The annual Super Bowl calendar includes the commissioner's "State of the NFL" address to the media. Each year, the commissioner provides a brief intro on the state of the league, and then opens it up to the media for upwards of an hour worth of questions. The questions are wide-ranging, and are generally not pre-vetted, which means we get a chance to see Roger Goodell providing some extemporaneous responses.
Goodell is generally a solid public-speaker, but his Friday press conference was not one of his finer hours. Goodell's Super Bowl press conference really is more about the questions than the answers. And this year's press conference was no different. There were some fantastic questions on important subjects, but Goodell gave non-answers to some, and struggle to side-step others.
As has become a regular occurrence, someone asked Goodell about the controversy surrounding the Washington team name. Opposition to use of the word "Redskins" has grown, and Goodell has found himself caught in the middle of public opinion, and appeasing one of his less popular owners. On Friday, Goodell said the team name had an 80-year history of honoring Native Americans.
While the issue of team name intent can be discussed for days, his follow-up was rather uncouth. Early in the answer, he said, "It's a football team name." At the end of the answer, he concluded with, "I just want to remind you, it's a football team name." He did not say it is "just" a football team name, but that answer gave off the impression of, "Come on guys, it's just a team name, it's not that big a deal." Poor form, Roger.
San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis was on hand for The MMQB, and asked Goodell about long-term health care. He specifically asked why former players did not get health care for life. Goodell responded with some chatter about the collectively bargained health care, and how he felt current players had the best health care in the world. He said they had work to do to improve health care for former players, and then he went right back into what the league had been able to negotiate with the NFLPA. When in doubt, blame the union!
Sam Farmer of the LA Times had a question about the recent land purchase by St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke. According to Goodell, Kroenke informed the league that he had purchased 60 acres of land in Los Angeles. Goodell said the notification included nothing about a stadium. He repeatedly stated that Kroenke is a land developer on a global basis, and that people should not overreact at this point.
The reason this is even more of a story for the Rams is the fact that if the stadium is not further upgraded soon, the team could switch over to year-to-year leases with the city of St. Louis. It opens up opportunities for the team to potentially relocate if a better deal came along.
At the end of his answer, Goodell used his platform to provide his regular dose of leverage to an NFL city:
I think instead of overreacting we should make sure we do what's necessary to continue to support the team locally, which the fans have done in St. Louis, and make sure we can do whatever we can to make sure that team is successful in the St. Louis market.
Translation: If the city of St. Louis doesn't step up, there are always other options.
However the league might spin this, it was not his finest performance. Public figures have made careers out of saying nothing while sounding like they've said a lot. On Friday, Roger Goodell attempted to do this, but came up short. He was not facing the easiest of questions, but there are some pretty logical answers to be had. Unfortunately, we're unlikely to get clear answers any time soon. His response on the Washington team name issue was dismissive, his response to the health question was baffling, and his response to the Kroenke question was typical.
Consider this further proof that the only value to come out of Roger Goodell press conferences are the questions and not the answers.