Roger Goodell

NFL Moves To Dismiss Jon Gruden’s Lawsuit

The case of former Raiders HC Jon Gruden‘s lawsuit against the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell has taken another turn. The league has filed for the suit to be dismissed, according to a report from Daniel Kaplan of the Athletic

[Related: Jon Gruden Sues NFL, Roger Goodell]

Kaplan notes that the league has actually moved for the case to be taken to arbitration in Nevada state court first, and asked for it to be dismissed pending its decision on arbitration. The league’s written response to Gruden’s suit states that “Gruden sent a variety of similarly abhorrent emails to a half dozen recipients over a seven-year period” besides those sent to former WFT president Bruce Allen. Like those emails, which led to Gruden’s resignation in October, these other ones “denounced `the emergence of women as referees,’ and frequently used homophobic and sexist slurs to refer to Commissioner Goodell, then-Vice President Joseph Biden, a gay professional football player drafted in 2014, and others”.

The response also comments on claims alleging the league leaked the damning emails as a way to get revenge against Gruden due to his remarks against the commissioner. As reported by Mark Maske and Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post, the league responded that Gruden “primarily assumed the risk that his emails could be circulated beyond the original recipient group, and possessed and distributed by the WFT, NFL and others”. It continues, “to be sure, the NFL and the commissioner did not leak Gruden’s emails”.

The motion details how Goodell had grounds to fire Gruden outright, given the fact that the nature of his emails were detrimental to the league. For that reason, it states, no one at the league office had a motivation to “publicly sabotage Gruden’s career”, as the original lawsuit claims. Instead, it argues, the suit “should be dismissed in its entirety”.

No further developments (such as if the case will proceed to court) will be able to take place until the aforementioned arbitration decision is made.

NFL Considering Changes To COVID-19 Protocols

With COVID-19 cases surging across the NFL, commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed that the league and the union are considering revisions to the league’s protocols.

“The thing that made us successful is keeping safety first,” Goodell said (via Alber Breer of TheMMQB on Twitter). “And second, being willing to adapt at all times.”

Earlier today, we learned that the NFL was considering tweaking a rule that would allow vaccinated, asymptomatic players who have tested positive to return to the field sooner (via Mark Maske of The Washington Post on Twitter). This followed a tweet from the NFL Players Associations earlier today that pushed for changes to protocol, including a request for daily testing.

“The NFL decided to take away a critical weapon in our fight against the transmission of COVID-19 despite our union’s call for daily testing months ago,” the NFLPA said in a statement. “We’re talking to our player leadership & to the NFL about potential changes to the protocols so that we can complete the season.”

Meanwhile, Goodell also said the spike in COVID cases won’t lead to any postponements or cancellations.

“There has not been any discussion about [postponements] and we will confident in our protocols,” the commissioner said (via CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones on Twitter).

This Date In Transactions History: NFL Extends Roger Goodell

On this date in 2017, the NFL furnished Roger Goodell with a brand new five-year deal to take him through the 2023 league year. The new pact — worth up to $63MM annually — was met with criticism from some, including Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Roger Goodell (vertical)

Along the way, Jones accused Falcons owner Arthur Blank — head of the league’s compensation committee — of “misleading” NFL owners on the terms of Goodell‘s extension. Technically, Jones was not a member of the six-man Compensation Committee, but he was regarded as an unofficial seventh member. Using his influence, Jones helped to galvanize a small group of owners against a sizable new deal for Goodell. Or, at least, bring new scrutiny to the situation. But, over time, he lost momentum. By the end, there were only a handful of owners in Jones’ corner.

For their part, the league claimed that there was a “nearly unanimous consensus” to finalize the deal. Blank ultimately signed off on Dec. 6, 2017, much to the chagrin of Jones who was still fuming over Ezekiel Elliott‘s six-game ban.

Our Committee unanimously supports the contract and believes that it is fully consistent with “market” compensation and the financial and other parameters outlined to the owners at our May 2017 meeting, as well as in the best interests of ownership,” the Compensation Committee said in a memo. “We also have expressed in those conversations our strong belief that we should proceed to sign the agreement now, consistent with the unanimous May resolution and to avoid further controversy surrounding this issue. We are pleased to report that there is a nearly unanimous consensus among the ownership in favor of signing the contract extension now.”

Goodell still gets his fair share of criticism, but this story does have something of a happy ending. Four years later, Jones now says that he’s in favor of the commissioner’s lucrative contract.

