Almost immediately after Roger Goodell announced that the third and final day of the 2010 NFL Draft had begun, SB Nation writers Jason Brewer, Joel Thorman, and Brad "BBS" Wells were invited to chat with the NFL Commissioner off-stage at Radio City Music Hall in New York about various topics and issues related to the NFL. From the image the commissioner projects to fans to the new role fan bloggers seem to have in the NFL’s media landscape, Commissioner Goodell was gracious enough to answer several questions on a variety of topics important to fans and fan media.
Special thanks to NFL PR wizard Brian McCarthy for arranging this meeting between the commissioner, SB Nation’s three writers, and two other media bloggers.
BBS: What are your thoughts on the first day of the NFL Draft being in primetime and the high ratings the evening generated?
Goodell: Well, the response from our fans has been tremendous. Obviously, going into primetime made the draft available to that many more viewers. That’s a good thing. That’s what we’re in the business of doing, trying to make our game more available to more people. So, it’s very much a positive.
Question: Can you talk about the growth of fantasy football and how important you think it is to the league?
Goodell: I think it’s just another way for our fans to engage with football. It’s a great thing for us because they do it with groups, they do it with family. It allows them to follow the game in a different way than, maybe, the traditional one. The other great impact that it has is even if you’re following your team and your team is out of the playoffs, you can continue to follow football because of the fantasy aspect. So, again, it’s another way to engage the fans, which I think is a positive.
Question: Commissioner, there were a lot of trades [in rounds two and three], do you think the three-day format encourages a lot more movement?
Goodell: I think it does because, I think, they have a chance to adjust their boards and re-evaluate their boards. They have a chance to, obviously, have a lot of conversations to determine what they would like to do. But, I haven’t had a chance to talk with a lot of clubs so far. That’s part of what we’ll do in the evaluation afterward. It seems like it’s having a tremendous reaction from our fans. The other piece of that is, how’s it working for our clubs? Because, there is a business part of this. This is important to our clubs.
Joel Thorman: Is the NFL Draft your favorite time of the year?
Goodell: It’s one of my favorite times of year. To me, what I love about the draft is; first, you see the young men who are realizing their dreams that they’ve worked so hard for. That’s a pretty cool thing. You saw the emotion from some of these guys the other day. And then, the second thing is this total sense of hope and optimism. And, I think that’s great for everybody. So, all the fans, you know, they’re saying, Wow, my team's got a shot here! And, I think that’s a good thing.
(Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Question: What do you think of having NFL greats like Gil Brandt making draft pick selection announcements for teams?
Goodell: I’ve been the one that’s encouraged that. I think it’s great. I just think there are so many people that… well, there’s our military, there’s somebody like Gil that’s been to 54 drafts. And, I worked closely with him early in my career. To acknowledge people and have the crowd to see them, I think that’s a great thing. The hall of famers [making pick selections]. The guys that they chose as the top draft choices in our 75 year draft. That’s pretty cool.
BBS: Can you discuss how fans might perceive you in light of all the player conduct policy decisions the last three or four years?
Goodell: You guys probably know better than I do. But, you know, the most important thing to me is for them to know that I’m protecting the game, the integrity of the game. And I’m gonna do what I think is right for the game long term, which will benefit them. That’s what I’m interested in.
BBS: Is that your main focus?
Goodell: The integrity of the game?
BBS: When you took the job as commissioner, was that one of the things you wanted to focus on? The integrity of the game?
Goodell: Well, the integrity of the game doesn’t just mean the personal conduct policy. When I look at the integrity of the game, it’s everything from making sure that the most important thing is we protect and that we grow the game. And, personal conduct could be an element of that. But, so is making sure our clubs follow the rules. That we continue innovating the game, and make sure that the game is as entertaining as possible. It means, how do we use technology to further the game and allow our fans to engage more deeply? You guys are a big part of that.
(Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jason Brewer: So, speaking of us, and specifically us at SB Nation, we’re fan journalists. We don’t work for a newspaper.
Jason Brewer: We’re, you know, barely paid.
Jason Brewer: What do you think a role is for someone like us in covering the NFL and being involved in it as opposed to ESPN and more traditional media?
Goodell: Well, what do you think it is?
Jason Brewer: Well, you know, I think-
BBS: More money!
Goodell (to BBS): That’s an outcome.
Joel Thorman: Fan perspective.
Jason Brewer: I think we’re a little less cynical, you think, than a lot of the media.
Goodell: Then what? Than the media?
Jason Brewer: in some cases. Some of the older guys…
Goodell: You know, I think... listen, from my perspective, you guys are reflecting what the fans are talking about. And maybe, from a media standpoint, they're providing their views to influence the fan perspective. But I think that's coming together at some point. I think that's changing. You guys are probably changing that because you're coming from the other direction. You're reflecting the fans perspective and giving the fans a voice. That's what I love. Now, we get the media perspective but we also want the fans' perspective. That's why I spend so much time talking to fans. We just had a fan forum this morning where I get to hear what's on their mind, what's important, what they think we need to address and answer their questions. That's a good thing for us.
(AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Jason Brewer: What's the number one thing fans have been asking you all weekend?
Goodell: The number one thing is the draft format. And nothing but positives. I think I heard one guy who said the other time was better for him because he had to miss work.
Question: As a fan of the game yourself, and you see all these trades going on, is that fun for you?
Goodell: I think the trades are fun for the fans and for anyone involved. We always talk about we want our fans to talk about football not some of the other things that are more business related. When you're talking about a trade you're saying, Is it good for this team or that team, did they give up too much? That kind of debate is great for the game. That's exactly what we like.
Question: There's been a lot of talk about a Super Bowl bid for New York. What do you think about playing a Super Bowl in colder weather?
Goodell: I'm fine with it because our game is designed to play in the elements. That's part of our tradition and our heritage. I think it's a great thing. We have to do everything we can to make sure the fan experience is a good one depending on the weather conditions. Again, fans come expecting to deal with the elements.
Question: What if it becomes a Dolphins and Bucs Super Bowl in New Jersey?
Goodell: It's still the way the game is played. They have to come up north and play in the winter, too. Teams in the north have to go down there and play in the warm weather, too. Elements are part of the game. I'm not troubled by that.
Jason Brewer: Do your eyes light up when a big story in the NFL comes up, like Donovan McNabb is traded to the Redskins, do you immediately think where are we going to put that first game in Philadelphia, what time is it going to be, when are we going to cover that?
Goodell: Fortunately, we have some great people who do the schedule and all that. They've become much more sophisticated in the scheduling. The reality is that we have so many great match ups. That kind of thing...just two games that would've been a great rivalry, takes it to a completely different level because now people are really going to want to understand the impact of that. So that's a good thing. So the answer is yes, it makes it more interesting and in my eyes, why not?
Joel Thorman: Normally you play that second Monday night game to open the season on the west coast. Why did you pick Kansas City this year?
Goodell: Couple of reasons. One is, this is the Midwest. So, we do have a little bit [of time difference]...it was a real chance for the Chiefs, who are opening a renovated stadium. They spent two years renovating it. It will give them a tremendous platform to do that. And I think it will really celebrate the game in the Midwest, with great football fans, in a new facility....I think is just a great opportunity for everybody.
Question: Sam Bradford picked first, Jimmy Clausen coming, Colt McCoy and you already have Sanchez and Ryan. Do you think you're looking at the next generation of great quarterbacks to lead the NFL?
Goodell: I think so, yes. I mean, we've had some great ones here, too. We had Marino here [tonight], Montana. I think every generation produces the next great quarterbacks. Obviously we've got Peyton, Brady, and Drew Brees, who was here this week also. I think these future quarterbacks will set their own mark.
(AP Photo/Stephen Chernin)
Question: Why do you like holding the draft in New York?
Goodell: Well, it's the number one media market and I think this facility is also great for us. I think this creates a lot of excitement for the game and it's got great tradition. But, we've talked about the idea of rotating it around. If a three day draft is successful, and it looks like it is, it does give you the opportunity maybe to move one of those days to a different city.
Question: You've come a long way from those single phone calls.
Goodell: We were just watching the NFL Network in the lead up to us, and you see Pete Rozelle standing up in front of essentially this group right here and, I was there for some of those back in the early 80s. It's come a long ways.
BBS: How concerned are you about teams resting starters late in the season? How do you think the change [with division games getting played in the last two weeks] is going to affect that?
Goodell: I am concerned about it because I think we have an obligation that goes back to the integrity of the game. It's our responsibility to put the best games out there and have the best players playing to win. We have to create the kind of incentive to do that. By making the switch here to make all divisional games in the final week, it will improve the chances that they'll have to play their starters and play to win. That's a good thing for the fans. That's a good thing for the game. That's why we're going to continue to evaluate what else we can do but that's what we were talking about when we talked about creating an incentive and a structure for them to have to win the game. You have to keep doing that.
Jason Brewer: But, isn't it important to respect the autonomy of a coach? It's his job on the line and keeping players healthy and keeping them fresh.
Goodell: I don't debate where the coach is. That's why we have to change the system so the coach says, I have to win. That's my job because I gotta win. Don't give them the choice. It's not a dilemma they like. It's a difficult thing for the coach. If he doesn't play the guys and they lose, they get a negative fan reaction. And if they do play [the starters], and they get hurt. They get a negative reaction. So it's a tough dilemma for a coach so what I'm saying is take the dilemma away and create the incentives to always win and always play. That's how you solve the problem.