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Roger Goodell at the 50-50 Yard Line

Ask the NFL owners
Roger Goodell at the 50-50 Yard Line
Photo illustration by 731; Photographs by David Goldman/AP Photo/Getty Images

The playbooks dreamed up by offensive co-ordinators in the NFL can be absurdly complex, stretching over hundreds of pages, elucidating the myriad baroque combinations of different players, running in different patterns from different formations, that can be used to attack an opponent’s defense. The playbook for an NFL commissioner, on the other hand, is relatively simple: (1) Help the owners of the league’s teams make lots of money. (2) Serve as the steady, reassuring public face of the sport. (3) Give manly bro hugs to the beaming new prospects onstage during draft night. (4) Don’t do anything to embarrass the league.

Since becoming commissioner of the NFL eight years ago, Roger Goodell has mastered the protocol. Under his leadership, America’s most-watched sport has grown even more popular. The league’s already lucrative television rights have grown even more so. The valuations of its 32 franchises have continued to escalate. Even the Buffalo Bills, a struggling franchise with a recent history of ineptitude in a city with only 260,000 residents, sold in September for an NFL record $1.4 billion. For his services, Goodell was paid $44 million at last report in 2012—more than the highest salary ever paid to an actual NFL player.