In the spirit of saving time, I think I can assume we’re all up to speed on this whole thing, and can skip the whole setup to my take? Good? Good. OK then…
I’ll first start by saying that the league is claiming that they absolutely did not “force” Michael Vick to go to Philly, and Vick is corroborating that statement. I think we can believe them, as this story probably would have broken a long time ago if that were the case. However, I think I have a problem with Goodell even so much as suggesting one team over another, if in fact that occurred.
I don’t have the official Commissioner handbook, but as I understand Roger Goodell’s job, there are probably three conflicting roles that come into play in this scenario. It’s Goodell’s job to:
– Preserve the image and financial interests of the league as a whole.
– Maintain an even playing field for all 32 teams.
– To a lesser degree, as fellow Eagles blogger Brian Solomon put it, Goodell also probably has a commitment to troubled players, i.e. to help them find the best places to recover.
So which is the most important?
When Michael Vick was reinstated back into the league, obviously Philadelphia would have been the clear-cut preferred destination over Buffalo or Cincinnati, at least in the eyes of the NFL commissioner. At the time, Reid was the second longest tenured coach in the NFL, and the Eagles had/have one of the most stable front offices in the league, certainly far more stable than the Bills and Bengals. The Eagles were a place that could deal with the PR hit and ease Vick back into the league. At the time, Goodell probably would have been happy if he never heard the name “Michael Vick” again. It was a problem for the league, not a good thing. But Vick was coming back to play, and there was little Goodell could do to stop it, so “Vick-to-the-Eagles” was the best of the available options.
As it turns out, the Eagles helped turn Vick unexpectedly back into a star player and he became a major draw for the league, yada yada yada, we all know the story. Would Vick have been the player he is now if he went to Buffalo or Cincinnati? Probably not. Does the end justify the actions? I don’t know. Financially, it does. Image-wise, it does. But the cost was that Goodell basically spit on the fans of the Bills and Bengals.
Any and all decisions the NFL makes are always… A-L-W-A-Y-S… going to be made based on the financial impact, and I think that’s what I find bothersome about the league and Goodell’s tenure as the commissioner on the whole. I can see the other side of the argument. Actually, there isn’t an exact “opposite side of the argument.” There are probably dozens of arguments, as this case is very complicated.
But I’ll almost always side with maintaining a level playing field for all 32 teams, and that is not what happened here.