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Roger Goodell: NFL will investigate tanking claims

Although arguably the game’s greatest football player of all time, Tom Brady, retired last week, all anyone can talk about are the current controversies running rampant throughout the NFL. From the lack of coaching diversity to the unfair treatment of Black coaches looking to establish their careers, to controversial claims suggesting teams have been deliberately tanking their games, losing on purpose. Roger Goodell, the league’s current commissioner has a lot of questions to answer this offseason with the season’s biggest event just a week away.

He began his first portion of damage control, by releasing a memo, basically stating the league, as a whole has failed to promote diversity among head coach hires. And with just one Black head coach out of 32 possible jobs, it’s never been more obvious that the NFL has a problem. This was the biggest message behind Goodell’s release issued to all club presidents and chief executives today, but there was another note featured along the bottom that addresses the issue of how tanking directly impacts the integrity of the game.

Here’s what the final paragraph noted, with subtlety.

“We also take seriously any issue relating to the integrity of NFL games,” Goodell says in the penultimate paragraph of the memo. “These matters will be reviewed thoroughly and independently. We expect that these independent experts will receive full cooperation from everyone associated with the league or any member club as this work proceeds.”

Roger Goodell’s memo on their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion

Earlier this week, Brian Flores stated that when coaching the Miami Dolphins, team owner Stephen Ross tried to bribe Flores with an additional $100,000 for each game he lost as they attempted to tank for Tua Tagovailoa, which later turned into a plan to tank for Joe Burrow.

Then, there was former Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson who followed with similar claims, only he suggested he was paid by team owner Jimmy Haslam to lose games on purpose, which he later backtracked. Draw your own conclusion there, but with claims as serious as these, it’s not hard to envision Jackson’s comments made certain individuals very, very upset.

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Roger Goodell might have a major problem on his hands

If even a sliver of what Flores and Jackson suggest happened with the Dolphins and Browns is true, that means they aren’t the only cases throughout history, they’re simply the most documented and most recent.

Obviously, Flores has more serious claims that deserve attention, but the thought of teams not even trying to win for a full season bears its own investigation as well.

The idea of an owner wanting to lose games on purpose for a full season or two sends a terrible message to their fans. Next year when we see a franchise at the bottom of the barrel, struggling to scrape together a win, everyone will start wondering how much the current head coach is being paid behind the scenes per loss.

Not only does an entire wasted season or two impact the coaching careers of coaches, it also hurts the players striving for their next contract, or maybe they don’t even get another chance if their last opportunity blows up in their face. It’s not fair. Or how about in the case of Joe Thomas? The claims made by Hue Jackson suggest he may have been paid to tank during the final two seasons of Thomas’s Hall of Fame career in Cleveland. Who’s to say he wouldn’t have continued to play had the Browns actually given it their all?

NFL teams operate knowing the league has a profit-sharing method. This means the profits each team draws in from national revenue during the year is equally spread out to the 32 team owners at the end of the football year. What’s preventing an owner from deliberately tanking at the start of the year, when they know they have 31 other owners who have their backs to ensure they still turn a massive profit?

Honestly, the tanking claims could get as far as the NFL deciding they need to implement a lottery system. Which, no other sport has been able to nail if we’re being honest. Somehow despite some probable fixing of games, the NFL has retained a strong competitive balance. Who knows what could happen with a lottery system. For now, Roger Goodell has a lot of headaches to work through.