|Goodell handed Benson the Lombardi Trophy in 2010; Wednesday was more unpleasant business. (Getty Images)|
We may have underestimated Roger Goodell. Or we estimated correctly until now.
Either way, he has now made three new enemies, and they're all people who contribute to his salary in a real and meaningful way.
Jerry Jones and Danny Snyder have been tax-mauled for violating the spirit of a non-rule that might actually be collusion, and since they can't take it out on Bobby Kraft and Wellington Mara, they're going to need an enemy, and Goodell is the tallest and has the reddest hair.
And now Saints owner Tom Benson would like Goodell good-naturedly strangled, no matter what he may say to the contrary.
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That's three of 32, or 9.3 percent of his supervisors who have a new and less-flattering view of the boy king. It ain't a quorum, but we're getting there.
Sure, we could go the easy way and bust an internal organ or two about Rex Ryan trying to handle the Tim Tebow/Mark Sanchez mess-o-rama, but there's no reason to mock a guy for being handed the world's largest hot-tar-and-gravel hoagie and told the soda machine is broken.
But this is more fun, because it will last longer. Commissioners are always safe until they forget who feeds them, or think they're the ones in charge. Or maybe Goodell is so good at oratorical politics that he can convince three rich men used to getting their way that it's better if they don't.
We doubt it, though.
See, rich folks are exactly like you and I in that they hold grudges. They are, however, different than you and I in that they can pay people to make sure those grudges remain stoked and the tactics for revenge are always kept up to date.
And now that Jones and Snyder have been squeezed administratively and Benson has to hit a temp agency to find a coach and general manager for the busy season, they are going to start thinking at least to themselves about life without Goodell.
Not yet, mind you. But commissioners don't get their comeuppance all at once. It's death by paper cut, and nobody dances that well for that long.
For the record, Goodell did the right thing by hammering the Saints. He is on dodgier ground with the Cowboys and Redskins, because the spirit of a rule that doesn't exist is basically a version making it up as you go along, and that tends not to sit well in a court of law where the judge hasn't been bought off.
But after years of looking like the shop foreman who only goes after the workers, Goodell is branching out to keeping the owners in line, and that has worked out well for the commissioner in question exactly zero times.
Well, once: Kenesaw Mountain Landis, back when baseball was spectacularly crooked, but owners weren't as smart and sneaky as they are now. In fact, Landis gave most people the impression that commissioners can be independent, an Easter Bunny-esque construct that is as applicable in the modern world as someone winning American Idol with accordion accompaniment.
No, Rog-mo is flexing some muscles here, and if he isn't daring a response, he's looking to see what response there will be.
And in slow, almost glacial motion, there will be one. Owners who feel they have been wronged, which is any owner who got shortchanged by a hot dog vendor on up, do not let wrongs go unravaged. They'll let them percolate, and they'll wait for the right time, and then ...
... and then Sean Payton will again have a smile on his face that is less like a smile than a smirk. And Tom Benson will grab the old parasol and dance up a mess o' storm once again. And then Roger Goodell will be an independent wealthy retiree.
Or the commissioner of MLS. We're not sure which quite yet.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast Sports Bay Area (CSNBayArea.com).