John McGrath

McGrath: Goodell is lying or foolish, and neither is good

Roger Goodell is either a liar or a dunce.

Those are the only conclusions to be drawn from the NFL commissioner’s fumbling of an internal investigation that went awry from the snap.

Goodell maintains he never saw the videotape of Ray Rice’s knockout punch of a defenseless woman in a casino elevator until Monday. Really? The most powerful executive of the world’s most formidable pro sports organization didn’t have access to a tape eventually obtained by a celebrity-gossip website?

Goodell’s insistence is difficult to believe, but at least it helps explain his initial, astonishingly tone-deaf response to the events of Feb. 15, when Rice was seen dragging an unconscious Janay Palmer out of an elevator door.

Goodell determined a two-game suspension of the Baltimore Ravens running back to be appropriate. Sitting out two games, Goodell explained, is consistent with the league’s policy of punishing players with no previous history of domestic violence .

“We just can’t make up the discipline,” Goodell said Aug. 1. “It has to be consistent with other cases.

“What I want to see is success stories. I want to see people, when they make a mistake, I want to see them take responsibility and accountability for it and a make a difference going forward. I think that’s what Ray Rice is going to do.”

After TMZ Sports made the tape of Rice’s “mistake” available to the public, after the tape sickened anybody with a grasp of civility, the commissioner changed his tune. Instead of envisioning Ray Rice as a potential success story, Goodell finally saw a creep unfit to draw an NFL paycheck and suspended him indefinitely.

Did Goodell tell the truth about rendering judgment on Rice before TMZ released the tape? Despite my doubts, I will take him at his word.

Which brings us to an equally harsh assessment of Roger Goodell: an incompetent nitwit who makes Barney Fife’s tenuous stewardship of the Mayberry Jail seem like James Bond at his Cold-War coolest.

Goodell is the front-office face of a league that regulates the length of its players’ socks, the color of their shoes, the demeanor of their touchdown celebrations. Behind the scenes, off the field, the the NFL employs a security force second to none.

Gambling is an obvious concern, because even the most obscure name on a roster — some special teams guy — can affect a point spread. But there are other challenges confronting NFL security: Drug deals, death threats, players with childhood gang ties and, yes, players whose hard-wired appetite for physical confrontation sometimes leads to violence at home — or in an elevator at a casino.

The job of monitoring all of this belongs, essentially, to former cops with elite FBI and DEA credentials or, in the case of league security chief Jeffrey B. Miller, a résumé assembled as head of Pennsylvania State Police — the ninth largest police organization in the U.S, with 400 enlisted and civilian employees operating from a $750 million budget.

Put it this way: If you once were late with a third-grade homework assignment, it would take NFL security about 12 minutes to produce the evidence.

And yet, Roger Goodell didn’t know about the videotape TMZ made public Monday? He didn’t wonder if the casino that had a camera showing Rice dragging a woman from an elevator car also might have camera in the elevator car itself?

Goodell, as judge and jury, reached a verdict regarding Rice based on inclusive information: A two-game suspension for a first offender. Let’s not overreact, the commissioner said. This is a potential success story about a flawed man willing to take responsibility for a “mistake” that left a woman — his fiancee and future wife — on the floor.

It was an awkward attempt to turn a harrowing incident into something upbeat, and the saga now turns towards the corruption associated with a scandal.

The information was there. A bully threw a punch so hard it knocked a woman senseless, and the commissioner all but waved it off: Hey, we all have bad days, let’s focus on doing better going forward.

Please.

Ray Rice is out of a job – good riddance – but Roger Goodell needs to be out of his job, too.

He’s either a liar or a dunce, take your pick, and there’s only one other option on the board:

He’s both.

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