After a long wait, Paul Tagliabue heads to the Hall of Fame


During Paul Tagliabue’s 17-year tenure as commissioner, the NFL experienced labor peace, saw TV deals skyrocket, new stadiums built across the country, and roster expansion. current 32 teams.

Despite these credentials which continued the rise of professional football to the pinnacle of American sports, it wasn’t until a special centennial class in 2020 that Tagliabue was elected to the Professional Football Hall of Fame after his retirement in 2006.


The problem was concussions, which plagued the NFL for decades, although team owners played a major role in the lack of progress in treating head trauma while Tagliabue was commissioner.

And in 2017, Tagliabue apologized for remarks he made decades ago about concussions in football, acknowledging that he did not have the proper data at the time in 1994 when he called concussions “one of those problems in pack journalism” and disputed the number of concussions “is relatively small; the problem is the journalists’ question.

“In the end, it looked like I was shooting the messenger, which was the problem with the concussion,” he told Talk of Fame Network. “My intention at the time was to make a point that could have been made quite simply: that there was a need for better data. There was a need for more reliable information on concussions and for consistency in how they were defined in terms of severity. “

Fifteen years after Tagliabue was replaced by Roger Goodell, head injuries remain and likely will always be the number one safety issue in the NFL. Just as there were few solutions and more research needed in this area under Tagliabue, so it is today.

Overall, however, Tagliabue’s impact on the sport has been enormous – comparable to virtually any league leader. And after a year of delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tagliabue will enter the sanctuary in Canton, Ohio.

Tagliabue has overseen a myriad of new stadiums and negotiated television contracts that added billions of dollars to the league’s bank account. Under him there was no work stoppage and a very functional environment with the NFL Players Association – an atmosphere that no longer exists.

One of his major accomplishments was the implementation of a drug addiction policy considered the strongest of all major sports. He also established the “Rooney rule” in which all teams with coaching positions must interview minority candidates. It has since been expanded to include leadership and league leadership positions, and although the ruler is named after the late Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, she could easily have carried Tagliabue’s ID.

“When Paul was appointed commissioner after that seven-month search in 1989, that was when the league got back on track,” says Joe Browne, who spent 50 years as an executive. the NFL and was a confidant of Pete Rozelle and Tagliabue. “During his negotiations, Paul had insisted on the position that final control over matters such as labor and all business transactions should rest with the commissioner’s office. The owners agreed and it was a big step forward towards the tremendous rebound we had as a league – an extended league – in the ’90s and beyond.

In one of his pivotal moments, Tagliabue canceled NFL games the weekend after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. It was one of the few times the public compared him favorably to Rozelle, who proceeded to the games on Sunday after John Kennedy. was assassinated in 1963. A key presidential aide had advised Rozelle that the NFL should play, a move that was one of the commissioner’s great regrets.

One move Tagliabue has never regretted was to insist the Saints remain a New Orleans franchise after owner Tom Benson sought to move the team to San Antonio in the wake of the devastation. in the Big Easy of Hurricane Katrina.

Tagliabue was an attorney who managed the NFL account, establishing a close relationship with Rozelle and other NFL officials during a series of lawsuits in the 1970s and 1980s. When he took office in 1989 as Rozelle’s successor, the NFL had just gotten its first modern-era black head coach, Art Shell. By the time Tagliabue stepped down in 2006, there were seven minority head coaches in the league. Progress has been slower at the GM and team president level, but many league vice presidents and major decision makers are now minorities.

Shell, also a Hall of Fame member, became the NFL’s first modern African-American head coach with the Raiders. He was able to see Tagliabue up close and thought he was quite suitable for his job.

“After my coaching career ended, I had the privilege of working directly with Paul in the league office,” Shell said. “His philosophy on almost every problem was, ‘If it’s broken, fix it. And if it’s not broken, fix it anyway.

“He always challenged us to find better ways of doing things. Paul never lost sight of his responsibility to do what was right for the game. He was the perfect choice as the NFL commissioner.


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