- NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell believes the Super Bowl will definitely be coming back to Tampa
- Goodell is also confident that the playoffs will be expanded by two teams in the near future
- The NFL does not believe it is over-saturating the market by playing a full season of Thursday night games
The Tampa Bay area has been chosen as the site for four previous Super Bowls, two each at Tampa Stadium and Raymond James Stadium. Recent attempts to lure the NFL back for a sixth big game in Tampa, however, have led mostly to runner-up finishes. On Friday, while in town to attend the Brooks DeBartolo Collegiate High School Champions' Breakfast, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell indicated his belief that the Bay area would eventually be home to another Super Bowl.
"I think they'll get another Super Bowl, without a doubt," said Goodell. "I just think there's been a tremendous amount of construction of new facilities, which has led to more competitiveness for the Super Bowl. It's a great event to have in your community, so I think what you're seeing is that more and more communities are interested in the Super Bowl. That's what it is. It's not a reflection on this community or Miami or any other community. It's just a competitive event."
Goodell said that Raymond James Stadium remains a viable facility for the most popular sporting event in North America, and that it's seating capacity is not an issue.
"It's a great facility," he said. "I'm sure the franchise is always looking to see what they can do to make sure they maintain it and keep it a state-of-the-art facility. There's a big event tomorrow night here – they're getting a lot of use out of it and it's a great facility."
In addition to meeting with the media before Friday's breakfast, Goodell also served as the keynote speaker during the event. He took part in a lengthy and wide-ranging Q&A session, moderated by Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, that touched on such topics as playoff expansion, workplace environments, player safety and the in-stadium experience. A transcript of Goodell's thoughts on those topics follows.
On who the Buccaneers will take with the seventh overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft:
"I was asking Lovie [Smith] and Jason [Licht] over here at the table and I haven't gotten an answer yet. So I'll have to wait, I guess, a couple weeks."
On what Derrick Brooks and Edward DeBartolo, Jr. have done with their charter school:
"It's an honor to be here this morning. Really, when Derrick called it was an easy [decision]. As long as I could get here I was going to be here. I'm proud of what both Derrick and Eddie have done in this community and in a much broader community. They are Hall-of-Famers in my opinion, and we have one that's in and one that will be in. We have two people that care about their communities, and make your communities better and have a huge impact. I'm proud of what they feel about the community and how they're trying to change the future of these young kids. And we're seeing it. I was here in 2007 for the opening [of the school], and I always want an opportunity to come back and see the work and the progress. It's extraordinary – every year it's bigger and better and more and more kids are impacted. That's what they intended, that's their vision and I salute them. I'm proud to be here for them."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell spent more than 20 minutes fielding questions on hot league topics at Friday's breakfast
On his prediction to his father while he was still in college that he would be the commissioner of the NFL:
"Well, I have a few college buddies in the audience here. It is true – I actually have it in writing, a letter that I wrote to my father in '81. I said I have two things I'd like to do with my life and that's to make you proud, and I'd like to be commissioner of the NFL. I'm sure he laughed at probably both of them, but he certainly laughed at the second one. And unfortunately, both of my parents passed away before they had an opportunity to see me advance…I think I was still 'below sea level,' as Mr. D said. But I had the opportunity to get into the NFL; it's always been my passion, it's always been my dream to work in the NFL. To serve as commissioner is an extraordinary privilege and I'm pretty proud of it."
On Donald Trump potentially buying the Buffalo Bills:
"I just spoke to him yesterday. Hey, listen, I have lots of bosses. I like to think that all of our fans are my bosses, too. Listen, people have such a tremendous passion for this sport. Obviously, Donald Trump is somebody who has a passion for this sport, too, and he does seem to have a tremendous interest in this. But there are a lot of others that fortunately are interested in the Buffalo Bills, so it will be an interesting process."
On what he thinks of Tampa as a Super Bowl host site and if there is a chance that could happen in the near future:
"I thought this might come up. I'm convinced that there will be another Super Bowl here in Tampa. It's just a question of when. As you point out, the Super Bowl has become very competitive. Other communities have recognized the tremendous value of having an event like this. New stadiums are going up across the country and are new stages for the Super Bowl. But this community has always done a terrific job with Super Bowls, and I told the mayor this earlier this morning. This is not a reflection on Tampa; it's a reflection on the competitiveness of this event. You have great ownership in the Glazer Family, you have a great stadium and you have a great community, and that's a winning formula. For me, we will clearly be back here for another Super Bowl. Here's the bad news: I don't have a vote!"
