Reimer: Jerry Jones upstaging Robert Kraft in reported defiance of Roger Goodell

Alex Reimer
September 18, 2017 - 12:40 pm

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Jerry Jones may never see his Cowboys upstage Robert Kraft’s Patriots on the football field. But in the boardroom, the Cowboys owner seems to be accomplishing just that.

It was reported last month the NFL’s Compensation Committee approved a five-year contract extension for Roger Goodell. Kraft is one of the board’s six members. Prior to the reported agreement, there were murmurs Kraft and Jones would form an alliance and try to oust the commissioner before his deal expired in 2019. Both power-brokers have expressed grievances over Goodell’s heavy-handed disciplinary tactics: Kraft continually criticizes the league’s abhorrent handling of Deflategate, and Jones was reportedly “furious” running back Ezekiel Elliott was suspended six games for domestic violence, despite the fact that one league investigator recommended against doling out any sort of punishment. 

Despite Kraft’s apparent hard feelings –– he told the New York Post in June he’ll “never forget” the way Deflategate was adjudicated –– the Patriots owner still maintains a close business relationship with Goodell. Kraft sits on multiple league boards, including the influential television committee. 

“I want to do what’s in the best interest of the team. And so therefore having a professional, good working relationship, doing what’s in the best interest of the league is in the best interest of the Patriots,: Kraft told the Boston Herald’s Karen Guregian recently. “What happened is yesterday’s news. The good part of that is people from the league are coming to the opening game, celebrating our Super Bowl championship.”

Publicly, Kraft’s voiced contradictory messages about Goodell. After Tom Brady’s draconian four-game suspension was reaffirmed in July 2015, Kraft declared he was “wrong to put his faith in the league.” But the following spring, amidst Brady’s prolonged legal battle with the NFL, Kraft said Goodell was doing a “very good job.”

Jones, who lauded Goodell’s handling of Deflategate, has dismissed the league’s case against Elliott. Last year, Jones reportedly accosted NFL lead investigator Lisa Friel outside of a bar in Manhattan. In July, he claimed there was “nothing” to the Elliott domestic violence claims. 

When a federal judge granted Elliott an injunction and temporary restraining order that blocked the NFL’s ban, Jones affirmed the running back’s innocence, citing the Deflategate case.

"Well, that was about whether or not the player had misrepresented to the commissioner," Jones said. "We've got rules that say if you don't tell the truth to the commissioner then you can get sanctioned. Those are rules. That's not the case here. Zeke gave them everything plus some that he needed to have here.”

Privately, Jones appears to be backing up his public condemnations with action. ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen reported Sunday the influential mogul is trying to impede Goodell’s contract negotiations. While Jones doesn’t sit on the compensation committee, he’s supposedly acting as a conduit for other owners who want to see Goodell take a cut in pay.  

"If not for Jerry, this deal would be done.” a source told ESPN.

Jones coyly disputed the report Sunday, saying he wasn’t going to “deny anything that was written, whether it was true or not.”

The NFL, meanwhile, strongly denies the report. 

It was unrealistic, and frankly stupid, to expect Kraft to sue the NFL over Deflategate. Kraft cherishes his influential position among the owners and his children are set to take over the team from him. Going rogue, and alienating the Patriots from the rest of the league, would have been foolish.

But there’s no reason why Kraft couldn’t pull off what Jones is reportedly trying to do. Jones thinks Goodell treated Elliott unfairly, perhaps in an effort to clean up his woeful reputation on handling domestic violence issues. As a result, he appears to be making Goodell’s life a little more uncomfortable than it needs to be. There’s little doubt Goodell will finalize his contract extension. But in the meantime, he’s being reminded of Jones’ power.

Jones has asserted himself as a kingmaker in recent years, helping to orchestrate the Rams' return to Los Angeles and the Raiders' move to Las Vegas. His son, Stephen Jones, is also CEO of the Cowboys, just like Jonathan Kraft is the de-facto CEO of the Patriots. 

And yet, Jones is still reportedly standing up for his team. It doesn’t seem as if he’s concerned with losing any clout.  

For once, Kraft could learn a few things from him.