Certainly those numbers on the face of them are large numbers,” Jones said on HBO recently (via the New York Post) “Roger has been an excellent commissioner. I might say that back when years ago when I first came into the league they would be big numbers. I don’t know for sure what a man of your talent was making back then. But I know we could look at where we are today, and those numbers have increased a lot during that time. So everything has gotten more as opposed to maybe what we’ve looked at in the past.”

“But I think this. I think that Roger Goodell has done an outstanding job as commissioner of the NFL.”

Jon Gruden Sues NFL, Roger Goodell

Jon Gruden has filed a lawsuit against Roger Goodell and NFL, David Ferrara of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. This comes weeks after leaked emails led to Gruden leaving his post as Raiders head coach.

Through a malicious and orchestrated campaign, the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell sought to destroy the career and reputation of Jon Gruden, the former head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders,” the lawsuit states.

Signed to a 10-year, $100MM contract in 2018, Gruden resigned last month after multiple publications reported he used racist and misogynistic language in emails to former Washington team president Bruce Allen. This included (and was not limited to) crude remarks about Goodell, gay NFL players, female referees, and Washington cheerleaders.

When their initial salvo did not result in Gruden’s firing or resignation, defendants ratcheted up the pressure by intimating that further documents would become public if Gruden was not fired,” the lawsuit stated. “They followed through with this threat by leaking another batch of documents to the New York Times for an October 11, 2021 article. On October 7, 2021, Jon Gruden was the head coach of the Raiders on a 10-year, $100-million contract. By October 11, 2021, he had been forced to resign.”

Gruden, 58, returned to coaching in 2018 after 10 years as an ESPN analyst. The NFL has not released any emails from the Washington Football Team investigation, and the league said no other violations were found on the level of Gruden’s comments. Gruden filed the suit in Nevada state court, Ferrara adds. The NFL called Gruden’s allegations “meritless,” Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets.

Latest On WFT Owner Dan Snyder, NFL Investigation

Earlier today, we learned that the NFL slapped the Washington Football Team with a $10MM fine following the league’s investigation into sexual harassment allegations. Following the announcement, commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement:

[RELATED: NFL Fines Washington Football Team $10MM]

“I want to thank Beth Wilkinson and her team for conducting a thorough and independent review of the Washington club’s workplace culture and conduct and providing both the club and me with a series of thoughtful recommendations based on her findings,” Goodell said (via NFL.com). “Beth and her team performed their work in a highly professional and ethical manner. Most importantly, I want to thank the current and former employees who spoke to Beth and her team; they provided vital information that will help ensure that the workplace environment at the club continues to improve. It is incredibly difficult to relive painful memories. I am grateful to everyone who courageously came forward.”

We also learned that while the NFL didn’t suspended owner Dan Snyder, his wife, co-CEO Tanya Snyder, will now oversee the organization’s day-to-day operations. The decision to replace Dan Snyder with Tanya Snyder was “voluntary” and wasn’t mandated by the league, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. However, Mark Maske of the Washington Post clarifies (on Twitter) that Dan Snyder can only return to his day-to-day role following approval from Goodell. In the meantime, while Dan Snyder won’t be responsible for the team’s day-to-day operations, he’ll still play a role in getting the organization a new stadium (per Garafolo).

Meanwhile, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com tweets that the NFL won’t unveil any specific findings, as the league promised multiple interviewees that their “confidentiality would be protected.” Later, Florio shared that lawyers of the WFT employees blasted the league’s lack of transparency.

Roger Goodell Eyeing Several More Years As Commissioner?

Roger Goodell is closing in on the 15th anniversary of his commissioner tenure. Come September, he will begin his 16th season. It does not look like Goodell plans to vacate that post in the near future.

Prior to the 2020 CBA’s passing, a sense around the league pointed to Goodell stepping down shortly after the CBA talks and the latest TV deals coming to pass. However, those checkpoints are now in the rear-view mirror. With a $113 billion media deal secured, Goodell may now stay on past the expiration date of his current contract.

The longtime commissioner’s deal expires in March 2024, and Peter King of NBC Sports notes that Goodell not only could stay on for multiple years beyond that contract’s expiration but that the bulk of NFL owners want him to do so. In 2017, conflicting reports emerged about Goodell’s retirement date. After a report indicated Goodell would indeed walk away at the conclusion of his current contract, he stopped short of announcing that.

Goodell, 62, is on track to pass predecessor Paul Tagliabue as the NFL’s second-longest-tenured commissioner. Tagliabue served in that role from 1989-2006. Pete Rozelle served as commissioner from 1960-89; that kind of longevity will be difficult for future commissioners to surpass. Tagliabue retired at age 66; Rozelle walked away when he was 63.

