It is not unusual for kids to look at professional athletes like Peyton Manning, Kobe Bryant, and Mike Trout and think about how great it would be to make the kind of money they do, just to play a game they love. However, if they really want to make some serious money, they may want to dream about becoming the next NFL commissioner.
Since 2005, current NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, has made $180.5 million. Only two players (the Manning brothers) have made as much during their entire careers. Both of their careers are winding down, though, while Goodell's reign as commissioner has many more lucrative years ahead.
If those years are anything like his last couple of years, Goodell is going to make a fortune.
In 2014, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made $34 million, and did even better the year before, taking home $44 million. Thanks to the very generous compensation package the owner's compensation committee gave him in 2012 (which runs through 2019), he could actually bring home $44 million every year if he meets certain goals.
Some players may match or beat those numbers in contract years (thanks to signing bonuses), but only eight players are scheduled to make a base of $17 million in 2016. The average salary is closer to $2.1 million. It seems crazy for there to be such a wide gap between the two, but historically, that is nothing new. The commissioner has always been paid more than the players.
The players have had to fight pretty hard over the years to get salaries where they are today. In 1970, when the Players Association was first recognized, a league minimum of $9,000 for rookies and $10,000 for veterans, was established. The average salary in 1975 was $56,000.
As for the high end of salaries, data is not as readily available for the early days of the league like it is now. However, if it only took $3 million for the upstart World Football League to succeed in luring away three stars from the Miami Dolphins (Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield), the high end for salaries in the NFL could not have been too impressive.
How did this compare to the commissioner's salary? In 1974, then-commissioner Pete Rozelle signed a contract that paid him $200,000 a year for the next ten years. When Joe Namath was drafted in 1965 he was given a three-year deal for $427,000, which was considered scandalous at the time.
Thanks to the Players Association, the average player's salary did climb over the years. In 1980, the average salary was $78,657, and climbed up to $90,102 by 1982. A decade later, the average salary was $483,900. It didn't break a million until 1999.
So, has the growth of the commissioner's salary been comparable to that of the players? The commissioner's pay rose from $200,000 a year in 1974 to $34 million in 2014. The average NFL salary in 1975 was $56,000, and is now $2.1 million. That is an increase of 3650% for the players, and close to 17,000% for the commissioner.
The owners justify this by pointing out how much revenue has increased during Goodell's tenure. To be fair, he has been kept busy finding new revenue streams, and the new television contracts are ridiculously lucrative. Revenue has grown considerably under Goodell, and is expected to be over $13 billion for the 2016 season.
So, since he has made the owners a ridiculous amount of money, they apparently see it fit that Goodell make a ridiculous amount of money, as well.