By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- When Roger Goodell's 2014 salary was reported in the news this week, the annual response of "how what why NO HOW WHY?!?!" echoed throughout the country, and it rang especially loud here in New England. Going back to the Saints and the "BountyGate" nonsense, through the Ray Rice fiasco and the overstepping of authority with the Adrian Peterson suspension and, of course, the relentless pursuit of Tom Brady in "DeflateGate," the man has some demerits on his record.
But, of course, the NFL continues to essentially print its own currency, owning so many aspects of fans' lives and generating absurd profits that seemingly only increase every year. The league crushed the players in the most-recent CBA, and television revenues have gone off the charts.
And so, when it comes time to determine the commissioner's salary, the owners have had no choice but to follow the advice of Teddy KGB.
As a result, Goodell hauled in $34.1 million for his work in 2014, which was the year of the Rice and Peterson situations.
And while this certainly isn't breaking news, as it has been reported numerous times before, it still warrants mentioning: Patriots owner Robert Kraft is one of just three owners on a panel that determines the commissioner's salary.
The tidbit stuck out in an ESPN.com story analyzing why, exactly, Goodell made so much coin despite all of the PR flubs.
"Like the executives who helm these media companies, Roger Goodell is accountable to a small group of people: the league's 32 owners," ESPN's Mina Kimes wrote. "An even smaller segment of them control his pay. In recent years, the NFL's compensation committee has actually shrunk, from seven members in 2011 to three in 2014 (Arthur Blank, Robert Kraft and Jerry Richardson)."
The nugget of information raises the obvious question: If Kraft is one of just three owners to determine Goodell's salary, what in the world will that number be for 2015?
As you well know, 2015 was a complicated calendar year for Kraft and Goodell, who had previously been known to have an exceptional relationship. That much was clear when Kraft repeatedly had Goodell's back amid the PR crisis that was the Ray Rice fallout, and it was evident in the $34.1 million salary for 2014.
Yet things changed last year. Kraft unexpectedly stepped to the podium in Arizona upon the Patriots' arrival for Super Bowl and sent a shot across Goodell's bow: "If the [Ted] Wells investigation is not able to definitively determine that our organization tampered with the air pressure on the footballs, I would expect and hope that the league would apologize to our entire team, and in particular, Coach [Bill] Belichick and Tom Brady, for what they have had to endure this past week."
Of course, that apology never came. Instead, a historic level of punishment did: a $1 million fine, a first-round draft pick, a fourth-round pick, and a four-game suspension for the quarterback.
Kraft was irate, releasing a statement that accused Goodell of running a "one-sided" investigation.
"Despite our conviction that there was no tampering with footballs, it was our intention to accept any discipline levied by the league," Kraft said at the time. "Today's punishment, however, far exceeded any reasonable expectation."
A few days later, a website named "The Wells Report In Context" was published by the Patriots, and it sought to thoroughly attack the credibility of the league-run investigation. It made some strong points, and it whiffed on others, but a link to the site still remains in a prominent position on the Patriots' official homepage.
But Kraft relented and accepted the team punishment, reportedly after having some private conversations with Goodell. The understanding, at least from outside speculation, that the two had made a handshake quid pro quo agreement: the Patriots would accept the team punishment, and Goodell would drop the charges against Brady. Yet even if that had been the case, once it became speculated by media and fans, Goodell could never have followed through. After all, most every decision he made throughout the "DeflateGate" saga came after trial balloons told him what to do.
So, the commissioner doubled down in his efforts by appointing himself as the arbitrator in Brady's appeal hearing and then waiting 36 days to announce that he'd be upholding his own decision.
Kraft again fired back, this time in front of the New England media assembled for training camp.
"I was wrong to put my faith in the league," Kraft said, calling the league's actions "incomprehensible" and the decision "unfathomable."
Kraft continued: "For reasons that I cannot comprehend, there are those in the league office who are more determined to prove that they were right rather than admit any culpability of their own or take any responsibility for the initiation of a process and ensuing investigation that was flawed."
Unsurprisingly, the commissioner elected to not attend the league's season-opening game in Foxboro, which took place after Brady defeated the league in federal court. And two weeks ago, when Goodell delivered his annual state of the league address, Kraft was not in attendance.
So clearly, whenever that compensation committee got around or gets around to determining exactly how much money Roger Goodell deserves for the work he did in 2015 -- a year which he spent attacking one of the league's biggest star and the face of the Patriots franchise -- it'd be awfully interesting to know just how loud the voice of Kraft may be.
Unfortunately, due to the league choosing last year to no longer file as a tax-exempt entity, that information will not become public knowledge unless it leaks to the media. And as we all know, the iron-clad league office is very selective with the information it leaks to the public. Goodell's salary -- good or bad -- probably won't fit that criteria.
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