Super Bowl XX was nothing. The last time Patriots were attacked this badly, it was sometime around 1776.
The hammer fell on the Patriots on Monday, and it was a sledgehammer at that. According to ESPN.com‚Äôs Adam Schefter, the Patriots were fined one million dollars and have forfeited a first round draft pick in 2016 and a fourth round pick in 2017 for ‚Äúviolation of the playing rules and failure to cooperate in the subsequent investigation.‚ÄĚ To prevent any draft pick manipulation by Bill Belichick, the league ordered that the forfeited draft picks ‚Äúmay not be traded or encumbered‚ÄĚ, and if there are multiple picks in either of the affected rounds, the earliest picks in each round will be lost.
The two men at the epicenter of this whole situation, Jim McNally and John Jastremski, have been indefinitely suspended without pay by the Patriots, according to Robert Kraft. According to NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent, he must approve the reinstatement of either Patriot employee. If McNally is reinstated, he is barred from having any contact with game officials and cannot have any hand in any game ball or equipment preparation at any time. If Jastremski is reinstated, he cannot have any involvement in game ball preparation in any way.
The biggest bomb fell on Tom Brady. The future Hall of Fame quarterback has been suspended without pay for the first four games of the 2015 NFL season for ‚Äúconduct detrimental to the integrity of the NFL.‚ÄĚ Brady can participate in any offseason activity, preseason activity and preseason games, but must miss the first four games: home games against Pittsburgh and Jacksonville, and away games at Buffalo and Dallas.
Kraft said that the Patriots will not appeal any penalties. What happens to Brady might be another story.
Bob Kraft said that the Patriots would accept the punishment of a $1 million fine and two draft picks for findings in the Wells Report concerning the deflation of footballs in the AFC Championship Game.
(USA TODAY Images)
First of all, let this be the last time we ever mention the names of these two nobodies in this column. What happens to McNally and Jastremski moving forward is of no consequence to anyone but those two bad boys. They should be fired. They can be replaced and should be. Sometimes long time employees go bad. Thirty-year employees might steal from the plant store. It happens. Send them packing.
The Patriots might feel a bit of a sting from the lost draft picks. The smart thinking here is that Belichick will find a way to ease the pain and turn this to the team‚Äôs advantage. According to the press release, the draft picks cannot be ‚Äúencumbered‚ÄĚ. Belichick will come up with something creative to neutralize the pain. Nobody in the NFL knows how to manipulate a draft board than Belichick.
Kraft could be like former Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee and make the $1 million check out to his favorite charity. Lee was once fined by MLB for making comments about his usage of marijuana, and he made his fine check out to some Canadian benevolence entity which helps to feed eskimos that are below the poverty line. Kraft‚Äôs charitable benefactors are more likely something you have heard of. They need that money more than the league does.
What will bear watching is how Brady goes forward with his incredibly harsh punishment. Of particular interest is what the NFLPA will do, how the Patriots will react, how Brady‚Äôs agent Don Yee will react, and possibly how NBC will react.
You don‚Äôt hear much from the NFLPA like you do from the MLBPA. In baseball, something like this would soon become something akin to a World War II ack-ack battle. Questions like ‚ÄúDoes the punishment fit the crime?‚ÄĚ will be asked. Punishing Brady for something that other quarterbacks in the league (Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning) have admitted to doing themselves will be scrutinized. Why levy this kind of penalty against Brady when this is more about those ball attendants that seem to be more culpable in this mess?
Yee came out a few days ago and questioned the fairness of this entire investigation. He is not the only person to go on record and question Ted Wells‚Äô bias in his 243-page report. How much Yee can impact the appeals process is subject to debate. If Yee has any legal recourse, he will take it.
Another major player in the appeals process could be an unlikely, but very interested and invested entity: the National Broadcasting Company.
Over the years, opening night in the NFL has grown into an event that sometimes makes you think it‚Äôs the Super Bowl. Opening night is a Thursday night special broadcast, with live musical and recreation events in the host city (the city of the defending Super Bowl champ) and other cities around the country. Top name entertainment do live gigs at these events. NBC televises the events, turns it into a mega-production, and the home team chimes in with a celebration of their Super Bowl win, usually an unveiling of their stadium acknowledgement of the championship.
This last happened in Foxborough in 2005, for the season opener with the Patriots and the Raiders. With great fanfare, Kraft unveiled the Super Bowl XXXIX banner, and NBC had all of it live. It was a fantastic affair, replete with fireworks and uplifting music.
If Brady is not allowed to play in the Thursday night opener against Pittsburgh, how will NBC react to that? Worse, if the Patriots choose to defer their banner unveiling until Brady‚Äôs first home game, which would be October 25 against the Jets, a 1:00 game on CBS, how will NBC feel about that? The NFL cannot simply tell NBC ‚Äútough luck, too bad‚ÄĚ, given that the network has almost $4 billion invested in their football broadcast package, and how high profile the Thursday night opening night broadcast has become.
If the Patriots do not unveil their banner on that particular night, NBC could always try and get another game to replace Patriots-Steelers. But not being able to see the championship celebration would put a damper on the entire evening, and most certainly drive NBC‚Äôs ratings down.
In the end, the NFL may not need to listen to NBC. They will more likely listen to any legal ramifications the players union or Yee can brandish. What the union and Yee will have to establish is that the punishment is too harsh based upon Brady‚Äôs career body of work and reputation, and who is really at fault in this particular situation.
And the league will have to look closer at all consequences of suspending someone of such high magnitude. Making an example of someone like Ray Rice is one thing. Making an example of Brady is quite another. There are far too many circumstantial elements to this case for something not to happen in support of Brady.
For now, the Patriots have had their tails whipped by the league. They were taken out to the woodshed. Roger Goodell and Vincent opened up a can of whoop-(expletive).
Meanwhile, one must wonder if Jimmy Garoppolo is looking at all this and thinking about some thunderous Mo Lewis hit on Drew Bledsoe several years ago.