For 45 minutes Friday afternoon, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell performed an act of contrition for his bungling of Ray Rice's domestic-violence incident and the league's inadequate and inconsistent response to a long list of bad acts by NFL players.
"I got it wrong in the handling the Ray Rice matter, and I'm sorry for that," Goodell said early in his news conference in New York. "I got it wrong on a number of levels."
We already knew that, of course, but there was the perception that Goodell has been largely in hiding for the past couple of weeks and needed to face the public. He did that, but whether his lengthy mea culpa will have the effect of restoring confidence in the NFL after two weeks of withering criticism might be another story.
No doubt, there were NFL fans whom he had at "Hello" and critics who would have been satisfied with nothing less than his resignation.
He followed his apology with an outline of the steps he already has taken to review the league’s disposition of the Rice case and the steps the league will take over the next few months to create a personal-conduct policy that will deal with all the hot-button behavioral issues that have soiled the NFL's reputation — specifically, domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, the illegal and improper use of firearms, and drug- and alcohol-related offenses.
"Our standards and the consequences of falling short must be clear, consistent and current," he said.
None of it came as a surprise, and there were no bombshell revelations. Goodell announced the formation of a "conduct committee" that would analyze and update the league's personal-conduct policy on a regular basis the way its competition committee regularly updates the rules that impact the game on the field.
He also announced that the league will partner with the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and provide funding to help them reach a greater number of victims in the general population.
Goodell was hammered with the tough questions that have been debated since the release of the second elevator video, but he largely restated the mistakes he and the league made during the disciplinary process and the internal investigation, and repeatedly tried to focus attention on what the league intends to do.
That includes partnering with the NFL Players Association and a host of outside experts to examine how the league deals with a variety of issues. It also includes trying to replace the incoherent disclinary policy that led to Rice's two-game suspension and the firestorm that erupted when the second video proved the gross inadequacy of that disciplinary decision.
Goodell repeated his public apology on several occasions and seemed humbled by the mountain of criticism that has been laid at his doorstep over the past two weeks. Throughout the edgy question-and-answer period, he alternated between lawyerly and defensive, several times dodging questions about whether he is holding himself to the same standard he has held some of the players and coaches disciplined over the past several years.
He was asked to explain how he could suspend head coach Sean Payton for a year for a lack of oversight in the New Orleans Saints' bounty scandal, yet continue in his capacity as commissioner after what many view as a similar lack of institutional control. He simply sidestepped the comparison and pointed out that he had admitted his culpability and is now committed to making the changes necessary to fix the sport's murky disciplinary system.
Maybe that's all he could do, but it wasn't very satisfying. Guess we'll have to wait until former FBI Director Robert Mueller completes his independent investigation of the league's handling of the Rice situation to get any real answers about what went wrong inside the NFL's central office.
Maybe, by that time, the NFL will have its act together. What we saw Friday was the league's aura of arrogance melt away for a few moments during a well-orchestrated attempt to garner forgiveness from its giant fan following and mollify a handful of disgruntled corporate sponsors.
Whether it actually will have that effect remains to be seen.