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Roger Goodell's history of favoritism, ambition and mooning

GQ profiled the NFL commissioner in the wake of DeflateGate.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 NFL season began with headaches for Roger Goodell and is finishing with another. After the domestic abuse case with Ray Rice and child abuse charges against Adrian Peterson were cast into the spotlight, Goodell's handling of the situations drew plenty of criticism. Now, all eyes are on the commissioner's impending handling of DeflateGate.

Many don't place much faith in Goodell making a fair ruling on the cheating allegations due to his inconsistent handling of punishments during his tenure and a friendship with New England Patriots' owner Robert Kraft. Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman called the relationship "a conflict of interest" and said he doesn't expect a punishment to be given to the Patriots.

In an in-depth feature on Goodell, GQ delved into the commissioner's popularity among owners, favoritism of certain ones (including Kraft) and his rise to become the most powerful person in the NFL's front office. Here are a few of the most important takeaways from GQ's profile:

1) Robert Kraft: "The assistant commissioner"

Sherman said Kraft and Goodell spend time at each other's houses and take pictures together, but the friendship between two of the NFL's most powerful men looks like it goes even deeper than that.

According to GQ, Kraft lobbied owners to issue statements publicly backing Goodell in the wake of TMZ's leaking of elevator footage showing Ray Rice striking and knocking his then-fiance unconscious. Kraft is called Goodell's "fiercest advocate and defender" by GQ, but one NFL executive has a different name for the Patriots' owner:

So large is Kraft's sway with Goodell that one veteran NFL executive likes to call him "the assistant commissioner."

Kraft also reportedly called and pushed for Goodell to go on the air with CBS News anchor Norah O'Donnell and throw a blanket on the fire that was building around the Rice story before it got out of control.

2) Some owners resent Goodell's favoritism

While many of the owners have been publicly supportive of Goodell, he isn't everyone's favorite. New Orleans Saints' owner Tom Benson resigned from three league committees in 2013 due to the league's harsh punishment for the team's bounty scandal in 2012 as well as Goodell's pay package.

The owner of the New York Jets isn't Goodell's biggest fan either, and that's due to the "preferential treatment" given to Kraft and others that are close to the commissioner:

It's also an open secret in league circles that some owners, especially Woody Johnson of the Jets, resent the preferential treatment Goodell is perceived to extend to his inner circle.

According to GQ, Goodell prepared himself well for the job as commissioner of the NFL before even getting the job by understanding the shifting balance of power among owners. Goodell understood the relationships and the culture of the league and rose to power as the "old guard ceded influence to a new generation" or powerful owners, including Kraft, Jerry Jones and Jerry Richardson.

3) Goodell pushed for Paul Tagliabue to step down

Goodell's career with the NFL began in 1982 as an administrative intern and eventually resulted in him rising all the way to become the NFL's executive vice president and chief operating officer in December 2001. He had to wait five more years before Paul Tagliabue stepped down and that was almost too long for Goodell to be patient, according to GQ.

By 2005, Goodell was agitating for Tagliabue to step down. At one point, Goodell even considered a job offer from ESPN, but Tagliabue persuaded him to stay at the league.

Tagliabue, who retired at age 65, held the position for 17 years and was called upon by Goodell to conduct an independent appeals hearing for the 2012 Saints' bounty case. He affirmed Goodell's findings, but overturned all players suspensions, including a season-long ban given to linebacker Jonathan Vilma.

4) Goodell has a frat boy side

In September, South Park characterized Goodell as a malfunctioning robot. It's often difficult to see the clunky representative of 32 billionaires as anything other than a suit and a tie with prepared soundbites, but a flashback to his time at Washington & Jefferson College shows a different side of Goodell. His backside.

To earn extra money during his junior and senior years, he tended bar at the Landmark, a popular spot in the shadow of the football stadium. Tim Foil, the Landmark's former owner, remembered Goodell as a hard worker and a bit of a prankster. "He'd do crazy things behind the bar," Foil recalled. "One wall of my bar was a glass walk-in cooler, and he'd like to go in there and flash people. He'd give 'em the old butt."

In Goodell's tenure as commissioner, the NFL has grown richer and more powerful, but is drawing criticism at an all-time high. Whether that criticism comes from inconsistent punishments or the handling of concussions, Goodell's impact on the league in his nine seasons as commissioner has been visible and even measurable.