Roger Goodell Begins to Shape a Team for His Stretch Run

Roger Goodell Begins to Shape a Team for His Stretch Run

Like presidents who are re-elected, Goodell is reshaping his staff for what will likely be his stretch run, according to several people familiar with the shake-up at the N.F.L.

“Roger looked at his executive team and is thinking, I’ve just been awarded a new contract, so who do I want on my team over the next five, seven years?” said one person with knowledge of the promotion.

Leiweke was brought in three years ago to help handle some of the day-to-day work that Goodell was doing. Leiweke, who was once the chief executive of the Seattle Seahawks, was close with Goodell. But he was less visible to the owners, and he did not control any of the major divisions that generate income for the league, most notably the media group, where Turcke worked.


Mary Ann Turcke is taking over as the N.F.L.’s chief operating officer. Before joining the league, she was the president of Canada’s Bell Media.

Colin Young-Wolff/Associated Press

Leiweke is just the latest in what is turning into a string of departures. Natalie Ravitz, who was hired as a media specialist, has already left. Joe Lockhart, the league spokesman, is also leaving. Last year, the league offered buyouts to employees at its headquarters, and roughly a dozen people took the offer. Other executives may be eased out of their jobs as well.

The question for Goodell is how their replacements will help him accomplish his most important mandate from his bosses: increasing the league’s profits. The commissioner’s two biggest challenges are clear: Renew and enhance the bevy of major media contracts that expire around 2020 and 2021, and renegotiate a new collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union before it expires in 2021.

On that front, promoting Turcke makes sense. She worked for the past year in Los Angeles at NFL Network, which has grown in prominence, even as it copes with a series of sexual harassment accusations. Before joining the N.F.L., she was the president of Canada’s Bell Media, which included television and radio broadcasting and digital media.

Like other leagues, the N.F.L. is trying to figure out how to make more money streaming games and other content over the internet. The N.F.L.’s television ratings have fallen the past two seasons, in large part because younger viewers are more likely to consume sports on their phones or tablets and less likely to subscribe to pricey pay-television services.

Despite the decline in ratings, though, the league continues to get a premium for its product.

In December, Verizon agreed to pay more than $2 billion over the next five years for the rights to stream games. The league also sold its Thursday Night Football package to Fox for $660 million annually, up from the $450 million it received from CBS and NBC.

As a relative newcomer to the league, Turcke may also have an easier time reshaping some of the league’s departments. As C.O.O., she will run the marketing, communications, human resources, international and events, and technology departments.

One of the tougher issues she will face may be pushing out longtime employees and hiring replacements — or not. Some owners have complained that the league office has become too unwieldy, with new departments devoted to investigating players and other employees, another department focused on social initiatives, and a larger public relations profile. Others want to overhaul the league’s constitution to dilute the power of the commissioner.

“There’s nobody that doesn’t see the need for changes in the N.F.L. in several areas,” the Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “We’re doing a lot of things good, but there are some areas we need to change. One of them is an antiquated constitution, an antiquated situation as to the power of the commissioner.”

The power of the commissioner, of course, includes his subordinates, which is why the departure of the league’s chief operating officer is one of the changes on the way at the league’s headquarters.

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