ATLANTA ( - Roger Goodell has become a sleight of hand trick and a very good one who happens to fool even the most learned.

The moment the NFL commissioner's overly-scripted Super Bowl State of the NFL address wrapped up on Wednesday, dozens of reporters raced back to the other side of the Georgia World Congress Center to frame the narrative for their particular constituency.

The New Orleans contingent immersed itself in the non-apology apology for the NFC Championship Game officiating flub which essentially sent the Los Angeles Rams to Atlanta instead of the Saints, along with the ridiculous Rule 17 questions about mulligans and do-overs.

The Associated Press kicked things off with a long-winded GPS question, presumably in an attempt to steer Goodell to the answer it wanted on the Rooney Rule and minority hirings after another cyle came and went without much progess on that front.

From there the local Atlanta scribe wanted to know if the city would have to wait another 19 years for the big game, a softball that the commish just swatted away with the obvious pleasantries.

The short-term future of the Oakland Raiders was next on the docket but litigation from the City of Oakland kept Goodell from talking about places like San Diego as potential rest stops toward Vegas.

Josh Gordon was broached, which at least has some relevance since the Patriots are in the Super Bowl again and are paying for Gordon's latest stint in rehab.

Potential officiating changes involving instant replay were brought up and Goodell gave the typical "everything is on the table" answer before adding one caveat: there won't be an extra official, astutely pointing out that adding another human to watch essentially was a human error in the Saints-Rams game doesn't make much sense.

Activism for the activist was attempted with a couple Colin Kaepernick questions and then you had the "Entertainmant Tonight" stuff with the child reporter and the Disability Channel, coupled with the internatinal outlets getting their moment in the sun with questions on London, Mexico and China.

When it was over everyone but the softballers prepared their daggers with charges of double talk and untruth.

And the 32 ownership groups smiled, content that their $50 million or so was again well spent.

As revenues spike toward $15 billion per year all the criticism the NFL takes continues to be laid at the feet of Goodell despite the fact that he's actually employed by the owners to essentially arbitrate the differences between them. So the more everyone focus there animus at Goodell, the less realize that the real power in this league is yielded by a wizard behind a curtain that never is drawn.

To most reporters, Roger Goodell was the easy target. To those who sign his checks, he remains an indispensable one.

-John McMullen is a national football columnist for Extra Points Media and You can reach him at or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

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