ATLANTA — Anyone know a good mediator or marriage counselor? The NFL could use one.
More than one, probably.
The fissures in the league were on full display Sunday, with Jerry Jones and Arthur Blank standing on opposite sides of the field before the game and neither making a move to meet the other. It was a rare bit of frostiness, Jones acknowledged, one of the few times he hasn’t exchanged pleasantries with a fellow owner.
“That’s rare,” Jones said after his Dallas Cowboys got trounced by Blank’s Atlanta Falcons 27-7. “I’ve had games where I didn’t visit for whatever reasons. But it’s rare.”
Not a big surprise, either, given the boardroom soap opera that’s more must-see TV than the NFL’s games themselves.
The league is famous for keeping squabbles among owners out of the public view, loathe to having anything tarnish or smudge the beloved “shield.” But Jones is not only airing the dirty laundry, he’s hanging it in the front yard for everyone to see.
Jones is livid with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, though the reasons are a matter of debate. Some reports say that he thinks Goodell makes too much money and that his contract should be more incentive based.
That might be the case, but Jones thought enough of the commissioner that he joined the other 31 owners in May in a unanimous vote to give Goodell a contract extension. Only after Goodell suspended Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott in August for six games for alleged domestic abuse did Jones start voicing objections.
Now he says the disciplinary system has gone too far, and that owners should have more say in decisions Goodell makes. Funny, Jones was just fine with everything when Goodell was bringing the hammer down on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
But I digress.
Jones also reportedly wants to upend the process on Goodell’s extension. Rather than let the compensation committee work out the details, as it’s done in the past, Jones wants all 32 owners to have a say.
Oh, and if the committee refuses, he’s said he’s going to sue.
Blank heads the compensation committee, and until recently was willing to placate Jones. He made him an ad-hoc member, let him sit in on meetings and air his grievances. But a possible lawsuit among friends was too much, and Blank recently told Jones he was no longer welcome on the compensation committee, ad-hoc member or no.
Which explains the lack of hobnobbing Sunday. Maybe Jones’ black suit and tie, too.
Jones said he didn’t want to add to the palace intrigue, though he passed on giving Goodell a vote of confidence.
“I’m not going to discuss that right now,” he said. “I’m going to give Arthur Blank an attaboy for a great game, the Falcons playing a good game tonight.”
But Jones did give an insight into his thinking, talking about how challenging times are an opportunity for change and improvement.
“Times like these are when you can really assess, look if you can, get better,” Jones said. “I look at the NFL that way. I’ve been here many years and seen times when we need to adjust. Sometimes we do a good job of that. This is one of those times.”
Sure. That’s going to mean they all have to start talking to each other again, though.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.
New England Patriots running back Rex Burkhead (34) runs for a touchdown ahead of Denver Broncos safety Darian Stewart (26) in the first quarter at Sports Authority Field. Isaiah J. Downing, USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn (99) celebrates a sack with defensive end Brooks Reed (50) and defensive end Takkarist McKinley (98) against the Dallas Cowboys in the fourth quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Brett Davis, USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers defensive back Adrian Colbert (38) and cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (23) break up a pass intended for New York Giants tight end Evan Engram (88) during the first quarter at Levi’s Stadium. Kyle Terada, USA TODAY Sports
New York Giants running back Orleans Darkwa (26) runs with the ball past San Francisco 49ers defensive back Adrian Colbert (38) during the first quarter at Levi’s Stadium. Sergio Estrada, USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Robert Woods (17) celebrates with the crowd after a touchdown against the Houston Texans during the third quarter at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Kelvin Kuo, USA TODAY Sports
Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) catches a pass defended by Los Angeles Rams cornerback Kayvon Webster (21) during the fourth quarter at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Kelvin Kuo, USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Lions running back Ameer Abdullah celebrates with wide receiver Marvin Jones, wide receiver T.J. Jones, and wide receiver Golden Tate after running for a touchdown during the second quarter against the Cleveland Browns at Ford Field. Raj Mehta, USA TODAY Sports
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston reacts to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick after a touchdown by running back Charles Sims against the New York Jets in the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Aaron Doster, USA TODAY Sports
Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is knocked out of bounds by Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Adam Jones as he dives for the goal line during the first half at Nissan Stadium. Jim Brown, USA TODAY Sports
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen stiff arms Washington Redskins cornerback Bashaud Breeland as he runs after the catch during the first quarter at FedEx Field. Tommy Gilligan, USA TODAY Sports
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee makes a catch for the two point conversion ahead of Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward during the second half at EverBank Field. Reinhold Matay, USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler celebrates with wide receiver Keenan Allen after his touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the second half at EverBank Field. Jasen Vinlove, USA TODAY Sports
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Keelan Cole can not make the catch in front of Los Angeles Chargers inside linebacker Korey Toomer during the second half at EverBank Field. Jasen Vinlove, USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler runs on a 28-yard touchdown reception against Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey and outside linebacker Telvin Smith in the second quarter at EverBank Field. Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton attempts to stay in bounds after catching a pass under coverage from Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Artie Burns during the second quarter of the game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Marc Lebryk, USA TODAY Sports
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Donte Moncrief celebrates a touchdown with Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Chester Rogers during the first quarter of the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lucas Oil Stadium. Marc Lebryk, USA TODAY Sports
After scoring a touchdown New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram jumps into the stands and gives the ball to a Saints fan during the second quarter a game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field. Mark Konezny, USA TODAY Sports
New York Jets wide receiver Jermaine Kearse is tackled by Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Vernon Hargreaves (left) and defensive back T.J. Ward (middle) in the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Aaron Doster, USA TODAY Sports
Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson celebrates as Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon cannot convert on third down during the first half at EverBank Field. Jasen Vinlove, USA TODAY Sports
Washington Redskins wide receiver Maurice Harris celebrates after his touchdown was confirmed by intent replay in the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at FedEx Field. Tommy Gilligan, USA TODAY Sports
Arizona Cardinals tight end Jermaine Gresham (84) gives the ball to a fan after scoring a touchdown in the first half against the Seattle Seahawks at University of Phoenix Stadium. Matt Kartozian, USA TODAY Sports
Seattle Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham (88) celebrates with teammates after catching a touchdown pass against the Arizona Cardinals in the first quarter at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports
Seattle Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham (88) catches a touchdown pass as Arizona Cardinals safety Tyvon Branch (27) suffers a leg injury in the first quarter at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports
Arizona Cardinals safety Tyvon Branch (27) breaks up a pass intended for Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett (16) in the first quarter at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports
Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Olsen Pierre (72) and safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) sack Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) during the first half at University of Phoenix Stadium. Matt Kartozian, USA TODAY Sports
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Larry Fitzgerald takes a photo with a fans Canon camera on the sidelines prior to the game against the Seattle Seahawks at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Blaine Gabbert stretches on the field wearing a tooth fairy costume after losing the weekly quarterbacks bet before playing the Seattle Seahawks at University of Phoenix Stadium. Rob Schumacher, The Republic-USA TODAY NETWORK