Paul Tagliabue was elected commissioner of the NFL today, seven months after Pete Rozelle announced his retirement.

Dan Rooney of the Pittsburgh Steelers, chairman of the five-man committee appointed Wednesday night to break the stalemate among the 28 owners, said the committee unanimously recommended the selection of Tagliabue as commissioner for five years."We come out of this meeting as one," Rooney said. "I think everybody just felt it was time to do the job, and it was in the spirit of doing the job for the league."

The vote of the league's owners was believed to be unanimous after a long deadlock. In recent weeks, a bloc of owners repeatedly denied the required majority to Jim Finks, the early favorite and recommendation of the orginal selection committee.

At one point, Finks, president of the New Orleans Saints, came within three votes of election.

"My congratulations go to Paul," Finks said in a statement released from New Orleans by public relations man Rusty Kasmiersky. "He will be an oustanding commissioner, and should serve the NFL for many years to come."

Tagliabue was en route from his Washington office to Cleveland at the time of the announcement and was not immediately available for comment.

Art Modell of the Cleveland Browns, a staunch Finks' supporter, said that within the last 48 hours, Finks was offered a job of president of the NFL in charge of football operations. However, he declined the offer.

"The intention was to bring both Paul Tagliabue and Jim Finks into leadership roles," Modell said.

Tagliabue, 48, is an NFL counsel and partner in the prestigious law firm of Covington & Burling. He's been a quiet, but powerful league insider for 20 years.

After 50 hours of debate during three meetings since July 6 - including 19 1/2 hours over the last two days - the deadlocked owners decided on the commitee approach on Wednesday night. The idea was to break the deadlock between adherents of Finks and Tagliabue by getting the four main antagonists together with one relative neutral and asking them to decide between the two candidates.

Another deadlock by that committee probably would have killed the candidacies of both men, but today's agreement ended that possibility.

"We felt that it might be easier for five men to reach a unanimous decision than 28," said Rozelle, who announced his resignation 219 days ago and warned this week that he might walk away if the impasse isn't ended.

The five included Rooney, who voted for both candidates and abstained during the 11 ballots that failed to resolve the deadlock.

The other four were described both by Rozelle and other owners as the hardest-liners on each side - Old Guard and New Guard.

On one side was Wellington Mara of the New York Giants and Modell, both close to Rozelle and both active in league affairs for almost three decades. On the other were Patrick Bowlen of Denver and Mike Lynn of Minnesota, who represent a group of newer and younger owners seeking more power within the league.

"The caveat along with the committee was that if they could not come up with a unanimous choice, both of them would be excluded from further consideration and they would have no further shot," said Victor Kiam of New England, one of the new owners - he has less than a year in the league - who has been pushing for a businessman commissioner.