By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — A new book about the NFL is set to hit shelves soon, and it sure seems like nobody involved with the league is going to like it.

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The book, written by Mark Leibovich and titled “Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times,” provides a behind-the-curtain look at the inner workings of the NFL — specifically the owners and executives in charge of running the league. Though the book will not be available to the public until Sept. 4, a number of outlets received advanced copies and have shared some of the most intriguing aspects of the book.

All of those stories have been coming out in some rapid-fire fashion in recent days, so in an effort to try to share some of the most newsworthy items, here’s a collection of what’s stood out the most. This information comes from NBC Sports Boston’s Tom E. Curran’s review (the first of the bunch to go live), The Boston Globe’s review from Nik Decosta-Klipa, Bryan Curtis’ write-up on The Ringer, and Leibovich’s own comments to NBC Sports’ Peter King.


One might assume that, given his massive salary and his latest contract extension, Roger Goodell is a well-liked and respected man among NFL owners. But one would apparently assume wrong.

Leibovich told Curtis, “You ask a lot of owners, and they go, ‘Yeah, it’s a big f—— problem that people hate the face of the league.”

Leibovich said this to King: “I learned that Roger Goodell is very damaged, a deeply unpopular leader not only among players and fans but in the country at large. That is a big problem for the league, and every owner knows it. Roger is capable of incredible humanity, but there is a huge gap between the Roger Goodell as a human being and the cold Roger Goodell at the podium. He’s sort of straightjacketed, and he creates this very scared dynamic around the league. I don’t think he realizes how jarring it is. The league has no clue how to deal with it. I don’t think he wants to hear that, though.”

Leibovich described Goodell’s desire to gain approval from the owners to be akin to a child’s desire to make his father proud. As such, that relationship dynamic has created job security.

From the Curtis story: “The commissioner, Leibovich said, has ‘a real, real talent for lubricating insecure, very rich, largely aging white men.’ For the owners, firing Goodell wouldn’t just be like firing the league’s CEO. It would be like firing their son.”


It’s extraordinarily difficult for an NFL owner to be forced to sell his team, but now-former Panthers owner Jerry Richardson managed to do just that. Of course, the public at large would have never known about Richardson’s misdeeds if it hadn’t been exposed in a Sports Illustrated story.

But according to Leibovich, Richardson won’t be the last NFL owner to get publicly outed for harassment.

“I learned the Jerry Richardson problem is not over. There is real concern that Jerry Richardson is the tip of the iceberg,” Leibovich told King. “With obscenely rich and powerful and aggressive people like NFL owners, there can be a commonness of not only acting in a brutish and entitled way, but also, simply, of being able to pay people off when they try to speak out. Needless to say, Richardson has no monopoly inside the membership on having engaged in outdated behavior. I think there will be other cases. The league fears there will be others.”

Though no other accusations have been publicized since the Richardson story came out, Leibovich told Curtis: “It’s not for lack of people in the league trying to dime other owners in the league out for various #metoo rumors. [Owners say] you should check out so-and-so. Or: Call the so-and-so police.”


Leibovich has had incomparable access in recent years to Tom Brady, a man to whom seemingly nobody else has access (Jim Gray excluded). As such, Leibovich drops several fascinating tidbits about Brady in the book.

Going back to the time of DeflateGate becoming a national scandal, Brady apparently considered just retiring.

From the Globe review: “[Alex] Guerrero says it took much of the 2015 offseason for Brady to get ‘back to center’ during the Deflategate proceedings, and even thought about retiring, though it’s unclear how seriously he actually considered it.”

Fast-forwarding to the 2018 offseason, one full of reported turmoil and budding resentment among the Patriots’ principals, and Brady was (by Leibovich’s estimation) indifferent about potentially playing somewhere other than New England.

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From Curran’s review:

“It’s April [2018]and I don’t intend to retire,” [Brady] said. “And I certainly don’t intend to get traded.” He added that “they can do whatever they want.” It was pretty clear that things were not great between “they” and Brady right then; my sense is — informed by talking to some people close to him — that it wouldn’t kill Brady if the Patriots were to release him into free agency, allowing him to control his next move. But that wasn’t going to happen, so here we were and the game continued.


