Normally heading into the NFL Draft is a period where fan interest is at its peak and the league is able to enjoy the buzz that helps feed what should be one of their most successful weekends of the offseason.
This year in New England, the loss of a first round pick by Roger Goodell has the sound of crickets ringing out throughout the region and the glee he may be celebrating following Monday’s victory may be pretty short-lived. While beating Tom Brady in court may have been his focus for the last year-plus, he likely didn’t take into account the collateral damage he did to the hands that feed the NFL machine.
At the time, the accusations the Colts made in the AFC Championship game, which kicked off this nonsense to begin with, this league full of executives dripping with jealousy raised their pitchforks before even thinking about taking something like science into account, and they tossed out logic and reason the moment this whole thing got legs underneath it. When the officials jammed the two needles from each of those gauges into each of the footballs at the half for probably the first time in their careers, never could anyone have imagined that the bent and inaccurate equipment they used that night, which gave two completely different readings, would be part of a report to tarnish the reputation of one of the greatest players of this era.
But they ran with it anyway. Those within the Colts organization likely high-fived and were all excited to think they finally had New England right where they wanted them. After taking a beating with properly inflated footballs in the second half of the AFC Championship game and having to sit back and watch the Patriots win it all against the Seahawks, Indianapolis got to enjoy a little satisfaction when the news of Brady’s suspension dropped as well as the penalty of a first round pick.
There was probably similar elation around the league. But when Robert Kraft foolishly dropped his sword before a battle could even start, Goodell was able to win his first victory and all the rhetoric of battling for what’s right by Kraft fell by the wayside after he lead an entire region to a war that ended with a surrender before it had a chance to start.
Kraft launched some strong words before the Super Bowl, but the fight ended before it ever really got started against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL.
Not that he had much recourse. When he later said that he was wrong to put his faith in the league, there should be an even deeper resentment and anger toward Goodell given the much larger sacrifices he made for the good of the league prior to now. After all, Kraft spent his wife’s final dying days trying to save the NFL from a lockout, which saw him bridge a gap between two sides that at the time didn’t seem close to overcoming.
That obviously must be gone from Goodell’s memory. That being said, if Kraft somehow thought Goodell would do the right thing when he backed down and accepted the loss of their draft picks and the accompanying $1-million penalty, he’s hopefully learned a valuable lesson with a man who has shown his true colors over this past year.
It was a bad gamble, and he lost in more ways than one. He gambled and lost precious time with the love of his life, as well as the adoration of the fans who before that moment would have done anything for him. It will go down as one of the key moments in the history of this franchise, and it’s a shame because Kraft’s legacy has ended up just as damaged as Brady’s, except that Brady doesn’t care about the people who hate him or think he might have cheated, because they’re fans of other teams. He’s instead seen more support than he’s ever had, with Patriots fans having never supported him more over his entire career than they have over this past year plus. Meanwhile, Kraft cares about the fans, and the fact he’s fallen out of favor with them is something that has to be killing him and it’s all because he tried to make a deal with the wrong guy.
Looking back at this whole situation, Goodell had so many chances to really show his authority and do something unconventional in trying to make sure he got this right considering the damage it could – and did – cause nationally to the league’s best player. He preaches about integrity, but he completely blew the chance to show how important that was when enough doubt set in publicly from the flawed data in the Wells Report for people to question its credibility. Given the fact all the evidence against Brady was circumstantial at best, there wasn’t exactly a smoking gun to reinforce what is certainly a pretty severe penalty against both Brady and the Patriots.
So Goodell had the opportunity to go into this season and measure the psi of the footballs in adverse conditions to try and get a better sense in not only making a more educated judgement in the case against Brady, but also to be more aware of things in the event anything like this ever came up again. Admitting when you’re wrong is one of the hardest things to do when you’re a leader, but it’s also something a leader obviously needs to do if there’s a chance he actually, really, might be wrong.
Things like that tend to earn people’s respect and there are probably many fans throughout New England who might have even given him some credit for doing that.
But he didn’t, and this whole mess began to get uglier, and uglier, and even more ridiculous as the last year has progressed. Most fans are tired of all of it. We’ve seen in the past where Patriots players have made mistakes and been punished, but those have generally included enough proof to warrant whatever discipline they received. People don’t stomp their feet while making excuses about this team being persecuted or treated unfairly if there’s an obvious violation. If there’s proof of wrongdoing, we accept it and move on, realizing that even adult football players do stupid things and “it is what it is.”
Let’s be honest, this isn’t even close to being fair. If there was video evidence showing Brady being involved in the “scheme” Goodell tried for the last year to make us all believe took place, most fans would be frustrated and disappointed and if he was suspended, then obviously that’s what happens and we’d just have to sit through watching Jimmy Garoppolo play.
Yet there’s not. There are some text messages that are questionable at best, which even include the fact Brady preferred the footballs at the lower level of the legal limit and for the guys preparing the footballs to even remind the officials of the rulebook. Never once did any of those messages from Brady suggest anything involving breaking the rules. But for whatever reason Ted Wells somehow got “more probable than not” out of it anyway.
From there the fact Brady, who is married to a super model and didn’t want to give up his personal phone in the investigation with no obligation by the CBA to do so, saw that part of the investigation become the next big sticking point which influenced the latest ruling that reinstated the suspension. The irritating part there is the fact during the investigation, Wells even admitted the phone wasn’t an issue, provided Brady gave up all the texts and emails Wells asked for, which Brady did.
Brady never had a fair chance of winning over the last year, and has had to try his luck in the court system despite no clear evidence of any wrongdoing.
The fact is, all we’ve learned is Goodell’s mind seemed made up from the beginning and Brady seemingly never had a chance. After over a year of all of this, fans are tired of hearing about it. They’re tired of the whole situation. The whole mess has gone full circle and Goodell reignited the frustration and anger with the suspension, which had simmered down a bit prior to that news.
There are around 11 million people in New England, excluding Connecticut and millions more displaced fans throughout the U.S. who have been completely soured by this experience. They’ve lost a lot of faith in a league that is now run by a commissioner who obviously hands down his own brand of justice without reason or precedent, and he’s allowed to thanks to the CBA Kraft helped expedite past the NFLPA during the league’s darkest hour.
The owners from around the league may be starting to notice the long-term problem this short-term fiasco is creating, and even they’re tired of it. Some even feel the Patriots should get their draft choices back and that Brady’s suspension should be shortened or dropped, because after everything they’ve seen, even they believe nothing may have even ever happened to begin with. Had this sentiment been felt a year ago, maybe things might have gone a little differently. But given that they usually have their own motives, those feelings are probably there because reality is setting in that their team could suddenly endure the same treatment. The Chiefs can certainly attest to this, and there will most definitely be others.
What Goodell does now remains to be seen. Any chance of Brady’s suspension being shortened seems unlikely given the report that the NFL has no interest in engaging in settlement talks. But all we’ve learned to this point is that integrity only matters when it’s convenient. While at this point he’s taken Brady away from the Patriots for the first four games of this season, Goodell has also taken away the faith and belief by the fans and everyone else that he can be trusted to really do the right thing when it’s deemed necessary.
That’s a dangerous game to play but that’s the road he’s chosen to go down for now. Goodell stil has the chance to make things right and make this less painful on everyone. But if we’ve learned anything, that’s a difficult path to take and he’s done things the easy way to this point.
Some guys learn from their mistakes, some guys keep doing the same things over and over expecting different results. The latter is the definition of insanity, which quite fittingly describes this past year perfectly.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2016 NFL Draft DeflateGate Robert Kraft Roger Goodell Tom Brady