Joe Posnanski [on last night’s fiasco][1]:

These things, I believe, and others have made the replacement referees a real danger to the NFL’s balance. The NFL was on the edge in so many ways … the replacement referees pushed them over. For most of America, the game was ALMOST too dangerous before; the replacements make it more dangerous. The game was ALMOST too slow and plodding before; the replacement refs make it slower. The game was ALMOST too convoluted before; the replacement refs make it more convoluted. The NFL owners and executives were ALMOST too greedy and self-serving and dismissive of the fans before; the replacement refs make it all the more true.

This offseason is the one in which Roger Goodell lost the thread, fumbled the ball, nuked the fridge, or however you’d like to phrase it. There were signs of trouble before: Goodell’s inconsistent but overly harsh punishment, his imperious attitude and creeping hypocrisy. But now the NFL is under assault from many directions (replacement refs, head trauma, lawsuits, etc.) and Goodell will struggle to regain control. Authoritarian rule works well until it doesn’t, and we’ve now reached the point where it doesn’t. The sands of discord are slipping through the fingers of the iron fist like regular sand slipping through fingers in a regular fist, if you will. The NFL’s problems are too complex and multifactorial to be solved by dictum, but Goodell hasn’t shown the ability to lead any other way.

The end game is that Goodell changes his style (Tom Coughlin did and won two Super Bowls), gets replaced, or the fissures that he’s created will continue to grow. The NFL’s popularity has covered for mismanagement before, but there’s no reason to think that it will do so indefinitely. At some point, enough is enough.