Reports and whispers and speculation about growing issues among Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have been surfacing since January, when ESPN released a rather lengthy report focused on them. That story said that the end of the run for this trio could come sooner than later. Though the relationship has clearly survived for the start of another season, Leibovich noted that the problems are very much real.

Here’s what Leibovich said to King:

I learned that the Patriots’ shaky alignment at the top — Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick, Tom Brady — could come apart. That seemed pretty evident during and after last season. It seems really close to coming apart to me. Tom is the one I like the most. He gets the whole thing. I learned that empires crumble. Brady probably wouldn’t have minded being thrown out into the wilderness of free agency after last season.

The Globe review noted that Brady is “’fed up himself with the Belichick culture’ and has told friends, teammates, and relatives that he has earned more deference and gratitude than what he gets from the Patriots coach.”

That frustration is apparently shared by Rob Gronkowski, as well. From the Globe: “According to Leibovich, Gronkowski has told numerous people that he’s sick of going to work in such a ‘dreary monolith’ (the author’s words, not Gronk’s).”

Nevertheless, both players are signed and suited up for 2018 with the Patriots.


All NFL owners are extremely wealthy, successful people. They’re not accustomed to being portrayed in a negative light. That’s exactly why it appears this book is going to ruffle some feathers among that group of owners.

According to The Ringer’s write-up, Leibovich asked Jerry Jones if he’d trade his spot in the Hall of Fame for another Cowboys Super Bowl. “Jones hems and haws– he’d been drinking — and then says he wouldn’t. A Cowboys PR man asks for a ‘mulligan’; both Jones’s comment and the mulligan request are in the book.”

The next paragraph from Curtis is unforgiving:

The Falcons’ Arthur Blank says he’s miffed that Kraft celebrated the Patriots overcoming a 28-3 deficit in the Super Bowl by putting 283 diamonds in his Super Bowl rings. (When Blank’s words were reported accurately, another PR meltdown ensued.) Jets owner Woody Johnson, Leibovich writes, looks “slightly daydreamy and disoriented … like an overgrown third-grader who collects toy trains and rotten quarterbacks.”

Leibovich described a dismayed Robert Kraft approaching him about a comment Donald Trump had made. Eighteen months after the Trump quote ran in a Leibovich story, Kraft asked Leibovich, “Did Trump really say I choked? … Did he really compare me to [Mitt] Romney? It was a shock to read that.”

Kraft also apparently told Leibovich in 2014 that “Boston is a village compared to New York.” Despite that being largely accurate, Kraft feared backlash from Patriots supporters in Massachusetts, so Patriots spokesperson Stacey James asked for the comment to be taken off the record.

According to Curtis, Leibovich describes the NFL owners meetings as “summer camp for superrich postmenopausal dudes.” He also quoted one unnamed owner who complained that the 2016 meetings in Boca Raton were not at the fancier resort in town. “I don’t want to come off like a spoiled rich guy,” the unnamed owner said, coming off like a spoiled rich guy in the process.

Curtis summed up the book’s take on owners quite succinctly:

Leibovich found NFL owners roughly analogous to U.S. senators. “I don’t think it’s the best slice of humanity you could ever hope for,” he said. But unlike senators, owners can’t lose their jobs unless they go the full Jerry Richardson. They cut the figure of senators but have the job security of Supreme Court justices.


Among the most inconsequential nuggets in the story is one of the best. Despite all of the success of his son — the five Super Bowl victories, the eight Super Bowl appearances, the three MVPs, the statistical accomplishments, being considered the greatest quarterback of all time, etc. — Tom Brady Sr. remains quite miffed that his son had to scrap and claw for playing time during his tenure at the University of Michigan under head coach Lloyd Carr.

From the Globe review: “Brady Sr. says he still has a nagging desire to ‘punch Lloyd Carr in the nose.'”

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You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.