By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Prior to kickoff on Sunday afternoon in Mexico City, far away from the rabid Foxboro fans who don’t care much for his style, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell casually strolled the sidelines and enjoyed a nice chat with Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
What the pair discussed is anybody’s guess; billionaires and multi-millionaires-who-are-pursuing-lifetime-access-to-private-jets might speak in their own secret language for all I know.
But one subject that might have come up is the ongoing battle between Goodell and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, including Jones’ creative description of Kraft.
And sure enough, when visual evidence of the sideline soiree began to be transmitted in New England, it was enough to make ardent Patriots fans cringe — and with good reason. The circumstances surrounding “DeflateGate” were utterly preposterous, and Goodell and the rest of his cronies were never properly held responsible for the deceitful way they handled the matter from start to finish. Many fans who are heavily invested in the Patriots franchise thus feel disenchanted with the idea of Kraft politely chatting up a man considered to be the enemy.
Yet while many fans remain nonplussed with Kraft’s lack of fight two years ago, you can’t possibly look at the hissy fit Jones is currently throwing and consider it to be a sage business strategy.
Jones is essentially self-destructing because things that have happened to other teams are finally happening to him. If Jones actually cared about what is right and what is best for the league, he would have shown an interest at some point along the way. The fact is, Jones doesn’t care about fairness or virtue or righteousness from the commissioner. He didn’t care when other teams were crushed under the weight of Goodell’s inequity; in fact, he relished in some of those moments by gloating whenever his face was close to a microphone.
Jones only cares now because it was his team that got shafted. And as a result, he’s throwing decades of cachet into the toilet.
His fellow owners are treating him the way a parent might handle a toddler throwing a temper tantrum.
It was presumably Jones or a confidant of Jones who leaked the news of Goodell’s contract demands in an effort to block the commissioner’s contract extension. The other owners responded by calmly telling any reporter possible that a contract extension will get done no matter what Jones says or does — and that was after they kicked him out of the committee.
Jones hired an attorney and threatened to take legal action against the league. The owners responded by chastising Jones for his “antics” in a dismissive letter.
Jones is acting like a child, and his fellow billionaires simply cannot be bothered.
Kraft, by contrast, essentially took on the strategy of believing that instead of going nuclear against his fellow owners and the commissioner, he could just trust that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady would more or less keep his team from taking even one step back, despite the heavy-handed punishments. And, ever since Kraft stood down and accepted his punishment in May of 2015, the Patriots have gone 38-9, winning a Super Bowl in 2016, reaching a conference championship game in 2015, and putting themselves in position to contend for another title this year. Brady is playing better than he ever has, Belichick remains Belichick, and the Patriots remain the team that everybody else is chasing.
Jones, meanwhile, probably didn’t enjoy all of the screen time he was given on national television on Sunday night, when his Cowboys were brought to the woodshed by a division rival. Coming off a 13-3 season and an NFC East crown, the Cowboys dropped to 5-5 on the year, and they’re 0-2 without the suspended Ezekiel Elliott.
This is a Cowboys team that was expected to really be a threat to win last year’s Super Bowl, before falling flat in their lone postseason game. Now just a year later, they appear to be in disarray, and their owner is doing nothing to alleviate the situation as he locks horns with the owners and apologizes for videos that just so happened to coincidentally pop up in the news amidst this high-stakes battle.
Again, Patriots fans — some of whom were willing to go to jail to protect the name of Tom Brady — wanted Kraft to do more, to show more gumption. They wanted Goodell to pay for his misbehavior. Kraft may have wanted that too, but he recognized that any such effort would almost assuredly be a losing fight.
Jones, quite contrarily, has decided to take the hellfire and brimstone approach.
At this point in time, which owner looks to have chosen the wiser path?