On if there will be more Super Bowls in cold-weather sites:
"It was a great experience. I like to say the Super Bowl this year in New York was high-risk, high-reward. It was a fabulous experience. The people in New York and New Jersey really opened their arms. They were tremendously excited and enthusiastic, and it had an impact on everybody, I think, in the nation. And I think that's why you see that the Super Bowl was once again the most-viewed television show in history. In history. That's a reflection of being in the number-one market. New York is somewhat unique in that. To your point about the temperature, we still haven't had a cold-weather Super Bowl. I don't know when and if that will happen again. We have a lot of other communities that want to host this, and this is obviously one of them, and I expect we'll see a lot of additional Super Bowls before we get back to New York."
On concussions and the fact that the sport that leads to the second-most concussions being girls' soccer:
"Rick, you know it's funny. You tease about it, but I have twin girls who are playing soccer. We want our kids to play sports. Our kids should play sports. They're great. And, yes, injuries are always a part of contact sports. It's a part of life. What we need to do is be responsible, making sure we make the games as safe as possible. But also, don't forget the rewards. What sports you play, that's a personal decision and I understand it. I would tell you that having played every sport ever put in front of me – I was three-sports all the way through high school – I could not replace the values and the learning that I got from sports. It's actually one of the reasons I'm so supportive of what they're doing here at the Brooks DeBartolo School. Part of education is getting kids to understand more about themselves, understand there's a bigger picture out there. Teamwork is an important element and football is the ultimate team game. That's where I learned the discipline and the ability to understand more about yourself, and how to get up when you're knocked down. Those are life lessons and I hope kids have a chance to play not just football but all sports."
On trying to make youth football safer:
"We take our leadership position seriously, not just in football but in all sports. People look up to the NFL to do the right thing, and we believe in that. One of our efforts is to reach down and make sure that we make football at all levels safer; to protect the players; to make sure the rules are designed to protect the players; take dangerous techniques out of the game that have proven to lead to injuries. Taking the head out of the game is the highest on the list. It wasn't designed to use the head in tackling. Derrick can tell you, he's a Hall-of-Famer: You tackle with your shoulder and your arms. That's something that we want to see, kids wrap up and keep their head up. The helmet, we like to say, is designed for protection. It's not designed as a weapon. So we instituted a program that we call, 'Heads Up.' We will work with coaches across youth leagues to certify them to teach proper techniques on how to tackle and how to train athletes, how to keep them properly hydrated, as an example. All of these things will make the game safer, and we believe that's what the parents want, that's what the athletes want and it's good for our game."
On how he feels about critics saying the NFL is going too far in pursuit of player safety and changing the game too much:
"Well, I don't agree, obviously, and neither do our football people. We have great athletes and they have adjusted. They are using different techniques and they're getting back to tackling the way it was fundamentally designed to be. The Super Bowl is the best example of it. That may have been one of the hardest-hitting Super Bowls I've ever seen – not one illegal hit. Not one illegal [hit] flag in one of the hardest-hitting games ever seen. And that's because coaches and players are adjusting. They're playing the game the way it's designed to be played, and that's what we have to get back to. You're always going to have people that are going to get outside [the rules], and some are intentional maybe and some are not. But what has happened is that the game is safer than it ever has been."
On the hazing issue and creating a professional work environment:
"That's of primary importance to us, for our players, for our coaches, for our trainers, for our staffs. We have to make sure that are workplace environments are professional and that everybody has an opportunity to come to work and be successful. We have laws in place to do that. We obviously failed last year in that, but this has given us a great opportunity as a league and our clubs to redouble our efforts and to bring focus to this. We're training every club. We spent a significant amount of time with our ownership and our coaches and our general managers last month in a session making sure they understand the importance of this – they all understand it – and what they can do to ensure that kind of environment in our facilities and when we're traveling. Each club will go through that training. Each club is taking on its own efforts in this area to set their own standards and to create leadership in the locker room and in the organization to make sure we all know the importance of this. I'm confident that we're going to exceed any standard that we can set and hopefully be a standard for well beyond football."
