Involvement with crucial decisions a plus for Goodell

Owners will meet in Chicago from Aug. 7 to 9, ostensibly to elect the successor to commissioner Paul Tagliabue. Although the pool of candidates remains a relatively large one, the early-line favorite less than a month before the critical caucus remains NFL chief operating officer Roger Goodell.

Goodell has been Tagliabue's top lieutenant for several years, has been at the commissioner's elbow for most of the crucial decisions in that stretch and has played a key role in helping resolve major issues. That said, electing a commissioner is never an easy accomplishment and, Goodell's heir apparent status aside, there figures to be some pretty healthy debate before he or anyone else is elevated to the NFL's top spot.