Decisions made with good intentions make us feel righteous, fuzzy, and downright holy. This is their main function. As far as the NFL and Roger Goodell are concerned, good disciplinary decisions with good intentions can quickly become bad outcomes with bad precedents.
This is the life Goodell has made for himself in his lonely chair in the NFL’s principal’s office, and he passed us the latest key to Pandora’s box earlier today with his comments on Jim Tressel’s six-game suspension. The punishment was assigned by the Indianapolis Colts, the team that became Tressel’s NFL refuge after hiring him as a video replay consultant following his dismantling of the Ohio State football program.
The Colts announced the decision yesterday, and backs were sore from repeated slapping. Team president Bill Polian sounded like a man who’s now pioneered the continuation of punishment between the NCAA and NFL.
Tell us all about it, Bill.
“After the announcement of coach Jim Tressel’s agreement to join the Colts as a game day consultant, questions were raised with respect to the equity of his appointment as opposed to suspensions being served this season by present and former Ohio State players. At Coach Tressel’s suggestion, and with Mr. (Jim) Irsay’s concurrence and support, we have decided to begin Coach Tressel’s employment effective with our seventh regular season game.”
This is fair, and just. If Tressel was slated to sit for five games at the collegiate level, and if his main Ohio State accomplice Terrelle Pryor also has to watch for five games before starting his NFL career in Oakland, this punishment feels more than just logical. It seems required, and it seems like a blatantly obvious formality.
It’s all of those things and more until we consider the future ramifications for the league, Goodell, and the farm system which feeds future Hall of Fame players to the NFL for a cost of zero dollars. Those consequences still largely elude Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles times.
Like so many others, Plaschke enjoys the world of fuzz in which punishing wayward college players and coaches who seek refuge in the NFL isn’t accompanied by a future backlash.
While some critics have complained that this country’s most powerful sports operation is foolish to align itself with this country’s most dysfunctional sports operation, this is not about the NFL pandering to the NCAA. This is about the NFL protecting the NFL.
The league is doing this for the same reason is has never allowed entry to players who have not completed their junior year of college eligibility. It wants to be a destination, not a refuge. It wants new employees moving toward their best, not running from their worst.
Again, Plaschke’s Utopian ideal is a fine and noble goal that reflects the aim of any self-respecting organization. But Goodell showed where his steady hand at the league punishment helm could become shaky and feeble when he told ESPN that if the Colts didn’t independently decide on a punishment, he would have decided on one for them.
Only one year ago, Reggie Bush still possessed a Heisman Trophy. When he was eventually coaxed into returning that prestigious award after the fall of Troy at USC, Pete Carroll remained untouched by Goodell, and he guided a team into the playoffs. Bush had his name removed from NCAA history, while Carroll became a small part of NFL history. Goodell is only now clenching his iron fist and waving it at those who dare climb from their NCAA wreckage and seek calmer NFL waters.
Between the burning rubble at Miami and major recruiting inquiries involving national championship contenders, saying the NCAA is rife with corruption is like saying that Justin Bieber is popular among 13-year-old girls. It won’t be long before another coach or player who’s involved in a major scandal expresses a desire to make the NFL leap. Goodell then has to choose just how strong and public the bridge between the two national football superpower leagues will be, and if firm, concrete, legislated rules for college punishments carrying over to the NFL will be mandated.
This is the eventual ultimatum our fine commissioner has left himself with. Either disregard NCAA discretions, or treat the players and coaches of tomorrow with the same vague vigor given to the players and coaches of today.
A lot of trees will face their death as that paper work is filled out. Likely the only clear, indisputable direction is to not allow those with lingering NCAA punishments into the NFL, a decision that doesn’t favor the bottom line.