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Vision. Intelligence. Persuasiveness. Work ethic. Integrity.
In short, the traits that most CEOs, no matter what business they are overseeing, usually possess. "I think they are qualities," Tagliabue said, "common to CEO positions."
So with that in mind, might the NFL go outside its own group of well-documented insiders, men whose names have been floated for more than a week now, to locate Tagliabue's successor? It's certainly possible.
By now, most fans have read the names of NFL vice president Roger Goodell, team presidents Rich McKay of Atlanta and Dick Cass of Baltimore, and league counsel Jeff Pash as current league officials who might be elevated into the commissioner job. All are worthy candidates, but the suspicions of many owners is that Tagliabue's successor won't come from that list, and by the end of the process, it will actually be a relative football unknown.
Here are some names, none of which have been on the radar screen yet, that have been suggested by some owners as potential commissioner candidates:
• Bill Bradley: The former United States senator, and onetime candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, Bradley certainly knows a lot of about the marriage of sports and politics. A member of the basketball Hall of Fame, and Princeton-educated, Bradley possesses the best of a lot of worlds. But his age (62) and the fact most owners vote Republican probably work against him.
• Chase Carey: File this name away, because he could be near the top of any "outsiders" list. Carey is the president and CEO of DirecTV. Prior to that he was chairman and CEO of the Fox Television Group. In his 50s, he still plays rugby and has a very active lifestyle. With the league fixated on creating new revenue streams through the Internet and digital media outlets, he would be a guy with some expertise in an area that some visionaries see as the NFL's next great frontier.
• Tony Dungy: OK, so the Indianapolis Colts' coach is hardly an outsider. And he still wants to coach a while longer and, hopefully, to capture the Super Bowl title that has so far eluded him. But by his own admission, Dungy doesn't plan to be a lifer in his current job. Few men in the league, at any position, are so universally respected. A long shot, no doubt, but a guy not to be summarily dismissed.
• Arlen Kantarian: Everyone praises his work as the chief executive of professional tennis for the United States Tennis Association. Notable is that he once worked for the league, as the vice present of marketing for NFL Properties. The landscape has changed a lot since he left the NFL, but he remains well-regarded and has a few advocates in the league.
• Tim Leiweke: The president of the Anschutz Entertainment Group, whose holdings include the Staples Center, hockey's Los Angeles Kings and soccer's Los Angeles Galaxy.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here .