By DAVE GOLDBERG, AP Football Writer
July 31, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) -- Roger Goodell first emerged as Paul Tagliabue's possible successor as NFL commissioner a few years ago.

So, it was no surprise when the five finalists to succeed Tagliabue were announced Sunday and Goodell was still on the list.

The other candidates include Gregg Levy, who holds the same job Tagliabue held when he became commissioner -- the league's outside counsel; Frederick Nance, a Cleveland lawyer; Robert L. Reynolds, of Concord, Mass., the vice chairman and chief operating officer of Fidelity Investments; and Mayo A. Shattuck III of Baltimore, chairman of the board, president and CEO of Constellation Energy.

"They are five that any one of them could make, in my view, a great commissioner in the NFL," said Dallas owner Jerry Jones, a member of the eight-man selection committee. "We'll now really get down to it and figure out who the best man is to be the commissioner."

The 47-year-old Goodell, who started as an intern in the NFL office in 1982, is the NFL's chief operating officer -- the No. 2 job to Tagliabue. He has spent almost his entire career in the NFL and remains the clear favorite.

Buffalo's Ralph Wilson, who has become the league's pre-eminent maverick, said a few weeks ago that he believed the entire selection process had been rigged in Goodell's favor. Wilson went so far as to complain that Goodell, who was born and raised in Jamestown, N.Y., less than an hour from Buffalo, had been there only once in the past five years.

But the others have some powerful supporters and there are owners beside Wilson who aren't necessarily inclined to go for Goodell -- at least on the first ballot at the meetings in Chicago from Aug. 7-9 that are expected to produce Tagliabue's successor.

Reynolds, the chief operating officer and executive vice president of Fidelity Investments, for example, was proposed by New England's Robert Kraft and presumably will be supported by him. Jones and Washington's Daniel Snyder, on the opposite end of the high-revenue/low-revenue from Wilson, have issues with the league office and may not support Goodell from the start.

But it's also likely that none of the four other candidates will have anything near the 22 votes from 32 teams needed for election. If Goodell doesn't, he might have enough to get close on the first ballot. And Art Rooney and Tagliabue have said continually that they believe the commissioner will be chosen at the meeting next week, unlike in 1989, when the owners were deadlocked for three months between Tagliabue and the late Jim Finks, the general manager of the New Orleans Saints.

Nobody is committing yet -- at least publicly. "I just don't know," Jones said at the Cowboys' training camp in Oxnard, Calif.

Other than Goodell, the son of a former U.S. senator, the other finalist with a direct NFL background is the 53-year-old Levy, a partner in the Washington law firm of Covington & Burling, which is what Tagliabue's job was when he was elected.

He has been the lead counsel in several recent court cases, including the one involving Maurice Clarett, in which a decision to let the Ohio State running back enter the draft a year before league rules stipulated was overturned on appeal.

Nance, 52, is managing partner of the Cleveland office of Squire Sanders & Dempsey. The only black finalist, he handled the negotiation for the city of Cleveland when the Browns returned to the NFL in 1999 and was the lawyer for the group that developed the construction of the new Browns stadium.

The 54-year-old Reynolds has been vice president of Fidelity's management trust company and held several executive jobs with the firm before that. He has been in his current job since 2000.

The 51-year-old Shattuck, who began his career as an investment banker, worked at Bankers Trust as vice chairman and was chairman of the board at Deutsche Bank in Baltimore before becoming chairman of the board, president and CEO of Constellation Energy, which ranks 125th on the Fortune 500 list and owns energy-related businesses that had $17.1 billion in revenues in 2006.

His wife, Molly, who is 39, made the Baltimore Ravens' cheerleading squad for the second straight year this season.

In addition to Rooney, Jerry Richardson, Kraft and Jones, the other members of the selection committee are Woody Johnson of the New York Jets, Al Davis of Oakland, Kansas City's Lamar Hunt and Mike McCaskey of Chicago.

The ages of the candidates all reflect the desire of the committee to hire a new commissioner who could serve for a length of time similar to Tagliabue's.

AP Sports Writer Jaime Aron in Oxnard, Calif., contributed to this report.