#DeflateGate has an outcome. Sort of.
Tom Brady has been suspended. The Patriots have been docked two draft picks (including their 2016 first-round pick), and the franchise has been ordered to pay $1 million dollars as a fine. If this punishment sticks, it would be some of the harshest the sport has ever seen. My money, though, is that it won’t; and the NFL will once again have proved us suckers on their quest to dominate 12-months of the sports news landscape.
On the surface this feels like acceptable punishment for a franchise with a history of, we’ll call it, “bending the rules.” Brady, for all his denials, was found “more probable than not” to have known the footballs he was using were under inflated to his liking during last years AFC Championship game against the Colts. Emails and correspondence outside of that shows others knew something was up on other occasions. So do I think he deserved his suspension? Yes. In fact I would argue he deserved more.
I expected the league to suspend Brady for 6-8 games; not for any bias towards the Patriots, but because I expected Brady and the team to appeal it down and he would end up with a four game suspension. By starting with the four-game suspension Brady could possibly get it reduced to two games; That means he could be back by week 3 against the Jaguars, followed by the bye week, then the Cowboys week 4. A dream scenario for a soon-to-be 38-year old quarterback. Of course that’s all depending on whether or not the league can build a strong enough case during the appeals process to make the four-game suspension stick.
The case for Kraft and the Patriots organization is a little trickier because the Patriots will have to do a couple of things:
First, they will have to prove that their role was nothing more than being a “unknowing party ” in the situation. That’s a hard sell given the level of responsibility and accountability an organization is supposed to have in making sure everything is up to NFL standards. Second, they will have to do it without throwing their franchise icon under the bus. The latter will be harder than the former, but both will prove difficult no matter what. I can’t see an argument from New England’s side that could show they didn’t know any of this was going on without placing the blame square on Brady.
The penalty levied against the Patriots are harsh; harsher, in fact, than the ones levied against domestic violence offenders from a season ago. Logically it would make it easy to assume that an infraction against “The Shield” is more egregious than that of domestic violence. I can’t say for sure how I feel about drawing that parallel just yet. Domestic violence shouldn’t be tolerated under any circumstance, and I think if you’re going to be upset about them both for comparison’s sake you should be angrier that the penalty procedure for both wasn’t there in the first place.
I bring this part up because that is the only parallel I see in the two; and with the history the Patriots have of doing things that bend the rules, the NFL still seems to be flying by the seat of their pants when it comes to doling out penalties. You can only use the “this is a special case” so many times before you need to look at your rule book and start making uniform policy changes.
Should everything stay as it was announced yesterday I don’t think it will make much of a difference in the standings. I’m as confident as anyone that Jimmy Garoppolo can step in and play at a high enough level that this offense won’t miss a beat. In fact, he might even add another dimension that Brady hasn’t in recent memory: mobility. Last preseason Garoppolo, who was drafted in the 2nd round in the 2014 draft out of Eastern Illinois, attempted 27 passes (completing 19) for 182 yards and a touchdown. He was also credited for the job he did mimicking Russell Wilson during practice to prepare the Patriots for the Super Bowl.
Do I think the punishment fits the crime? Sure, if it sticks. The NFL basically doubled the penalty it gave them for #SpyGate. Will it cripple the Patriots or Brady? No. They’re still the defending champs and could still see a reduced penalty upon appeal and presentation of more evidence.
In other words, it’s business as usual in New England.
For more on the NFL, MLB, College Football, and Opinion in general follow me on Twitter @DAdamCubbage