The 2014 NFL season was a public relations nightmare. Domestic violence, child abuse, and deflated footballs - one disaster followed another in a steady stream of bad news.
Yet the NFL brand continues to grow. The average value of each team is estimated to be $1.43 billion, the highest average of all North American sports leagues. League revenue is set to increase from last season's $10 billion, pending final numbers from the Super Bowl, and the big game itself is setting up to be one of the most successful ever, with the average ticket price on the secondhand market around $9,000, according to the Associated Press.
The 2014 season began with many calling for Goodell's resignation, as he fumbled the investigation of former Ravens RB Ray Rice's assault allegations. Videos of Rice punching his girlfriend in the face in an Atlantic City hotel elevator surfaced just weeks after Goodell hit Rice with an under-inflated two game suspension. It looked like double jeopardy.
Goodell spoke of his job security and the lessons he learned throughout the season during his State of the NFL address, as reported by Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
"It has been a tough year," Goodell said. "It has been a tough year on me personally. It's been a year of what I would say humility and learning. We obviously as an organization have gone through adversity. But more importantly, it's been adversity for me. We take that seriously. It's an opportunity for us to get better. It's an opportunity for our organization to get better. So we've all done a lot of soul-searching, starting with yours truly."
Many players see Goodell as a heavy-handed and icy figure who acts as the judge, jury and executioner when it comes to imposing fines or dishing out punishment. Players and fans alike have questioned Goodell's consistency and the scope of his power, citing the disparity between Rice's initial two-game suspension and the league's automatic four-game ban if a player tested positive for Adderall, for example.
The player conduct policy was in a constant state of flux during the 2014 season, but despite the turmoil, Goodell still retains control over player punishment. The controversy over these punishments continues unabated in the postseason, running all the way to the Super Bowl, with the commissioner locked in a bizarre power struggle with the media-dodging Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks.
The Goodell-Lynch cage match threatens to eclipse even the much-anticipated Katy Perry halftime show for fan interest Will the $44-million commissioner fine the $6.5-million running back for repeating, "I'm here so I won't get fined" for just under five minutes on media day, or will he hit him harder for wearing a hat not licensed by the NFL on camera during his performance?