The "facts" that Goodell is stubbornly ignoring are that he and his league operate as an incredibly public entity and that the perception of what they do matters in a way that's vital to their very existence. In the case of Rice, Goodell was too worried about being fair to the offender and lost sight of the way his decision would be received by his customers. If anything, he should have leaned toward over-punishing Rice, rather than risk the perception that he under-punished him.
Goodell is technically right that the comparison between this and drug cases is apples-to-oranges. But the vast majority of people who examine everything the NFL does couldn't care less about semantics. The fact is that the drug penalties are on the books as established guidelines for punishment for NFL player misconduct. It is absolutely not silly to think they could or should be used as benchmarks for adjudicating other discipline matters, and critics who are making those comparisons were invited to do so by the surprisingly lenient punishment Goodell handed down to Rice last week.
Striking a woman is worse than failing three or four marijuana tests, and it's 100 percent fair for the ticket-buying, jersey-wearing, RedZone-channel-guzzling public to expect the punishment to be worse, as well. Goodell still has decisions coming up on Greg Hardy , Aldon Smith , Josh Gordon and Jim Irsay in the coming months, and each of those is now going to be judged -- very publicly -- against this decision. Goodell has put himself in a no-win situation with one of the most tone-deaf decisions of his tenure, and it's only going to get uglier and more complicated for him from here.
The only way out of this mess that Goodell has created is to do the right and fair thing: Step away from the personal conduct policy and get others to come in and at least help him adjudicate it.