NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed reporters on Thursday afternoon in advance of Super Bowl LV – which will be the conclusion of what has been a historic and remarkably successful 2020 season for the NFL, with no games canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are my key takeaways from Goodell's presser:
1. The NFL is just a couple days away from Super Bowl LV. Goodell said getting in a 256-game regular season, along with the playoffs and Sunday's Super Bowl, will be a "extraordinary collective effort" between a lot of different people, especially within the NFL and NFLPA.
2. Goodell said the league's minority head coach hiring process still wasn't what the NFL would like to see.
"We had two minority coaches hired this year," Goodell said. "But it wasn't what we expected and it's not what we expect going forward."
Goodell also talked about some of the positives the league saw in the hiring process this cycle, talking about three general manager hires and a number of coordinator positions.
Goodell didn't name the Detroit Lions specifically, but the Lions were among the teams that hired a minority candidate for general manager in Brad Holmes and two coordinators in offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn.
3. What might the offseason look like?
It's probably going to look a lot like 2020, unfortunately. We've already seen changes to the NFL Scouting Combine, originally scheduled at the end of February, but now scrapped. Will teams have OTAs? Goodell wasn't quite ready to give a yes or no answer to that with so many unanswered questions still surrounding the virus. He did say this about the future of the virtual environment adopted by the league this season: "Virtual is going to be part of our lives for the long term."
Goodell said teams learned that installing an offense could be done pretty well virtually, but also acknowledged that the coaches feel strongly that there's value to training camp and on-field practices, and value in having preseason games where teams can develop young players. The veterans may not need that as much. Goodell said the league will balance those issues with the NFLPA heading into the offseason, and he expects to come up with viable solutions.
4. What about the next regular season?
"I wish I knew the answer to that," Goodell said. "One of the things I things I have learned and I think all of us have learned is try not to project too far in advance because it's difficult to do."
Goodell said the league learned it can function and adapt in any environment. He said there could be some continued changes to training camp and the preseason, but those decisions will come later when more informed decisions can be made.
The NFL has the option to implement a 17-game schedule starting next season, per the current CBA, but Goodell said they'll continue to have conversations and work with the NFLPA after the Super Bowl on that issue.
5. The biggest unknown in projecting revenue for 2021 is whether stadiums will be full come September. Will the league institute a vaccination mandate for players and patrons next season?
Goodell made a point early in his presser when he said it's never good to make decisions where there's so much uncertainty, and this is one of those areas where that probably applies for the time being.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in early December he anticipated it probably being well into the end of the summer before sports stadiums could return to capacity.
Goodell and the NFL invited 7,500 vaccinated healthcare workers to Super Bowl LV.
"We said many times we're not going to jump in line (for the vaccine)," Goodell said. "We think the priorities that are established by the health experts to get the front-line workers and others, teachers, vaccinated are things that are necessary.
"It's too early to say whether vaccines will be part of the solution, we expect that they will, we hope much of our society will be vaccinated by the summer because it's in the best interest of our country and the health of our people."
Goodell said it's too early to determine if only vaccinated players or fans will be able to play or attend games next season.
6. The NFL is hoping to participate in international games in 2021, but will only do so if the league feels it can do it safely and that their safety protocols can be put in place.