Tagliabue Discusses Search For Replacement, Schedule For Opening Weekend

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As the owners meeting began on Monday, the hot topic focused on selecting a replacement for NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

In discussing the matter, Tagliabue met with each of the 32 NFL owners, including Packers President and CEO Bob Harlan, for about an hour.

"He laid out his initial steps on what the process should be," Harlan said.

Tagliabue will not recommend a specific individual but will elect a committee to begin that process. The committee will choose a search firm, which would be responsible for coming up with a list candidates.

Media outlets have listed the names of Roger Goodell, Tagliabue's right-hand man, and Atlanta Falcons general manager Rich McKay as possible replacements once Tagliabue retires in July.

When asked for the attributes that the new commissioner should possess, Tagliabue emphasized vision, intelligence, persuasiveness, work ethic and integrity.

"Those qualities for the next commissioner are pretty much the qualities you're looking for in leadership of any major organization," he said. "When you go beyond that, you need certain things that are more specific to sports."

Rumors have circulated that owners may consider electing a two-person team to serve as the new commissioner, but Tagliabue said one individual should handle those duties.

"My own feeling is that any CEO position is a one-person position," he said.

The press conference featured other news beyond the search for a new NFL leader. Tagliabue announced the schedule of the 2006 season's marquee football games.

"(It) has become a traditional part of the annual meetings," Tagliabue said, "because there's always so much interest in not only who the Super Bowl championship team will be playing against in defense of its championship but other games in that opening weekend."

The season will begin with Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers hosting the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 7 on NBC. The first Monday night matchup is a doubleheader on ESPN, featuring the Washington Redskins hosting the Minnesota Vikings and the Oakland Raiders hosting the San Diego Chargers. The Manning brothers, Eli and Peyton, will face off as the New York Giants host the Indianapolis Colts on the debut of NBC's "Sunday Night Football" on Sept 10. Thanksgiving will feature a tripleheader this year with the Detroit Lions hosting the Dolphins on CBS, the Dallas Cowboys hosting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on FOX and the Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Denver Broncos on the NFL Network.

In other scheduling news, Tagliabue foresees all regular season games taking place in the United States unlike last year when the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers played in Mexico.

"At this point it doesn't appear that we will have a regular season game in '06 outside of the United States," he said. "We're still going to pursue that and we're going to try and get conversations going."

The owners meetings also will examine an issue that recently surfaced in the offer sheets given to restricted free agents. Clubs have started enacting "poison pill" clauses in some contracts. The Vikings signed guard Steve Hutchinson to an offer sheet, which required him to be the team's highest paid offensive lineman. Tagliabue said they will discuss the issue but such outside-the-box thinking is nothing new.

"The mind of creative people has no limit. As time goes by, the unlimited mind creates new innovations," he said. "We need to address it."

Tagliabue also will address the options of adding a possible Los Angeles franchise to the NFL.

Tagliabue said the official game ball again will be renamed "The Duke" in honor of someone who regularly attended the owners meetings -- the late New York Giants owner Wellington "Duke Mara. That designation received a standing ovation.

"It was very meaningful and meant a great deal to everybody in the room," Harlan said.

Harlan said Tagliabue also received a standing ovation as a symbol of the owners' gratitude for the job he did. That is why finding someone of his equal is so important.

"There's obviously going to be a great deal of focus on this subject in the next couple of months," Harlan said.

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