Why It Matters: Under Goodell, business has boomed for the N.F.L.
Mr. Goodell is the most powerful executive in American sports, and the N.F.L. is the largest and most powerful league in the country. Replacing him will not be easy. He has spent his entire professional career — more than 40 years — at the N.F.L. and has an unrivaled command of the league’s vast and growing operations.
Over the years, Mr. Goodell has become a close confidant of many of the owners, listening to their concerns and helping get them new stadiums built and other projects done. He has also helped secure labor peace through back-to-back 10-year collective bargaining agreements, and helped negotiate media deals worth more than $100 billion that run through the end of the decade.
Teams also continue to be sold for record amounts. The Denver Broncos were purchased last year for $4.65 billion, twice what the Carolina Panthers were sold for in 2018. Earlier this year, Daniel Snyder sold the Washington Commanders to a group led by Josh Harris for a record $6 billion.
Background: It pays to be the commissioner.
Mr. Goodell has been handsomely compensated for helping turn the N.F.L. into a financial juggernaut. His current deal is worth as much as $200 million, and is based largely on bonuses and incentives.
The owners paid Mr. Goodell almost $64 million in 2019-20 and 2020-21 after he helped secure a new labor agreement and lucrative broadcasting rights contracts. He also steered the league through the pandemic without the cancellation of any games.
For a decade, the compensation committee recommended a pay package that was sent to the full ownership for approval. But in 2017, the Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones threatened to sue the half-dozen team owners on the committee who were negotiating a new contract for Mr. Goodell. In response, Mr. Goodell’s contract was restructured to rely more heavily on performance-based bonuses instead of guaranteed salaries.
That showdown included a fine of $2 million for Mr. Jones for threatening the other owners. Since then, the owners on three influential committees, which have a total of about 20 members, decide annually whether the commissioner has met the targets.
What’s Next: The league has more time to look for a successor.
The contract extension will give the owners time to find potential candidates to fill Mr. Goodell’s shoes.
Inside N.F.L. headquarters, Brian Rolapp, the chief media officer, is considered a contender. The Chicago Bears’ president, Kevin Warren, who previously worked for the Minnesota Vikings and the Big Ten, is another potential candidate.
Mr. Goodell will be older when his new deals ends than two predecessors were when they retired. Pete Rozelle stepped down in 1989 at 63 and Paul Tagliabue retired in 2006 at 65.
“We’ll see what the future holds,” Mr. Goodell said about his plans after this current extension. “I’m not making any other commitments on the next three years. I’m going to bust my butt.”
Jim Irsay, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts, said after the owners met in May in Eagan, Minn., near Minneapolis, that the league had become so big and complex that the owners should consider dividing the commissioner duties, with one person focused on business matters and another handling on-field issues.
“It’s a healthy discussion to have,” Mr. Goodell said. “The job changes over the years. It’s changed ever since I’ve been the commissioner. I know we will have the discussions at the appropriate time.”
The new contract will also afford the league the opportunity to look outside the N.F.L. for a potential replacement.