NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced his retirement Monday effective in July. Texans owner Bob McNair and general manager Charley Casserly provided these comments regarding the news.
**Texans owner Bob McNair
(opening remarks) **"Good afternoon. I must say that I was caught by surprise at the commissioner's announcement that he was going to be retiring since I'd been with him recently and that question had been asked of him and he seemed to be a little taken aback by it at that point in time, as if he really didn't want anyone to be considering that, so it surprised me to learn that he is going to be retiring at this point.
"I guess from our standpoint, I'm disappointed that he's retiring at this point. I think that we've accomplished a lot in the new CBA and the new TV contract, but we still have a lot of work that remains to be done, and so it will be a challenge for whoever we bring in to succeed him.
"But I also understand that the last couple of years have been quite a grind and we've been working on trying to extend the collective bargaining agreement; we've been working on revenue sharing; we've been working on getting new TV contracts, and it's been a very difficult time. Fortunately, we were successful in completing those negotiations, but it is wearing on a person and I can understand why he was ready to step down at this time. It's sort of stepping down at the top of his game, and I can appreciate that, too."
(on Tagliabue's role in Houston getting a franchise)"Well, actually, I would say probably the league office—including the commissioner—their preference was to get a team in Los Angeles, and that was something that we were competing against. I think that what we were able to do was just so far superior to what was available in Los Angeles, they had no choice but to award the franchise to us, so I can't say that he really tried to see that a franchise was in Houston. I think it was something that happened and he didn't try to prevent it. We're still trying to get a franchise in Los Angeles and still haven't been successful to date. There's still work to be done, but progress is being made."
(on whether there is a clear-cut favorite to succeed Tagliabue)"Well, I think the nature of the job has changed significantly since then because now, the business demands are entirely different than they were back then. The football is still football. You're still dealing with owners; you're still dealing with the coaches; you're still dealing with the union. You're still dealing with all of those things, but the thing that's really changed is the complexity of the business of the NFL, and I think going forward, my preference would be to have someone who has had business experience and it very well could be that we need two people: one who is basically the commissioner and runs the football side, and the other would be like the CEO who runs the business side. I don't know, but what the job is too big at this point in time to have one person responsible for both of those functions."
(on NFL chief operating officer Roger Goodell)"I think Roger is very capable, and he has been working on the football side and he has been working with ventures, and he has a lot of institutional knowledge. I think he knows all of the owners, and certainly that's beneficial. I certainly think that he would be a candidate. A candidate for which of those two positions, I don't know. Maybe he would be better as the commissioner as opposed to the CEO."
(on whether he worked closely with Roger Goodell)"I have and I like Roger and I think he's very capable, but I think that we'll need to look at all of the viable candidates that might be out there. It requires a very talented person, and the commissioner has done a remarkable job and the demands that are placed on the commissioner are unbelievable. I mean, he's being pulled from all different sides and at the same time, he's trying to oversee a business operation that's now $6 billion a year in total revenue—all the teams and all the TV and what have you. You start looking at the revenue there and it's a big operation. To do that and deal with the public and deal with the players and deal with the games themselves—the TV, et cetera, the presentation every week—it's a very challenging job."
* (on whether finding a successor to Tagliabue will be easier than getting the CBA done)*"Well, I'm sure that there will be a number of people who will want this position and they'll have their supporters, and the fact that it requires 75 percent of the owners to vote in favor of someone, I would say at the end of the day it'll probably be a pretty tough battle just because of that voting requirement."
(on Tagliabue's legacy)"I think probably his greatest contribution has been labor peace. I think the fact that we've been able to have a good working relationship with the players' union has certainly been important to the league—it's been important to everyone. And I think he has made a special effort to try to maintain a sound, working, healthy relationship there, and I think that's certainly paid dividends for everyone.
"I think he also has a good perspective as it relates to change and what has taken place, just what we have seen in terms of media and the changes that are changes that are taking place there. Even though he is not 'a media person' as such—he's a lawyer by training—I think he grasped that very well, it seemed, the evolution that's taking place. Now we're looking at the new digital age and all the changes that are going to take place there, and he has been able to help us move from analog to the digital world, and we've been able to do it pretty smoothly I think."
(on whether the two-person leadership model had been discussed, or if he planned to propose it)"Well, there are complications there, because then the question is going to be, 'Well, who's really running the show?' And I guess the issue is how clearly can you differentiate the football operation from the business operation. If you can clearly differentiate the two, then it depends on which part of the business you're talking about. If you're talking about football, here's the guy that runs the show; if you're talking about business, here's the guy that runs the show. So, I don't think that it's impossible.
"We had a president several years back, and that was sort of the idea there where the president was going to run the business side and Paul was going to oversee football and the business, and this business person was sort of like the chief operating officer, but I think that at this point in time, I think someone who had experience as a CEO, it would be very helpful, and yet at the same time to find someone who had been experienced as a CEO who also had knowledge of the game of football and the NFL. Finding that person who had both of those backgrounds is going to be almost impossible, so that's why I think probably the solution might be to split that job into two positions."
** Texans general manager Charley Casserly
(on Paul Tagliabue's retirement)** "He did an outstanding job in the NFL. He brought labor peace to the NFL and unprecedented prosperity to the league. I thought he was a high-character man, who was good on his word when he gave it to you. I think he cared about the game. The game on the field was the most important thing to him. He will be missed."
(on if he anticipated Tagliabue's retirement) "There was always speculation. My hunch was that whether it's this year or next year this would probably be the end, because he's 65 and he got the deal done. I thought it was logical that he would probably move on at this point."
(on the future of the NFL without Tagliabue) "It's a strong league, and it's a strong league because of the game. The fans have dictated this to be the best game there is to watch. I think you have a strong ownership group. So I think the owners will make a wise decision. They've done it before. I think they'll do it again."