Roger Goodell's second year as NFL commissioner, 2007, didn't go smoothly. First the Patriots were found to have violated league rules by videotaping in-game hand signals of Jets coaches, then the 49ers violated anti-tampering rules by contacting Bears linebacker Lance Briggs before he became a free agent. Concerned that such incidents could erode public confidence in the league, Goodell oversaw the implementation of a new policy entitled "Integrity of the Game and Fair Competition." The legislation required all owners, executives and head coaches to certify annually that they have complied with NFL rules and policies and have reported any violations. Failure to do so would result in severe discipline.
Or so we thought. In the first real test of the policy, Goodell went relatively easy on the Broncos after they illegally videotaped the 49ers' Oct. 30 walkthrough before the teams' game in London. Last Saturday coach Josh McDaniels and the club were fined just $50,000 each—the same amount that Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson and Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather were fined on Oct. 19 for illegal hits on receivers.
The NFL ruled that Denver video director Steve Scarnecchia, since fired, acted alone, and that McDaniels did not view the tape. But why did he wait nine days to report the incident? He was the Patriots' offensive coordinator in 2007 when Goodell docked them a first-round draft choice and levied fines of $250,000 against the club and $500,000 against coach Bill Belichick for their roles in "Spygate." Clearly McDaniels knew the seriousness of what Scarnecchia had done.
Goodell risks the appearance of a double standard. He has come down hard on players under his enhanced personal conduct policy, yet he went relatively easy on the Broncos and McDaniels, even though they created an atmosphere in which Scarnecchia, who was implicated in the Patriots' videotaping violation, felt comfortable breaking league rules. Again.