Romulus, Mich. — The list of candidates for Paul Tagliabue's job as NFL commissioner is down to 11, although with two weeks to go until the final selection meeting, a majority of the owners still don't know who is on it.
The owners met for about three hours at the Detroit airport Monday to help narrow down the potential successors. Then the search committee continued discussing procedures for getting down to a workable number of finalists for the meetings on Aug. 7-9 in Chicago to choose Tagliabue's successor.
"We are pleased with the way it went," said Pittsburgh's Dan Rooney, co-chairman of the selection committee after a 3 1â2-hour meeting that followed the main session. "Things went well, and the other owners came up with some ideas."
Asked if he thought a commissioner could be selected at the Chicago meeting, Rooney echoed what Tagliabue earlier said: "We're very confident."
Despite the secrecy, the front-runner remains Roger Goodell, Tagliabue's second in command. He appears to be one of three league office people in contention - the others are Jeff Pash, the league's chief lawyer, and Eric Grubman, its top financial officer.
The reason the owners have not been told any names is that Tagliabue and the search committee want to prevent leaks of the kind that plagued the last commissioner search in 1989.
The 11 candidates will meet with the search committee this week at an unspecified site, then the field will be narrowed. Tagliabue didn't specify how many finalists there would be, but said the owners might be divided into small groups to interview the candidates.