While a frequent punching bag, with his disciplinary powers in particular inviting scrutiny, Goodell has secured labor peace through 2030 and steered the NFL through a full season during the COVID-19 pandemic. Shepherding the league through the tumultuous 2020 stretch may well have provided more momentum for Goodell to extend his tenure, per King, who adds owners would want Goodell’s eventual successor to come from inside the NFL. It does not appear a successor will be needed for a bit.

Extra Points: Coaches, GMs, Schedule, OTAs

After the NFL expanded the Rooney Rule this offseason, it has a “ready list” of minority candidates for head coaching jobs, offensive and defensive coordinator positions and GM candidates, according to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio. Beyond some of the big names — Eric Bieniemy, Marvin Lewis, Todd Bowles, Leslie Frazier among them — coaches like Clemson OC Tony Elliott, Penn State HC James Franklin and Michigan State HC Mel Tucker appear on the HC portion of the list. On the GM side, some first-time candidates include Bills pro scouting director Malik Boyd, Raiders pro scouting director Dwayne Joseph, Ravens exec Vincent Newsome and Chargers player personnel director JoJo Wooden. Former Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson — now the franchise’s pro scouting director — also appears on the GM portion of the list. The Rooney Rule now mandates teams interview two minority HC candidates and expanded the rule to include coordinator positions. Franchises must also open their senior-level executive jobs to minority and female candidates.

Here is the latest from around the league:

  • Normal NFL offseasons feature several weeks’ worth of OTAs preceding a June minicamp, but the NFLPA would like a schedule that looks closer to this year’s virtual offseason. Union executive director DeMaurice Smith said “there is absolutely no reason” for the NFL to return to full-scale OTAs, per Sports Business Daily’s Ben Fischer (subscription required). Having seen no decline in performance after this atypical offseason, union president J.C. Tretter agrees with Smith. This would be a stretch for coaching staffs, which have steadily seen their time with players cut back. The past two CBA agreements have significantly limited offseason and padded training camp workouts, and 2020’s COVID-19-altered offseason created steeper acclimation challenges for young players.
  • The NFL has agreed to a formula for its 17th regular-season game, making it increasingly likely this season will be the last one of the 16-game era. In what will be the first shift to the league’s scheduling setup since 2002, the 17-game schedule will feature a fifth interconference game. The schedule will pit an AFC division winner against an NFC division winner, and on down the line within each division, but the extra interconference game will not feature two teams who played the previous year, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. In the event the NFL moves to the 17-game season in 2021, the Chiefs and Buccaneers could not play again next season; the earliest such a regular-season rematch would occur would be 2022.
  • Roger Goodell may well be on board with shortening the preseason slate from four games to two. The commissioner “seemed in favor” of halving the preseason schedule at last week’s owners meetings, according to ESPN.com’s Seth Wickersham, but some high-profile owners are not. Jerry Jones, Robert Kraft, John Mara and Art Rooney II dismissed the idea of going from three preseason games — the new number as of the 2020 CBA — to two, according to ESPN. No vote occurred on the matter, though Goodell discussing the idea publicly points to it remaining an issue going forward.

NFL Owners Pass Two Proposals

The NFL’s owners passed two proposals with potential significant ramifications Tuesday, commissioner Roger Goodell announced.

In the event that regular season games with playoff implications are cancelled and the league can’t complete it’s schedule in 17 or 18 weeks, the NFL will add an additional playoff team in each conference to limit the chances a team is unfairly left out of the postseason due to COVID-19 cancellations. This is only a contingency plan, and the current plan is still to proceed with seven playoff teams in each conference. As you’ll recall, this is the first year the playoffs has been expanded to seven teams from six.

The proposal lays out a new seeding system based on winning percentage in the event that teams end up with different numbers of games played. You can read the full language of the proposal courtesy of this tweet from Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. The second measure to pass will reward teams for developing minority coaches and executives. If a team has a minority coach/exec that gets hired away to be a new team’s head coach or general manager, they’ll receive two third-round compensatory picks. The picks will come one at a time in consecutive years, not two in the same draft.

You can read the full language of that proposal via this tweet from Pelissero. The vote to pass the playoff contingency plan was unanimous, and it sounds like the minority coaching development reward was passed overwhelmingly as well. The original playoff plan would’ve reseeded the eight teams regardless of division winners, meaning the NFC East winner likely would’ve been the eighth seed, but that part was struck down.

As for other potential rule changes, this offseason there was talk of the NFL adopting new onside kick rules to make it easier for teams to come back, potentially replacing a kick with a 4th and 15 attempt for trailing teams. That ultimately didn’t come too close to passing, but Goodell said Tuesday the issues isn’t going away. “It is something we have thought, and many clubs have thought, would be an exciting addition to the game, and something I think merits a lot of discussion,” the commissioner said, via Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com.

