After brokering the toughest labor dispute in 15 years, the NFL's commissioner, Paul Tagliabue, will retire in July.
He may stay on one more year to help ease the transition to the new commish....or he could do so as an "elder statesman" for the NFL. He has a clause in his contract where he gets a sort of ex-Presidential treatment where he can be a consultant to the new NFL commish.
Tags has been the NFL commish since 1989. In his time in office, the NFL established the current salary cap structure that brought much of Pete Rozelle's beloved parity to the league. Instead of the Niners, Redskins and Cowboys winning all the titles [though, Dallas won 3 of the first 4 Super Bowls in the salary cap era]...teams like the Rams, Steelers, Ravens and Buccaneers can win Super Bowls. And though the Patriots have a recent dynasty....as we are seeing the past couple of years that it is really hard to keep those intact.
Also, expansion franchises were added in Charlotte and Jacksonville. New teams were placed in Houston and Cleveland. The NFL delicately handled the movement of the Los Angeles Rams to St. Louis, the Los Angeles Raiders back to Oakland, the Houston Oilers to Nashville, the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore. The league expanded to eight divisions....and a 6th playoff team from each conference.
The NFL has also made itself nearly self-dependant. Since he took over, there have been 17 new stadiums built for NFL teams. Only the Vikings, Raiders and Dolphins share a stadium with a baseball team. When he first started, the Oilers, Steelers, Bengals, Browns, Chargers, Eagles, Mariners, Rams, Falcons, Vikings and Niners shared with the MLB.
TV-wise, the NFL is perfect. He got Fox in to the act, pretty much legitimizing them as a network....then later re-admitted CBS. NBC will get the Sunday night games....while ESPN takes over for the Monday Night staple. Also, the NFL Network...beloved by fans everywhere...will start carrying games this fall. The NFL Sunday Ticket is pretty much what made DirecTV into the top satellite carrier.
He also took what could have been the worst hour of his era into maybe his finest. The recent labor dispute could have put the NFL into a near-nuclear winter. But his leadership bought time and essentially got a dividing group of owners on the same page.
Either way, the 65-year old Tagliabue will soon be gone from the face of America's top sports league.
Roger Goodell [the dude in the pic below], the league's executive vice president and COO is the leading candidate to replace him.