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Dan Bickley

Roger Goodell deserves credit for NFL’s recent decisions

Roger Goodell won’t be booed at the 2020 NFL draft. That’s because there won’t be any fans in attendance.

But, hey, it’s a start.

The polarizing NFL commissioner deserves a small break. Under his command, the NFL proceeded with free agency in the face of pandemic, and the Cardinals responded with the Heist of the Century. We need to thank him for that.

Goodell insists on conducting the NFL Draft remotely, business as unusual, even as grim scenes play out on the East coast and death toll projections top 100,000 people in this country. Because the NFL can flex in times like this. The NFL can help cure our collective depression and soothe our sense of isolation. And because 32 general managers should be able to conduct a draft while home alone with a laptop.

That is, if they’re worthy of their lofty titles.

And on Tuesday, playoff expansion became official. The postseason field will expand to 14 teams in 2020. There will four division winners and three wild cards in each conference. The big winner will be the No. 1 seeds, the only teams that get a first-round bye. The big losers will be the No. 2 seeds, dominant regular-season teams that will be thrown into the gumbo, forced to win four games to hoist a trophy.

The Chiefs are reigning Super Bowl champions. Under the new system, their 2019 team would’ve been required to play an additional game.

The expanded playoffs will also help Kyler Murray and his jet-fuel offense, especially if they’re not quite ready to dethrone the 49ers for a division title. The Cardinals could easily be the last team in 2020. Imagine them playing Tom Brady’s Buccaneers in the opening round.

Still, the biggest benefactors are football fans across America. The opening round of the playoffs will take place on Jan. 9-10. Six teams will be eliminated on the postseason’s opening weekend. Six playoff games take place in less than 20 hours. This could become our next great sporting tradition, binge-watching NFL playoff games for two consecutive days. Hangover Monday could even become an official holiday.

Some have taken umbrage with Goodell’s heavy-handed tone. He’s threatened disciplinary actions against those who speak out against the NFL draft taking place as scheduled April 23-25. But I don’t believe Goodell is being insensitive to a global crisis. He’s simply intolerant of weak-kneed executives who will be stripped of their crutches and forced to think on their feet. As he should be.

The NFL can conduct a draft in the midst of a pandemic. They can do so without fanfare, like millions of fantasy football players do every year. They can do this safely and remotely, following the most stringent of social distancing guidelines. They are a league that specializes is making compelling television. They will find a way to make this draft hit home in a good way. Guaranteed.

So, here’s a feather for Goodell’s barren cap. With a few small strokes, the NFL has delivered great joy and anticipation at a crucial time. The NFL obviously benefits from having zero games to cancel, from having no essential functions that require human contact. But as the kingpin of American sports, they are proof that the show must go on, if possible. And in the process, the NFL is making a powerful statement that will lift our collective spirits:

They will alter their routines and habits in order to serve the nation. Just like the rest of us.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.


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Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and AZCentral.com and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to ArizonaSports.com.
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier