NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell flexed his muscles in a major way on Tuesday afternoon when he announced that the league was going to uphold the four-game suspension New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for his role in the team’s Deflategate scandal. The news came on the heels of daily speculation and rumors that the league had negotiated a settlement and suspension reduction for the four-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback. Goodell’s decision was based in large part on new evidence that emerged that detailed how Brady had instructed his assistant to destroy the cell phone he had been using since November 2014 shortly before his notorious interview with independent investigator Ted Wells. Here is a brief snippet from Goodell’s official press release on Tuesday:
“On or about March 6 — the very day that he (Brady) was interviewed by Mr. Wells and his investigative team – Brady instructed his assistant to destroy the cellphone that he had been using since early November 2014, a period that included the AFC Championship Game and the initial weeks of the subsequent investigation. During the four months that it was in use, almost 10,000 text messages were sent or received by Mr. Brady using that cellphone. At the time that he arranged for its destruction, Mr. Brady knew that Mr. Wells and his team had requested information from that cellphone in connection with their investigation. Despite repeated requests for that information, beginning in mid-February 2015 and continuing his March 6, 2015 interview by the investigators, information indicating that Mr. Brady might have destroyed his cellphone was not disclosed until months later, on June 18, 2015, and not confirmed until the day of the hearing itself.”
Up next for Brady, the NFL, and the NFLPA is what will likely prove to be an ugly legal battle in a Federal courtroom – something will surely be a significant distraction for the Patriots as the team prepares for their first training camp practice this tomorrow. Brady has already said that he plans to file a lawsuit against the NFL, and the NFLPA released a written statement on Tuesday afternoon that included the following statement on what was to come: “The NFLPA will appeal this outrageous decision on behalf of Tom Brady.”
Assuming Brady is unsuccessful in his pending lawsuit against the NFL, which is exactly what ESPN Legal Analyst Lester Munson thinks will happen, the Patriots will be without their best player for the first four games of the season. Knowing that, it is entirely possible that the defending Super Bowl champions could start the season out with a 0-4 or 1-3 record. In fact, we would say that the Patriots would have done extremely well for themselves if they start the season out with a 2-2 record while Brady was out of the lineup. And let’s be honest for here, it’s more than a little annoying that the opening game of the 2015 NFL season will now feature a starting quarterback matchup of Garoppolo versus Roethlisberger instead of Brady versus Roethlisberger.
The worst part of the whole situation may be the fact that Brady’s NFL legacy may wind up being tainted by his direct involvement in Deflategate and the Patriots’ less-than-stellar ethical track record. In reality, altering the air pressure in the footballs his team used in the AFC Championship Game didn’t alter the outcome of the game. The Patriots would have won that game playing with greased watermelons instead of footballs. With that being said, only an extremely naïve person would believe that the game that was in question in the Ted Wells Report was the only game in which the Patriots played with intentionally under-inflated footballs. Truth be told, I know for a fact from my brief time in the league that similar things happen within other franchises.
When it’s all said and done, it would be an absolute shame if something as minor as the p.s.i. readings of the footballs used during a 45-7 blowout win ultimately take away from Brady’s accomplishments as an NFL quarterback. You don’t win four Super Bowl rings, three Super Bowl MVP’s, and two NFL MVP awards because you used slightly deflated footballs. But then again, this situation proves that cheaters never prosper. At the end of the day, it appears as though Brady bent the rules and tainted the integrity of the game. Had it not been for his attempted cover-up, he may have been able to escape with nothing more than monetary fine. Now, the Patriots’ road to repeating as Super Bowl champions just got a whole lot bumpier.