NFL Implements COVID-19 Policy Changes, Raiders Players Fined

In response to the growing number of positive COVID-19 tests around the league, the NFL is taking action. In a call with all 32 teams the league office laid out a slew of new policy changes, and sternly warned teams about the consequences of not following them.

In the memo recapping the call, which you can read courtesy of this tweet from Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, they laid out some new protocols. The NFL and NFLPA jointly agreed to a “longer onboarding process” for free agent workouts, bans on gatherings outside the team facility, limits on the number of tryouts allowed per week, and the implementation of a “league-wide video monitoring system” to ensure teams are wearing masks and following protocols within their own buildings.

Details were sparse, but it sounds like Roger Goodell will now be watching what is going on within each facility. The line about gatherings outside the facility may have been directed toward the Raiders, who were just slapped with more fines after players were photographed mask-less at a fundraiser hosted by tight end Darren Waller. Waller was fined $30K for the incident, while Derek Carr, Derek Carrier, Zay Jones, Nevin Lawson, Erik Magnuson, Foster Moreau, Nathan Peterman, Hunter Renfrow, and Jason Witten were each fined $15K, according to a tweet from Dan Graziano of ESPN.com.

We just got word earlier that the Raiders had been fined $50K after an investigation into unauthorized locker room access, and the team and head coach Jon Gruden were fined hundreds of thousands for mask violations in Week 2.

Perhaps most significantly, the memo outlines potential extreme punishments for new violations. The memo says that any team that has a COVID-19 protocol violation which results in spreading of the virus that impacts scheduling or other teams may be subject to the loss of draft picks or potential forfeitures of games.

Forfeiting a game would be a truly nuclear option, and the fact that it was even broached shows how serious the league is taking threats to the rest of the season. That would seem to apply to a team like the Titans, which had a true outbreak which has caused the only actual postponement to date. The new free agent workout restrictions could make it harder for veterans on the market to find jobs. This surely isn’t the last we’ve heard on the subject, and we’ll keep you posted whenever anything new comes along.

Colin Kaepernick NFL Return Gaining Steam?

Although Colin Kaepernick has not played since the 2016 season, the quarterback has remained a fixture in NFL news cycles for most of his free agency stay. And momentum appears to be growing for the former 49ers passer to receive another opportunity.

In discussing Kaepernick with some NFL head coaches, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport indicates there is “far, far more interest” in the 32-year-old passer now than there probably has been since he became a free agent in March 2017 (video link). While a few hurdles would remain — particularly in this coronavirus-marred offseason — Rapoport adds that teams’ interest in Kaepernick for a backup job is “very real.”

It has been well-documented the former Super Bowl starter has received only one opportunity to visit a team; that came with the Seahawks in 2017. Pete Carroll said he now regrets not signing him at that point but added that his team is content at quarterback now. Although a handful of teams stayed in Atlanta for the NFL-organized workout Kaepernick rearranged at the 11th hour last fall, no franchise has brought in the polarizing free agent since the Seahawks did so in during the summer of 2017.

Kaepernick had drifted off the NFL radar to a degree after his workout last year, but the worldwide protests against systemic racism and police brutality over the past three weeks have reignited the push for the player that started the NFL protests on this front to receive another chance. Roger Goodell called for Kaepernick to be given another opportunity this week.

It will take a team to make that happen, and much like Cam Newton, Kaepernick would likely have to wait until free agents are allowed to visit teams to have the chance to sign anywhere. That window may not open until late July, when training camps begin. That said, recent Jets signee Joe Flacco is not expected to be recovered from neck surgery until at least September. Newton would rank higher on quarterback-needy teams’ pecking orders than Kaepernick, but the former MVP profiles more as a starter — potentially if a team’s QB1 suffers an injury. Kaepernick interest appears to be contingent on a backup gig.

One of the teams connected to Newton this offseason discussed Kaepernick on Wednesday. Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said (via Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.com) Kaepernick would fit his system but added that such an opportunity would likely be contingent on an emergency-type situation (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Andrew Siciliano). Lynn said he has not spoken with Kaepernick.

While ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler notes (via Twitter) the Chargers have come up around the league as a potential Kaepernick fit, joining the Titans in that regard, Lynn said he was happy with the three quarterbacks he has. The Bolts — they of a Tyrod TaylorJustin HerbertEaston Stick QB depth chart — having passed on Newton earlier this year provides a pretty good indication they are content at quarterback for the time being.