NFL's Goodell among five after commish job

Updated: July 31, 2006, 12:55 AM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- This time it looks like the NFL commissioner will be all business.

The five finalists to succeed Paul Tagliabue were announced Sunday with, no surprise, early favorite Roger Goodell still on the list. Unlike last time, when the late Jim Finks, then the Saints' general manager, was deadlocked with Tagliabue for three months, none of them has a background that includes playing or coaching in the NFL or running a team.

The closest is the 47-year-old Goodell, who remains a clear favorite -- as he has been for the last five years or so, or since he was appointed chief operating officer, the No. 2 job to Tagliabue. Goodell, son of a former U.S. senator from New York, began his NFL career in 1982 as an intern in the league office, interned with the New York Jets for a year, and then returned to the league. He was appointed chief operating officer in 2001.

The other with an NFL background is Gregg Levy, who holds the same job Tagliabue held when he became commissioner -- the league's outside counsel. Because he is known by most of the owners, he is considered the most likely challenger.

The other three finalists are Frederick Nance, a Cleveland lawyer; Robert L. Reynolds, of Concord, Mass., the vice chairman and chief operating officer of Fidelity Investments; and Mayo A. Shattuck III of Baltimore, chairman of the board, president and CEO of Constellation Energy.

Shattuck's contact with the NFL: His wife, Molly, who is 39, made the Baltimore Ravens' cheerleading squad for the second straight year this season.

Reynolds was a college football official for 15 years.

They were selected from a group of 11 semifinalists by a committee of eight owners headed by Pittsburgh's Dan Rooney and Carolina's Jerry Richardson.

"They are five that any one of them could make, in my view, a great commissioner in the NFL," said Dallas owner Jerry Jones, a member of the committee. "We'll now really get down to it and figure out who the best man is to be the commissioner."

Jones added: "I don't want to give any indication that gives the wrong impression -- I just don't know."

The committee had been extremely guarded about the identity of candidates -- only Goodell's name was well known when Tagliabue announced his retirement last March and the search committee was announced. The new commissioner is expected to be elected at meetings in Chicago from Aug. 7-9 with the eventual successor to Tagliabue needing votes from 22 of the 32 teams.

Goodell has long been considered Tagliabue's heir apparent and for the last decade he has been involved in most of the major moves by the league, including stadium construction, expansion and labor. Like Tagliabue, he is close to Gene Upshaw, the NFL's union head, and was closely involved in the delicate talks last March that led to an extension of the collective bargaining agreement.

The 53-year-old Levy is a partner at Covington & Burling in Washington, which is where Tagliabue worked when he was elected commissioner. He has been the lead counsel in several recent court cases, including the one involving Maurice Clarett, in which a decision to let the Ohio State running back enter the draft a year before league rules stipulated was overturned on appeal.

Nance is managing partner of the Cleveland office of Squire Sanders & Dempsey. The only black finalist, the 52-year-old Nance handled the negotiation for the city of Cleveland when the Browns returned to the NFL in 1999 and was the lawyer for the group that developed the construction of the new Browns stadium.

The 54-year-old Reynolds has been vice president of Fidelity's management trust company and held several executive jobs with the firm before that. He has been in his current job since 2000.

The 51-year-old Shattuck, who began his career as an investment banker, worked at Bankers Trust as vice chairman and was chairman of the board at Deutsche Bank in Baltimore before joining Constellation Energy, which ranks 125th on the Fortune 500 list and owns energy-related businesses that had $17.1 billion in revenues in 2006.

In addition to Rooney and Richardson, the other members of the selection committee are Woody Johnson of the Jets, Jerry Jones of Dallas, New England's Robert Kraft, Al Davis of Oakland, Kansas City's Lamar Hunt and Mike McCaskey of Chicago.

The ages of the candidates all reflect the desire of the committee to hire a new commissioner who could serve for a length of time similar to Tagliabue's.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press