NEW YORK - After 17 years, Paul Tagliabue is more than ready to move on.
"I'm glad it's over," the outgoing NFL commissioner said Monday. "It's the right time."
His relaxed posture at the head of a conference table said as much. So did his hour-plus interview at league headquarters with nine reporters, one of his longest media sessions during his tenure.
Tagliabue will leave office in 10 days - Roger Goodell, currently the league's chief operating officer, will take over at 6 a.m. Sept. 1.
The switch will take place then instead of midnight, the normal transfer time, because there will be exhibition games being played on the West Coast and, as Tagliabue put it, "we don't want to change horses at midstream."
Tagliabue reminisced about his tenure, some of it in nostalgic colloquy with reporters who have covered him since before he was the commissioner. He spent 37 years with the NFL, choosing in 1969 to join the league as outside counsel rather than taking a job in the White House. He had worked in previous years as a lawyer at the Pentagon.
Other than Pete Rozelle, whom he succeeded as commissioner, he cited as his most important influences Tex Schramm, the president of the Dallas Cowboys for 30 years from their inception in 1960; former Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke, whom he knew as the NFL's Washington counsel; and Jim Finks, the man he beat out for the job in 1989.
He said he hadn't been trying to teach Goodell, but doing the opposite.
"I've been trying to take direction from him in terms of what he wants me to be thinking about," Tagliabue said.
Tagliabue, who will go on a trip to Bhutan and China after he steps down, will remain as a consultant for the league for two more years.
"I think my main role is to disappear," he said. "I think generally the best way to run an organization is for the person who's running it to be in charge and for the people who have had responsibility for running it previously to disappear for the most part.
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