Tagliabue won't suggest successor

Retiring commissioner to appoint search committee

selection process will take time


ORLANDO, Fla. -- NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said he knows what qualities his successor should possess, but he insists he won't make a recommendation regarding who should get the job.

Tagliabue, who has announced he hopes to step down by July after nearly 17 years as commissioner, presided yesterday over the opening of what is likely to be his last annual NFL owners meeting, although he'll be meeting plenty with the league's stewards for the next few months.

Among his most important final chores will be to appoint a committee to help select a new commissioner. If Tagliabue's tone yesterday was an indication of the tempo with which all this will move, the decision-making process will be deliberate.

Tagliabue said he wasn't even sure how many members will be on the committee, and it's unclear whether he'll have it in place by the close of these meetings, which are scheduled to end tomorrow. The league will hire an outside search firm to poll the NFL's 32 owners about the new commissioner, and that input will be passed on to the search committee. The owners have their spring meeting in May in Denver.

Tagliabue was more affirmative about the traits he'd like to see in the person who will be just the third commissioner to lead the league since 1960.

"Vision, intelligence, persuasiveness, work ethic, integrity, the ability to pull together a strong leadership team and keep it together," Tagliabue said.

So far, the leading candidates appear to be Roger Goodell, who is the NFL's chief operating officer and the commissioner's top lieutenant, and Rich McKay, general manager of the Atlanta Falcons and son of the late John McKay, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Southern California coach.

Other names that have been mentioned include Ravens president Dick Cass and NFL counsel Jeff Pash, but Cass repeated yesterday that he's happy with his Ravens job and that he doesn't believe he will be a candidate to succeed Tagliabue.

The NFL announced the pairings for a handful of nationally televised games next season, including the Thursday night opener, a Monday night doubleheader on ESPN and a third game on Thanksgiving Day to be aired on NFL Network.

The year's first game will be Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh at home against Miami, 8:30 p.m., Sept. 7, NBC.

On the opening Sunday, Sept. 10, Indianapolis and Peyton Manning will be on the road to play the New York Giants and Eli Manning, 8:15 p.m., NBC. It would be the first time that brothers start at quarterback against each other in an NFL game.

The Monday night doubleheader on ESPN will be Sept. 11, with Minnesota at Washington, 7 p.m., and San Diego at Oakland, 10:15 p.m.

On Thanksgiving, Nov. 23, Miami is at Detroit, 12:30 p.m., CBS; Tampa Bay is at Dallas, 4:15 p.m., Fox; and Denver is at Kansas City, 8 p.m., NFL Network.

The only other game announced was Dallas at Jacksonville, 4:15 p.m., Sept. 10, Fox.


Sun reporter Jamison Hensley contributed to this article.

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