Roger Goodell, the tough Commissioner of the NFL, is his own sub-brand. He has made his mark by being a proactive leader, but now he's exposed a weakness that may sully his legacy. The replacement Ref debacle was a terrible embarrassment for the NFL; and Goodell could have gotten a deal done in time for the season, but he didn’t.
To be fair, Goodell has done a lot of good. I would even argue that his activist leadership style is important now, as he tries to bring the league into a modern era quite different from the one most owners remember fondly. I'm not a fan of organized labor in general, but there have been many examples of adept labor-management relations in history. It can be done to mutual benefit.
But it usually isn't. And it certainly wasn’t this time.
In the replacement Ref disaster, I suspect that Goodell's power is what got him into trouble and let the situation spin out of control, calling into question several games over 4 weeks. Did he and his advisors really think a band of misfits (to be fair, not all misfits), could run NFL games? Or was Goodell trying to flex his muscles after recently crushing the bounty culture that existed on some teams, especially the Saints. His ego must be on a roll.
Then there's the concept of "groupthink". A strong leader with momentum is harder to challenge, or at least, according to Irving Janis in his book by the same name, people are reluctant to do it. Examples abound wherein a highly visible, powerful leader like Goodell wills his way to whatever he wants with the full support of a team of yes men and women.
My point is that Goodell could have gotten this deal done by the deadline had he been able to resist the temptation to play hard ball; something he's gotten good at. The strength of a super-assertive leadership style can often hinder the best possible decisions sometimes.
When the boss has such a strong style, other people are often less likely to challenge him, or at least they will carefully pick their battles. Goodell wanted to hold the line on the NFLRA, and apparently no one could convince him otherwise. Viewership stayed strong, so there was no immediate financial incentive to end the lockout.
An ego-driven leader like Roger Goodell needs to evaluate different points of view and weigh crucial decisions regardless of their compulsion to do things their way. Left to run amok, hard-charging leaders like Goodell can run a company into the ditch occasionally. At the NFL, maybe dissenting opinions are squashed.
Articles on Goodell’s leadership: