Team-First Perspective Delivered To NFL From Tampa

August 10th, 2016


The Custodian of Canton, eye-RAH! Kaufman, talked to a familiar Tampa name who is bringing a different perspective to the NFL. Enjoy Ira’s latest column below, and check in tomorrow morning for his keys to Thursday night’s Bucs-Eagles preseason opener.


Few NFL fans recognize the name Tod Leiweke. That may soon change in a big way.

The former CEO of the Tampa Bay Lightning was pried away from Jeff Vinik last summer and now fills the position of chief operating officer for the NFL, a spot that had been vacant since Roger Goodell was named commissioner.

Goodell is celebrating his 10th anniversary as NFL czar this week, and Leiweke is quietly being groomed as Goodell’s eventual replacement.

“It’s great to have Tod back in the league,” said Falcons president Rich McKay. “He’s a really bright guy that has very broad experience and sees things through the right lens. It’s good for the NFL to have him because he’s a very smart, very easy-going guy.”

Now living on the upper east side of Manhattan and working out of the NFL’s Park Avenue headquarters, Leiweke and his wife, Tara, are enjoying the New York City cultural scene. He has already seen “Hamilton” twice and Leiweke is a frequent patron of jazz clubs and cabarets.

He’s playing a different tune these days after building the Lightning brand for five years. Leiweke was the guy you saw strolling the concourses at Amalie Arena, chatting with customers before hockey games and concerts.

Team-First Focus

He’s always been a people person, dating back to his days as an executive with Paul Allen’s Seattle Seahawks before Vinik stole him away to Tampa.

Leiweke hasn’t spoken extensively to the media since relocating, but I got time with him to discuss his new challenges.

“Working for the NFL is different,” Leiweke told me, “but working so intimately with teams gave me great insight. The ability to bring to the league that perspective is important. I’m around so many smart people here that understand technology in a cutting-edge sort of way. The NFL is at the forefront of so many things.”

Leiweke still keeps an eye on the Lightning, but his allegiance is now attached to the NFL shield.

“This league has some of the smartest people in sports,” he said. “They’re brilliant, innovative, committed and passionate and now with my arrival, there’s a little more team focus.”

Leiweke and Goodell bonded in 2009, when he convinced the commissioner and former Seattle head coach Jim Mora to join him on an expedition to scale the 14,411-foot summit of Mount Rainier. Leiweke had already made the climb once, and he pushed an exhausted Goodell to reach the top.

“Before I went to work there (NFL), I’d say Roger and I were very respectful of each other and I would have called him my friend,” Leiweke said. “Today, he’s my boss. He’s a phenomenal commissioner who has worked at the NFL for three decades and bleeds NFL blood.

“He loves the game, he loves the players and it’s quite inspiring to work for a guy that I knew was noble — and now I get to see it every day. He’s doing this job for all the right reasons.”

The Next Commissioner?

It’s been a difficult few years for Goodell, who has withstood withering criticism on player safety issues, his handling of the Ray Rice case and the Deflategate saga.

“That comes with the territory,” said Leiweke. “Still, it hurts. But when you’re No. 1, you find out people gun for you a little more.”

Although Leiweke prefers to work diligently in the background, he’s not insulated from growing speculation that he will soon succeed Goodell on another summit.

“Those rumors bother me because I’m where I want to be,” he said. “I’m serving the man I want to serve and we’re doing the work we want to do. I have no ambition beyond that. If Roger’s best days are in front of him, then I’m doing a good job.”

4 Responses to “Team-First Perspective Delivered To NFL From Tampa”

  1. BFFL Says:

    Man this guy is a grade A BSer. Will make an excellent executive.

  2. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Hope his rise in the NFL will coincide with ours……

  3. BugMacAttack Says:

    He’s a great guy. Jeff Vinik is the best only hires the best.

  4. Kramden Says:

    Thanks, Ed Morse! Great having Ira on JBF.