On the possibility of an 18-game regular season and/or changes to the preseason:
"We like to say that our job is to make sure that we create value for our fans. It starts with our season ticket members, but it's all fans. We want fans to come and enjoy the experience at the stadium; it's the greatest experience in the world. But you have to be competitive from a pricing standpoint. You have to make sure that what you do is the highest possible quality. And we're competing against ourselves in some ways because we have a great experience at home. Our television partners, technology has created a great at-home experience but nothing is better than being in that stadium. We have to continue to work hard to make sure what we do is high-quality. I personally do not believe the quality of the preseason – and I think the fans agree with this – is up to NFL standards. It's not what we are about, it's not what we should do. It's necessary and it's important, particularly from a football standpoint, to develop players and to get your team ready for the season. But as a marketing platform for the NFL, it's [unsatisfactory]. We're making a lot of changes in our policies. Several clubs now are changing their policies to go with variable pricing where they're pricing the preseason differently than the regular season. We will always focus to see what's the right number of preseason games, regular-season games, and we're actively looking at how many teams should qualify for the postseason. But that's going to be a continuing effort, a continuing balance, to make sure we're bringing value to our fans."
On if the blackout rule is still relevant:
"I'm glad to say we had [just] two blackouts league-wide last year. I think our numbers have been in single digits for several years; we had one where it got to 12 but it used to be, in the '70s, over 50% of our games were blacked out. Even in the '80s, it was 40% and in the 90s it was 30%. What we've done is worked hard to make sure we get our fans in the stadium, [the stadium] full, excited, passionate. It's a balancing act, but I think it's been done in an effective way. When you have two blackouts league-wide it's two too many, but I'm pretty proud of the work the clubs have done."
On the affordability of attending games for families:
"It's always a challenge. I go through it with my family. No matter what entertainment options you take, it's much more expensive than it used to be, and it's a challenge. We have to make sure that we're responsive to that. The great thing is we only get 10 events a year. There's only 10 opportunities to see the Tampa Bay Buccaneers here, unless they get to the playoffs, which is something I know they're striving for. We have to make sure it's an affordable experience for them, work hard to create that value and make sure when they get done with that expense on the other side they say, 'That was terrific. That was something I want to take my kids and my family back to.' And that's everything from making the stadium safe [to] making the experience as convenient as possible [to] having world-class facilities [to] pricing them properly [to] having the right kind of food. These are all things the clubs are working on very hard league-wide. The Bucs are doing a great job here in this community."
On the possibility of expanding the playoffs by two teams:
"The first point is, the thought is it could create more excitement as we get down to the playoffs, two more teams having a chance to qualify for the playoffs. But what I really think is so unique about this league right now, it has never been more competitive as a league. And that's due to great coaching and great general managers and the system that we have. That includes revenue sharing and it includes the great players and college football bringing great talent into this league. All of those things have combined to keep this league so competitive that we're not just adding two teams to add two teams to the playoffs – they actually have a chance to make it to the Super Bowl and win the Super Bowl. And some teams are afraid. Those 12 teams are afraid to add the 13th or 14th because they're pretty dangerous at that point in the season. If we can do that because of the competitiveness of the league, make our game even more exciting, our regular-season even more important than it is, I think that's appealing for the league and I think it's most importantly appealing to the fans. So I think it's something that will happen. I don't know if it will happen in '14 or if it will happen in '15. We'll decide that in a few weeks, but it's something that there's a great deal of appeal and excitement about."
On the notion that the NFL is becoming too saturated as a product by playing on so many days of the week:
"Yes, we're hyper-sensitive to that. I think we've been very calculated and careful in the way we've managed our content. We've been playing on Thursday nights – it started with six games and expanded to 13 and now we'll be playing 16. This has all been responding to the fan interest. Football season is really four months, it's pretty focused. We only play 16 games on a weekend. Thursday night is going to be a good platform for us because fans want to see NFL football. This takes an opportunity for one of those games that's going to be more regional and distribute it to a national platform. We're confident based on the direction we've gotten from our fans and from our TV partners that this will be an extraordinary hit. We're comfortable that we're not saturating the market. We're comfortable that we're not bringing too much content into the football season. But we also feel that we need to respond to our fans and give them what they want."
On why the draft was pushed back two weeks this year:
"Radio City [Music Hall], where we have the event, had an Easter show this year that ran longer. They ended up in cancelling that show in March, so we still could have had it at the same time, but they told us it was going to run later and this was the first opportunity for us to do it. So that's actually the reason why – it's just the facility wasn't available. But there have been some real positives to having it later. It's one of the things we'll have to evaluate with our coaches and our general managers and our clubs to see, did this work or did it not work? And we'll also evaluate whether we should keep the draft in the same format. Should we keep it in the same city? Should we rotate it around to different cities? Should we maybe have another night in prime time? All those things are being evaluated to see if we can improve the event."