Ten whole days. That’s how much time that Roger Goodell had to prepare for yesterday’s annual “State of the NFL” press conference, held every year on the Wednesday before the Super Bowl.
However, for Saints fans that are still angry and upset over the controversial no-call that cost New Orleans a berth in this Sunday’s epic contest, all Goodell managed to do is tap dance around the issue. That’s thanks in part to his assistants controlling the narrative by only allowing one single reporter that covers the team to ask him a question.
As first reported by WWL TV New Orleans Sports Anchor/reporter Doug Mouton: Goodell’s “press conference” held at the Georgia World Congress Center was more of a complete farce than anything. The most influential figure in professional sports had his cronies orchestrate the entire event. They only allowed ONE reporter based in NOLA (NOLA.com / Times-Picayune columnist Jeff Duncan) to ask him a question.
Roger Goodell got a bunch of New Orleans related Saints questions. Several of us from New Orleans tried to ask follow ups. They took our names/ badges but we never got the mic.
— Doug Mouton (@DMoutonWWL) January 30, 2019
Mouton later would add that it was only thanks to several reporters/writers at the national level that chose to ask follow-up questions to Duncan’s original question, that kept the topic at the forefront of the news conference.
Mouton also noted that several NOLA-based reporters including himself tried to ask follow-ups and NFL Communications team members running the event, took their names/ badges but were never allowed an opportunity to ask a single question.
Calling Roger Goodell's event a "Press Conference" isn't truthful. It was 75% orchestrated. They allowed ONE NOLA question. Some national people then chose to ask NOLA folo-ups. That 25% was real. Thankfully they did b/c after 1st NOLA question, all NOLA reporters were shutout.
— Doug Mouton (@DMoutonWWL) January 30, 2019
QUESTION (Jeff Duncan): “Can you address the no-call that marred the ending of the NFC Championship Game, specifically when and how the League handled it internally, both that night and in the days thereafter; and will there be any repercussions on the officials involved? And then finally: what can the League do, to ensure that something like this never happens again?”
GOODELL: “We understand the frustration of the fans. Talked to coach (Sean) Payton, the team, the players. We understand the frustration that they feel right now, and we certainly want to address that.
“Whenever officiating is a part of any kind of discussion post-game, it’s never a good outcome for us. We know that. Our clubs know that. Our officials know that. But we also know our officials are human. We also know that they’re officiating a game where they very quickly have to make snap decisions under difficult circumstances. And they’re not going to get it right every time. As I said, they’re human.”
— Luke Johnson (@ByLukeJohnson) January 30, 2019
Goodell referenced the word “human” a handful of times throughout the entirety of the press conference, in an apparent attempt to deflect the criticism levied at him and the League following the blatantly-missed no-call on Rams cornerback Nickell-Robey Coleman against Saints WR Tommylee Lewis.
There were three different penalties (face-guarding, helmet-to-helmet contact, and pass interference) that occurred on that play, and yet three different officials — head referee Bill Vinovich, side judge Gary Cavaletto, and down judge Patrick Turner — were looking directly at the play but failed to penalize Coleman. This fueled conspiracy theories among some Saints that the League had an agenda to build up its struggling Los Angles-area market.
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) January 21, 2019
Had there been a rule in place to review such plays, it very likely would have allowed the Black and Gold to advance to this Sunday’s big game, instead of Los Angeles.
However, Goodell remained defiant of acknowledging such a narrative and hinted that instant replay shouldn’t be considered a quick fix to the issue that has since cast a very dark shadow over the entire event, now just a little over 72 more hours from now.
“Technology is not going to solve all of those issues,” Goodell said. “The game is not officiated by robots; it’s not going to be.”
Goodell told reporters that he never considered changing the outcome of the game, which some observers and analysts suggested that he could actually have the power to do, under Rule 17 of the NFL Rule Book.
Goodell then noted that Rule 17, Section 2, Article 2 says, “The Commissioner will not apply authority in cases of complaints by clubs concerning judgmental errors or routine errors of omission by game officials. Games involving such complaints will continue to stand as completed.”
In other words: sorry, Saints fans — it sucks that your team isn’t going to the Super Bowl, but we’ll try to get it right the next time that it happens.
Goodell said he never once gave any thought to overturning the outcome of the game and having it replayed.
“Absolutely not,” Goodell said.
Goodell at least managed to explain that the biggest problem that they had was that it was a no-call, and since refs failed to throw a penalty, it complicated the entire process.
“Our coaches and clubs have been very resistant,” Goodell said. “There has not been support to date about having a replay official or someone in New York throw a flag when there’s no flag.”
However, being the one figure in pro sports that dances around issues as good as John Travolta did in “Saturday Night Fever,” Goodell then threw the onus of responsibility that lies with him as Commissioner upon the NFL Competition Committee, of which, ironically, Saints head coach Sean Payton is himself a member.
Goodell said that the Competition Committee plans to discuss the entire matter at a later date. However, he staunchly resisted discussing the personal conversations that he had with Payton or Saints owner Gayle Benson. He did acknowledge and said he understood the emotions from angry and passionate Who Dats over what took place.
