NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue today defended the league's initiatives on minority hiring of head coaches and front-office personnel, said he had no problem with the Redskins' lobbying efforts to get relief on worker's compensation payments from the Virginia legislature and indicated the league still is seriously considering taking the Super Bowl to Washington or New York in 2008.
At his annual state of the NFL news conference today, Tagliabue touched on a variety of topics, including the likelihood that overtime rules will be changed next season to allow both teams at least one offensive possession, and backed game officials despite controversies in the playoffs within the last month.
"We are considering Super Bowls in a northern city," Tagliabue said. "Obviously, the weather this week is going to suggest my timing in putting it in front of the membership has not exactly been exquisite. . . . I think there is a lot of interest [among the owners]. The most important things are to guarantee playing field conditions would be of very high quality. The second key to it is fan comfort and fan service. It requires a state-of-the-art stadium. You don't go in Bermuda shorts and looking for Mai Tais. You dress accordingly. . . . We think it can work."
The owners are expected to discuss the issue of northern Super Bowls at their annual meeting in Phoenix in March, but a vote on the 2008 game likely will not be taken until October. The league has awarded Super Bowls through 2006 -- Houston in 2004, Jacksonville 2005 and Detroit 2006 -- and the 2007 game will almost certainly will be in a warm climate after Detroit.
Asked about the Redskins' attempt to get a law passed in the Virginia legislature that would give them relief from worker's compensation laws (at what team attorneys estimate would be a savings of $2 million to $3 million for the team), Tagliabue said the Redskins are doing what other franchises and other Redskins owners going back to Edward Bennett Williams in the 1960s have done for years.
"I've been involved in the NFL for 35 years, and 35 years and 364 days there was a battle in the in a legislature [around the country] involving worker's comp. . . . The best way to resolve it would be to make our collective bargaining agreement compatible with a national system of worker's comp. . . . We're going to try to keep this as a CBA issue and not as a state regulatory issue."
After the formal session, Tagliabue added, "It's going to continue to be in the legislature until we take it to a higher level. This is not an issue just with the Redskins. I don't know what they're doing now, I only know that we have a number of owners lobbying on one side, and the [players'] union lobbying on the other."
On the issue of minority hiring, Tagliabue said he believes the league is putting in place initiatives to increase diversity across the board in coaching and front offices. He also took exception to a letter sent to him this week by Washington attorneys Cyrus Mehri and Johnnie Cochran, criticizing the coaching searches in Dallas and Jacksonville for not interviewing from a diverse candidate list. Dallas hired Bill Parcells; Jacksonville selected Jack Del Rio, and both teams did interview a minority candidate, former Minnesota Vikings coach Dennis Green.
"I don't understand what the principle is that's supposed to underlie the criticism of hiring Bill Parcells and Jack Del Rio," he said. "Jacksonville has had a terrific record in this area, and they announced the hiring of former Ravens personnel director James Harris [to vice president of player personnel]. . . . Bill Parcells is a world-class coach, he's clearly qualified to coach the Dallas Cowboys, and for that matter, any other NFL team. . . . I don't get it."
As for altering the sudden-death overtime system to break ties, Tagliabue indicated that "the likelihood is that we'll probably will end up with a change in the overtime system. I've been discussing it with the Competition Committee."
He declined to elaborate but said that since the NFL moved kickoffs back to the 30-yard line in the mid-1990s, leading to improved field position, and with improved offenses moving the ball more efficiently, teams winning the toss and getting the ball first obviously have had an advantage.
"The advantage of receiving is becoming unbalanced," he said. "I think the statistics we'll be presenting to the Competition Committee will show that. How we fine-tune the rule, I don't know, but I suspect there will be a change in that area."
With the officiating crew for Sunday's game sitting in the room today, Tagliabue said, "I think the officiating this year was outstanding. . . . Overall, we think the officiating is very good. I don't expect the Competition Committee to do anything surgical or radical. We'll try to make some improvements on the margin. We'll continue to do it, including the use of replay."
Tagliabue also said he had no problem with the Raiders being in the Super Bowl, even if they are owned by Al Davis, who has filed numerous lawsuits against the league on a variety of issues involving his moves out of Oakland to Los Angeles and vice versa.
"It's not unfortunate at all," he said. "They are a great team, they have great players. It will be players against players. The answer is it's not disappointing at all. They deserve to be in it and on the field."