- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 9, 2006

All the talk about the NFL going outside of the league to get its next commissioner was just that.

The owners yesterday unanimously approved the ultimate insider, NFL chief operating officer Roger Goodell, as the successor to retiring commissioner Paul Tagliabue at a league meeting in suburban Chicago.

It took the owners just five ballots to elect Goodell, a marked contrast to the process that brought then-NFL attorney Tagliabue to power in 1989. The competition between Tagliabue and New Orleans Saints general manager Jim Finks dragged on for weeks.

Goodell’s election seemed assured once the list of five finalists was announced this past weekend. The other four candidates were Washington lawyer Gregg Levy, Cleveland lawyer Frederick Nance, Fidelity Investments vice chairman Robert Reynolds and Constellation Energy chairman Mayo Shattuck III of Baltimore.

“Replacing Paul was not easy and I think we’ve done a great job in selecting Roger,” Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder said. “The NFL is a complex business. Finding the right person to keep it on course was critical, and we did it. Roger is the right choice.”

The 47-year-old Goodell, the son of former Sen. Charles Goodell, New York Democrat, becomes just the NFL’s fourth commissioner since 1946, following charter Hall of Famer Bert Bell, the legendary Pete Rozelle and Tagliabue.

Goodell began his NFL career as an intern in the NFL office in 1982. He worked for the New York Jets the next year before returning to Park Avenue in 1984 in the public relations department.

Goodell went on to hold several executive posts on the league’s football and business sides before being named executive vice president and chief operating officer by Tagliabue in December 2001. As Tagliabue’s right-hand man, Goodell oversaw football operations and such business matters as media, marketing and stadium construction.

“I believe in continuity,” Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said. “That’s what Roger brings us.”

In his 29 years as commissioner, Rozelle had to deal with threats from the American Football League, the World Football League and the United States Football League as well as player strikes in 1982 and 1987.

Tagliabue, however, presided over a 17-year era that included the establishment of widespread free agency as well as unbroken labor peace that will continue through 2012.

Goodell inherits unquestionably the most successful operation in sports.

“We’ve had the two greatest sports commissioners in the history of professional sports, Paul Tagliabue and Pete Rozelle, and I was fortunate to work for both of them,” Goodell said. “I look forward to the challenge and thank them again for their confidence.”

Goodell, who likes to tell the story of how he slept with an NFL football at age 6 and dreamed of one day being commissioner, captained the football, basketball and baseball teams as a senior at Bronxville (N.Y.).

He planned to play football at Washington and Jefferson (Pa.) College before injuring a knee before his freshman year.

Goodell graduated magna cum laude in 1981 with a degree in economics and wrote letters to every NFL team and to Rozelle in search of a job.

Rozelle, who had worked his way up from a public relations position with the Los Angeles Rams, asked chief assistant Don Weiss to interview Goodell. The three-month internship that resulted launched Goodell on his path to the top.

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