“It’s a play that should be called,” Goodell said. “We’re going to make sure that we do everything possible to address the issues going forward and see if there are improvements we can make to instant replay.”
When asked what he thought about adding an extra referee to the regular 7-man crew assigned to games, Goodell was adamant that he wasn’t in favor of such a scenario.
“I don’t think adding an official is an answer to all the issues, to particularly this issue,” Goodell said.
“We have evaluated an eighth official for many years. … We will explore that. … Adding an eighth official is one more human. One more human that will make mistakes like all the rest of us.”
There’s that word again,
Just re-watched all of the NOLA based questions to Roger Goodell.
He used the word "human" eight times. That was the go-to word. "The refs are human."
— Doug Mouton (@DMoutonWWL) January 30, 2019
Goodell failed miserably at giving any answers that Saints fans were hoping to hear, and instead (as most of us follow the League knew that he would) chose to use the narrative of “human error,” as an excuse for the biggest gaffe in NFL post-season history.
Even worse: Goodell blatantly lied when he told Duncan that he had spoken to Saints players about the end of the game.
Saints WR Michael Thomas Tweeted that Goodell never spoke to ANY Saints players, which was later confirmed by WWL 870 AM New Orleans Radio host and play-by-play announcer (and former offensive tackle) Zach Strief.
He ain’t talk to us
— Michael Thomas (@Cantguardmike) January 30, 2019
Still waiting to hear what "players" @nflcommish spoke to. Certainly not any of the usual suspects. Odd that the guy who constantly discusses the integrity of the shield is so quick to lie to the whole world's media at the Super Bowl.
— Zach Strief (@ZachStrief) January 31, 2019
By “tap dancing” around the controversy, Goodell was successfully able to escape the sham of a press conference by basically not saying anything of consequence that would appease or bring comfort to Who Dats.
No, “hey Saints fans, we screwed this up big-time, and we’ll implement new rules to ensure it never happens again.”
Also, then on top of that: a disingenuous, outright lie to make himself look good.
All ‘Roger the Dodger’ really did was give lip service to some of the necessary changes, but wouldn’t venture to commit to any of them.
Perhaps that’s why Payton appeared to be protesting the entire situation earlier in the day at his impromptu press conference, in which some suggested on Social Media that he may have been wearing a t-shirt with Goodell’s face wearing a big red nose associated with circus clowns.
Oh please tell me that is the shirt Sean Payton has on underneath. pic.twitter.com/3kjFwJMfB7
— John Hendrix (@JohnJHendrix) January 30, 2019
Perhaps that was fitting if true, given the joke of a press conference that he and the League attempted to put on, though in the end it only made them look worse in the eyes of most, and especially among Who Dats.
Since Goodell chose to espouse the “they’re only human” element as much as he possibly could yesterday, here’s some advice to the League’s owners, who have the authority to remove him from power.
Fire all three of the officials (Vinovich, Cavaletto, and Turner) that were looking right at the play, for failure to do their jobs.
The League very notably took that exact same action during Week #6 of the 2018 NFL Season just a few months ago, when down judge Hugo Cruz failed to call an egregious false start penalty against Chargers offensive tackle Russell Okung, that allowed the Bolts to score a TD which eventually cost the Cleveland Browns a victory.
If the League was able to fire Cruz, then why not fire Vinovich, Calvetto, and Turner — especially since it was a championship game in the Playoffs, and not just a regular season game,
Then after doing that, fire Goodell once and for all.
His non-answer, “tap dance” reply to Saints fans is absolute proof of how much his actions (or inaction in this particular case), has further tarnished the sport of Pro Football’s once-proud image. Then telling a bald-faced lie in an attempt to prop up his quickly-fading reputation, makes it even more apparent than ever.
To do that, 24 owners (a 3/4 majority of the 32 owners) are needed to vote in favor of the removal of the League Commissioner.
A report from a year and a half ago suggested that no less than 17 owners (including Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones) were in favor of removing him from power.
Takes 24 out of 32 owners (2/3 majority)
Denver Post story over a year ago (if accurate) had said 17 owners at that time were in favor of his removal (including @dallascowboys
owner Jerry Jones)
You had better believe Gayle Benson makes 18 — so they need another 6 votes…..
— Barry Hirstius (@BarryHirstius) January 31, 2019
We can now add Gayle Benson’s name to that list, which, assuming that report mentioned right above is accurate, would push that number even closer to the required 24 votes.
Roger Goodell’s “tap dance” yesterday afternoon came as little to no surprise for any of us that follow (or in my case cover) the NFL.
— Coach Moneaux (@PMoneaux) January 30, 2019
However, for waiting over a week and a half to even acknowledge the outcry of one his League’s most devotedly loyal and passionate fan-bases in all of Professional Sports, it’s time for the League’s owners to save the reputation of the NFL by sending ‘Roger the Dodger’ to the unemployment line.
Perhaps it’ll be there, where Goodell’s “they’re only human” narrative, will find a sympathetic ear.
Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium. He is the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.