooking a case of admitted domestic violence involving a Giants player, Goodell decided to get serious with domestic violence accusations against a Cowboys player. He bypassed his own policy in letting the Giants player skate free (until the public caught him in the lie and he made a responsive PR move) and then brought the full weight of the league down on the Cowboys player.
It was interesting to say the least.
And when Goodell removed the league’s lead investigator from the equation of punishment (after she happened to discredit the accuser and recommend Elliott not be punished), it seemed like a clear-cut case of a commissioner of a sports league overextending his powers.
But, as we’ve learned in recent years, there simply is no such thing. Goodell can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, however he wants, and there’s nothing anyone can really do about it.
That hasn’t stopped Cowboys owner Jerry Jones from trying, though if he’s not careful Jones just might make a mess for himself, out of which he won’t be able to climb. It’s abundantly clear that there is no winning when it comes to fighting Goodell, and Jones might want to accept that reality sooner than later.
In that sense, it’s not difficult to see why Goodell would ask for a $50 million annual salary, lifetime health insurance for his family, and the access to a private jet whenever he wants. When you cannot lose, you might as well ask for the moon. Who’s really going to say no?
What a world.
Might as well make some picks while we can.
(Home team in CAPS; Thursday lines)
Tennessee (+7) over PITTSBURGH
The only person less invested in this game than me will be Ben Roethlisberger. The quarterback is 35 years old, has the body of a 45-year-old, has 12 TDs and 10 INTs, weighed the possibility of retirement in the offseason, limped off the field after an uninspiring win over the lowly Colts, and he’s supposed to be geeked up for a Thursday night game on no rest? He’s already grumpy about it. No way no how.
Arizona (+1) over HOUSTON
I know the outrage expressed every time a quarterback not named Colin Kaepernick is signed to an NFL roster, but in the case of the Texans, it’s hard to believe they never made the call.
With Deshaun Watson as the starting quarterback, the Texans went just 2-2 but averaged 49 points per game. Forty-nine points per game! Since Tom Savage was given the reins, they’re 0-2 and have averaged 10.5 points per game. They stink, and they’re wallowing away, and they’re letting a season slip away because they don’t have a quarterback (and they suffered some devastating injuries on defense, but shh, that doesn’t help my argument).
Given the action Kaepernick has taken against the league, maybe it was too late for the Texans to make the call. Whatever the case, they’ve gone from being a player in the AFC South to being irrelevant rather quickly.
Detroit (-3) over CHICAGO
Tampa Bay (Pick ’em) over MIAMI
Jacksonville (-8) over CLEVELAND
Washington (+8) over NEW ORLEANS
Kansas City (-11) over NEW YORK GIANTS
Baltimore (-2) over GREEN BAY
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-4) over Buffalo
Cincinnati (+2.5) over DENVER
Philadelphia (-4) over DALLAS
You may or may not have noticed, but this year has not been my best when it comes to making these here NFL picks. The problem is, you see, uhh, well, (thinking of scapegoats to blame, anything or anyone other than myself), the thing is, it’s the teams that stink, not me. You see? Yes, that is it.
In any event, I’ll try to be as brief as possible with some of the truly uneventful matchups until my record recovers. It is, literally, the least I could do.
Los Angeles Rams (+2) over MINNESOTA
If I had told you in August that a Jared Goff-Case Keenum matchup would be the best game in Week 11, you’d no doubt have smacked me across the lips. You might have even socked me right in my kisser, depending on your mood.
This game does kick off an incredibly difficult stretch for the Rams, who will face the Vikings, Saints, Eagles and Seahawks over a five-week span. If they emerge from that still atop the NFC West, then we have got ourselves a true contender out in L.A.
New England (-7) over OAKLAND (In Mexico)
Normally I don’t put the “home” team in caps for the neutral site international games, but I have vivid memories of thousands of Raiders fans going bananas at Azteca Stadium last year, shining laser pointers on Brock Osweiler’s face. I remember one shot of a bunch of fans who appeared to be separated from the rest of the crowd by a chain link fence. It was terrifying. So I’m counting this as an Oakland home game.
I’m also looking at a Patriots offense that is generating steam toward operating with stupid efficiency, and I’m not going to take Jack Del Rio’s struggling team to beat Bill Belichick’s.
Atlanta (+3) over SEATTLE
I don’t know who will win this game, because I clearly don’t know who will win any game. But I do know this: The Patriots should attend this game. Belichick and Brady and Malcolm Butler and Julian Edelman have more or less wrecked the psyche of these franchises, and it would be pretty humorous for the TV broadcast to cut some chuckling Patriots in the crowd after various mistakes by the players and coaches on the field. What better way to cap off a two-week road trip of team bonding than a good old-fashioned chucklefest at Monday Night Football?
I think it would be funny. But then again, as the record will show you, I’m a pretty big loser.
Last week: 5-8-1