ATLANTA — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell continues to explore with the league’s competition committee ways to improve the game, including a “sincere effort” to evaluate officiating.
With a public relations crisis hanging over the league’s grandest stage, Goodell said he never considered hitting rewind on the NFC Championship Game due to a no call in a game-deciding situation at New Orleans. Goodell said he is focused on finding a workable solution to cries for expanded replay.
“It’s a play that should be called. We’re going to do everything possible to make the improvements necessary,” Goodell said Wednesday at his annual State of the NFL address in a hangar-sized ballroom at the Georgia Congress Center.
Goodell offered congratulations to the city of Atlanta, which hosts Super Bowl LIII on Sunday some 19 years after it last put on the game, and he raved about Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the league’s newest facility. He congratulated the discount concessions pricing structure adopted by the Falcons and owner Arthur Blank.
Goodell would not disclose how he’ll use his sole discretion whether to open the retractable roof for Sunday’s game. The latest forecast for game day called for 62 degree temperatures.
“We could not be more excited to be here in Atlanta as we celebrate the final Super Bowl this century,” Goodell said. “Our game is getting better and better. And our engagement and popularity is unmatched in today’s landscape.
“Next year we will celebrate 100 seasons of professional football. As we approach this milestone, it is only fitting that we are here in Atlanta, a city of milestones. A city of progress.”
Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who attended the press conference, was celebrated by Goodell for the “extraordinary” accomplishment of reaching the Super Bowl for the 10th time in 25 years of team ownership.
Goodell said there would be a summit at Morehouse College in Atlanta designed to increase the profile of qualified minority coaching candidates and with a goal of creating additional opportunities for minority coaching candidates.
Including presumed Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores — acting in his current role as defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots — only four NFL head coaches are minorities. And of the 32 teams, just two have a minority offensive coordinator.
“We don’t look at the success or failure of the Rooney Rule in one-year increments. We’ve had the Rooney Rule around for nearly 20 years,” Goodell said.
“It created opportunity. It’s given people an opportunity they have not had in the past. That’s at the core of what we’re looking for. We all believe in talking to the Fritz Pollard Alliance, particularly this fall … what we want to do is create a deeper pool of coaches. We’ve focused on a few things and we are going to meet with them again at the Combine in February.”
Goodell said the league will be back in Mexico next season — the November game scheduled between the Rams and Chiefs was moved to Los Angeles due to field conditions — and identified China as a priority market for the NFL.
“I hope some time in the next couple of months we’re going to have some very exciting announcements,” Goodell said of the league’s concerted effort to expand its reach in China.
The league isn’t “NFL ready” in London due to competition questions relative to any potential team there and the other 31 teams, but intends to continue staging multiple regular-season games there. Four games will be played in England in 2019.
Goodell denied any “Kaepernick effect” on the halftime performers — Maroon 5 — and said the league has no concern about drawing musical talent. He also denied to offer his opinion on why former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick remains unemployed.
“If a team decides Colin Kaepernick or any other player can help their team win … that’s what they’ll do,” Goodell said.
“Our clubs are the ones that make decisions about players they want to have on their roster. They make it individually. They all want to win. They are going to do whatever they need to do to win. That’s our focus. It will continue to be our focus.”
Former Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt is still being investigated by the NFL, Goodell said. A video surfaced in late November showing him shoving and kicking a woman.
“If he is signed by a club, I think all clubs understand he’ll go on the commissioner exempt list until the case is concluded,” Goodell said. “We haven’t concluded the investigation and we’re working to do that. There has been a tremendous amount of progress on that in the last 30 to 60 days.”
Redskins linebacker Reuben Foster, currently on that list, met with Goodell and remains subject to discipline. Goodell said the league is still investigating the latest domestic incident involving Foster, who could be suspended under the conduct policy despite charges being dropped in Tampa, Fla.
–By Jeff Reynolds (@ReynoldsJD), Field Level Media