Making sense of a busy NFL meeting

Commissioner Roger Goodell said any integrity violations by owners would be documented.getty images

The headlines from the NFL annual meeting come so fast, sometimes it feels like a blur. There’s a reason for that. To exaggerate only slightly, owners and executives are more available in those three days than during the rest of the calendar put together. But here are my big three takeaways:


Less tolerance for owners behaving badly. Patience appears to be running thin for the owners who are taking the focus off all the good financial news coming out of the league. Specifically, Commanders owner Dan Snyder and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross have become much more isolated as they’re both under investigation.

Snyder wasn’t at the meetings, and Commissioner Roger Goodell said he remains “not involved in day-to-day operations” for the “foreseeable future” and “at some point” he will talk to Snyder.  Ross was there, but kept a low profile. At least one fellow owner took the rare step of addressing his case directly.

At the meetings, it emerged that former SEC Chair Mary Jo White — already investigating Snyder — is also handling the Ross investigation. Falcons owner Arthur Blank said of Ross: “The allegations, there probably couldn’t be anything more serious.”

Goodell has promised a written report on Snyder and last week he said any integrity violations of Ross would be documented. Both Snyder and Ross deny the allegations. Also last week, The Washington Post reported that Congress is now looking into Commanders finances.

NFL gives diversity rules more teeth. Surprise! It turns out the league can tell teams who to hire. For 20 years, the discussion around minority coach numbers has been hindered by the assumption that owners wouldn’t ever stand for a hard mandate. But for one reason or another, they did last week.Starting now, all teams must have an offensive coach who is either a minority, a woman or both. Steelers owner Art Rooney said it’s aimed at fixing the pipeline: “It’s really an effort to try to bring more talented minority coaches to the offensive side of the ball.”

That’s true. Most head coaches today come up through the offense, which is whiter than the defense. But it’s much bigger than that. It’s a precedent. CBS Sports reporter Jonathan Jones called it a “Rubicon crossing.” That seems about right.

Rapid evolution in free agency, trades. Jimmy and Dee Haslam’s financial commitment to Deshaun Watson is unprecedented, but it’s hardly this year’s only jaw-dropper deal. The Bucs and Rams’ Super Bowl wins are driving a sea change in NFL roster management best practices — patient building through the draft is out; NBA-style offseason shockers are in. The salary cap keeps a lid on the excesses, but does not eliminate them, and not all owners are willing, or able, to take such risks. One wonders if the NFL’s relative peace between the haves and the have-nots survives.

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