fill the Bill
BY GARY MYERS
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
Bill Clinton held the job as the most powerful person in the world. Now he's being mentioned as a potential successor to Paul Tagliabue as the most powerful person in sports.
Clinton is well-suited to the process NFL owners will begin when they get together in Orlando next week to begin discussions to select Tagliabue's replacement. It's going to be very political.
Would Clinton be a good commissioner? He's a big sports fan, is a lawyer, can make decisions under pressure and knows how to build a consensus, although dealing with 32 millionaires/billionaires with huge egos could have him nostalgic for his days on Pennsylvania Ave.
The last two times NFL owners selected a commissioner, it was exhausting. Pete Rozelle was elected as a compromise candidate on the 23rd ballot in 1960. When he announced his retirement in March of 1989, it took seven months before owners elected Tagliabue on the 12th ballot after Saints president Jim Finks, the choice of the search committee, was rejected. Rozelle put off his retirement and his move to California until the owners picked Tagliabue. He was getting antsy waiting.
There is no reason to believe this time will be any easier. Tagliabue wants to leave by the end of July, but said he will stick around if the owners have not picked his successor. He was asked if he expected the owners to have as tough a time picking his replacement as they did approving him.
"I don't know what to anticipate because we won't have a discussion with the owners until next Monday, so it's really hard to say," he said. "But kind of the assumption is that we can work through this in the next four months and I'll be ready to move on by the end of July. If that turns out not to be the case, that will take us beyond that into the beginning of the regular season."
Giants president John Mara said it will "be very difficult" finding the next Tagliabue.
"We thought when Pete Rozelle retired there would be big shoes to fill and there were. Paul more than ably filled them," he said. "There are a lot of talented people out there. It will be difficult, but we were able to do it once before. Hopefully, we can do it again."
Roger Goodell, the league's executive vice president/chief operating officer, is considered the favorite to get the required three-quarters approval - 24 out of 32 votes - necessary to be elected. He has been the No. 2 person in the league behind Tagliabue since 2001. He's been with the NFL since 1982. In 1983, he worked in public relations and administration with the Jets before returning to the league office.
Falcons president/GM Rich McKay is also expected to get support. His background as an attorney combined with his role as the co-chairman of the high-profile competition committee could be attractive to owners.
Texans owner Bob McNair suggested yesterday the job be split in two.
"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," he said. This is not going to be a quick process.
Originally published on March 21, 2006