With the calendar year set to close there is no questioning many important changes were made in 2014 that will impact the future of the NFL landscape.
From a new conduct policy to the Buffalo Bills' sale to integrating sideline technology to HGH testing and many issues in between, the NFL has undergone an on- and off-field revamp larger than any in recent memory.
In an interview with Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman, Commissioner Roger Goodell said his biggest takeaway from 2014 was learning to grow both on and off the field.
"It's a learning year," Goodell said. "We stress that in our organization all the time, about learning and getting better. That's a focus that we always have. As I look back at this year, I continue to see the game get better, get stronger, get safer. We're protecting our players from unnecessary injuries. We like the way we're integrating technology into the game. We saw it with instant replay this year, and we saw it with tablets on the sidelines, and I think that will continue to accelerate and bring technology into the game and innovate further.
"I think the way we engage our fans and the passion of our fans. Every one of our metrics is up again this year as far as fan engagement is concerned. More and more people are watching, whether it's on television or on alternative devices and platforms. And we're delivering on that experience. The last thing I would focus on is our organization and how we take that opportunity to learn and get better. While we've had challenges, we've learned from them and we are a better organization for it."
Some other points from the Commissioner's interview with Freeman:
»On the popularity of the NFL raising expectations:
"But we like that and we embrace that," Goodell said. "That's an opportunity. I'd rather have it that way than they don't expect a lot from you or they have lower standards for our organization. I think we've helped establish that and we have to meet that. That's a good thing to me."
»Has the commissioner seen a time when the NFL has been held to a higher standard?
"No, I haven't," he said. "But that is what I meant when I said people hold the NFL to a higher standard. Yes, maybe that has a negative when you don't hit that bar. But we embrace that. We don't want to have it any other way. People expect a lot from us, and we have to deliver on it. That drives us. That inspires us. That is why we continuously look to see how we can improve the experience for our fans and improve the game for our players and coaches. And do everything we can to get better."
»On whether there was anything Goodell wishes he did better:
"Sure. You always do that," he said. "I look back and I wish I did everything better. That's how we operate. I can't isolate it to one thing. Some of the things that we always have taken great pride in is having the right people at the table, having the right voices, having the expertise, having the kinds of discussions that are necessary to make sure we're staying ahead of the curve and we're looking to see what the next issues addressing us. Whether it's innovation, whether it's policies, whether it's technology, whether it's the game and how we deal with it, how we deal with the medical side of the game.
"We think we are making enormous progress on all of those fronts, but you can't let down on any particular area. I wouldn't call it learning, but it's something we've talked an awful lot about. The general public expects a lot from the NFL, and we have to deliver on that. We have embraced that. We don't run from that. We embrace it. And we have to deliver on that. When we fall short, we acknowledge it and we go and try to do better."