NORTHBROOK, Ill. (Aug. 8, 2006) -- The transition was swift and smooth -- and unanimous.
Roger Goodell, who never stopped rising through the ranks during his lifelong devotion to the NFL, was chosen by the league's 32 owners Tuesday in a vote that took only three hours to complete.
Favored for months to win the job, Goodell was the unanimous choice on the owners' fifth ballot, and said he expects to begin serving a five-year contract before the regular season starts.
"I spent my life following my passion," said Goodell, who becomes the league's fourth commissioner since 1946. "The game of football is the most important thing. You can never forget that.
The 47-year-old Goodell succeeds the man who groomed him for the job, Paul Tagliabue.
"We've had the two greatest sports commissioners in the history of professional sports, Paul Tagliabue and Pete Rozelle, and I was fortunate to work for both of them," Goodell said. "I look forward to the challenge and thank them again for their confidence."
The son of former U.S. Sen. Charles Goodell of New York, he worked his way from a public relations intern to perhaps the most powerful job in American sports, most recently serving as Tagliabue's top assistant, particularly on expansion and stadium construction. In 2000, he became the NFL's chief operating officer.
League revenues have skyrocketed during the 17 years under Tagliabue, who said he would leave his post after brokering new television and labor deals. The NFL will collect about $10 billion in TV rights fees during the next six years, and enjoys labor peace with the players' association under an agreement completed in March.
"Replacing Paul was not easy, and I think we've done a great job in selecting Roger," said Redskins owner Daniel Snyder. "The NFL is a complex business. Finding the right person to keep it on course was critical, and we did it."
Goodell beat four other finalists: lawyers Gregg Levy and Frederick Nance; Fidelity Investments vice chairman Robert Reynolds; and Constellation Energy chairman Mayo Shattuck III.
Goodell wasn't certain when he will assume office, although Tagliabue planned to leave the job this month.
"I believe in continuity," said Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay. "It's a lot like with head coaches, and that's what Roger brings us."
Goodell's election was much less complicated than when Tagliabue was chosen in 1989. It took seven months to select a successor to Rozelle. Originally, the top choice appeared to be Saints president Jim Finks, who was recommended by an advisory committee. But many of the newer owners would not back Finks, the choice of most of the old-line owners.
It took 12 ballots over a seven-month period -- six ballots on Oct. 26, 1989 -- to finally elect Tagliabue.
That wasn't the case with Goodell, who was chosen Tuesday in three hours of voting.
"The process was good in that it got everyone looking ahead and not just at the circumstances in their own city," Tagliabue said.
Tagliabue simply introduced Goodell as the new commissioner Tuesday night, then stepped aside as his No. 1 aide took the podium. Tagliabue soon will be headed on vacation to Asia, and Goodell will be running America's most popular sport.