More to the heart of the issue was this from Sports Illustrated magazine's Peter King:
"The NFL has to stop thinking of ways to make more money, and start thinking of ways to keep the game the best game in America."
To be fair, Goodell has tried. He might have been reluctant to take on the concussion-related issues that cloud the game's future — the same ones that flew under the radar during Tagliabue's tenure, and those of his predecessors. But he's made a largely good-faith effort since. No doubt it's difficult striking a balance as both CEO of an enterprise that rakes in $9 billion a year while at the same time protecting the employees that make the game go. With mounting litigation over those very same player-safety problems, everything he says is likely to be parsed for its value in a court of law one day.
But the more he stubbornly defends every one of his positions — even the ones, as in Bountygate, where Goodell cherry-picked evidence and arrived at the wrong conclusion — the less of an honest broker he becomes. Not to mention a bigger distraction. The more headlines Goodell grabs, the less there are for the games themselves, which is where a commissioner's focus should be directed.
Besides, the league has plenty of high-priced lawyers to help it chart a course through what already resembles a legal minefield. And nobody rushes generals to the front in fights anymore. So maybe a few weeks in the background and away from the bully pulpit would do Goodell's reputation a lot of good right now.
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org and follow him at Twitter.com/JimLitke.