- The Washington Times - Monday, March 27, 2006

ORLANDO, Fla. — Commissioner Paul Tagliabue’s intention to retire in July has prompted the NFL’s 32 owners to begin thinking about the qualities they would like to see in his successor.

“He has to be able to maintain the integrity and popularity of the sport but also grow it in the new digital media world and the new global world,” Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said. “Whoever leads the league has to have a background that can really maximize those opportunities. It has to be somebody coming from a very strong business background and legal background. It has to be somebody who has a real sense of the global marketplace and who is committed to the integrity of the sport. We need somebody who can help strategize a very popular domestic sport and how to grow it globally and through the digital market place.”

Houston Texans owner Bob McNair said the NFL’s failure to develop a fan base in Europe after 14 years of a spring league should prompt a different direction in terms of that global positioning.

“If we’re going to be a global organization, how do we go about doing that?” McNair said. “We’ve got to define who we want to be five, six years from now. We’re very successful now, but we can’t be complacent. … We have to think in terms of how do we keep growing the league and adding value.”

McNair, one of the “new guard” of owners along with Lurie, Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys and Dan Snyder of the Washington Redskins, has suggested the commissioner’s job be split in two. One person would administer the football side and the other the business side. However, Tagliabue and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, the leader of the “old guard,” both blanched at that idea.

Rooney and Tagliabue also said they didn’t see the divide between the old guard and the new guard as a hindrance to the process even though it was pronounced during recent talks on extending the collective bargaining agreement with the players association.

Green Bay president Bob Harlan (the Packers are community-owned), another member of the old guard, doesn’t want to see an outsider as commissioner.

“The Number 1 item in my mind is someone who’s totally committed to this league and understands that we have a very unique business. We compete against each other on Sunday, and the rest of the week we’re business partners. … We need someone who’s very familiar with this league, where it has been and where it needs to go.”

Tagliabue will recommend that an outside firm interview all 32 owners. While Tagliabue and Rooney, who likely will be on the search committee, have spoken about assembling a diverse group of candidates including outsiders and minorities, the names most mentioned for the job are Atlanta Falcons general manager Rich McKay, Baltimore Ravens president Dick Cass and NFL executives Roger Goodell, Jeff Pash, Steve Bornstein and Eric Grubman.

Tagliabue has said he will remain in office until a successor is approved — 22 of the 32 owners must do so. It took the owners seven months to choose Tagliabue, then an NFL lawyer, over New Orleans Saints GM Jim Finks after Pete Rozelle’s retirement in 1989.

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