Chris Halpin, a top executive at the league office and a man some regarded as a potential successor to Commissioner Roger Goodell, is leaving the NFL.
The news, first reported by Albert Breer of SI.com, comes as a surprise. Halpin had become the person most responsible for the NFL’s efforts regarding legalized gambling and international growth.
As noted by Daniel Kaplan of TheAthletic.com, a formal announcement is expected on Wednesday.
In August, Halpin estimated that the NFL could earn $1 billion annually from gambling by the end of the current decade.
Halpin becomes the most recent highly-respected member of the league office to abruptly leave over the course of the past several years. From Tod Leiweke to Dean Blandino to Maryann Turcke, each had created positive reviews from inside and outside the league, prompting speculation that they could become the eventual heir to Goodell. Some have speculated that emerging as the next potential Commissioner may have contributed, directly or indirectly, to the departures, with rising stars regarded as a potential threat to the 16-year king of the mountain.
Regardless of whether any of that speculation is rooted in reality, the questions of: (1) how long Goodell will stay; and (2) who will take over when he leaves continue to have no clear answers. The best approach would be to groom a replacement. But if the replacement is regarded as being ready to take the next step before the current occupant of the biggest office at 345 Park Avenue is ready to vacate the premises, things will get awkward.
As the league grows and grows, the job of Commissioner will become more complicated and demanding. Some have suggested that, at some point, the league will need a more traditional CEO, even though the NFL is not a corporation. The owners ultimately run the show, and the Commissioner is their surrogate. Whoever gets the job will have to be able to herd oligarchs on one hand while going about the business of advancing the best interests of the league and the game on the other.