If Tom Brady and the Patriots are innocent of a football deflation scheme in the AFC Championship game, they've bungled their defense worse than the Boston 2024 Olympics effort.
Behaving in a secretive and dismissive manner is part of the Patriots' football culture. It's how business is done in Fort Foxborough. It has served them well to dismiss distractions, stiff-arm media members, and win football games. But it has proven counterproductive and downright destructive in dealing with the NFL's Deflategate investigation.
It has cost the Patriots $1 million, two draft picks, and, barring court remediation, their franchise quarterback for the first four games of the 2014 season. That is the price of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's decision Tuesday upholding Brady's four-game Deflategate suspension.
The Patriots and Brady have done off the field what they so rarely do on it — contributed to their own demise with a series of miscues and poor decisions. That's the best-case scenario. The worst case is that they engaged in a clumsy cover-up by clinging to scientific ambiguity and withholding evidence.
The punishment for Brady and the Patriots doesn't fit the alleged crime of playing with underinflated footballs. Yet, the Patriots have brought the wrath of Goodell down upon them by mishandling and misjudging their defense.
The Patriots antagonistically demanded an apology from the league upon arriving at the Super Bowl. They didn't make locker room attendant/alleged deflator Jim McNally available to NFL investigator Ted Wells a second time to explain the Patriot underling's text messages referencing deflation. They produced a Wells Report rebuttal website that undermined their defense with a risible weight-loss explanation for McNally's texts.
The latest misstep was the revelation in the NFL's denial of Brady's appeal on Tuesday that Brady had his cellphone destroyed by his personal assistant right before meeting with Wells and Co. back in March.
With their conduct the Patriots have provided an even more arrogant and insular institution, the NFL, with the ammunition to nail them to the wall.
A team with Spygate on its résumé needed to be more transparent. The Patriots and TB12 have fallen short of that. Goodell and a group of bloodthirsty league personnel and owners have pounced, stripping them of their quarterback for a quarter of the season.
Now, it's on to federal court for Brady.
Finding a judge to overturn Goodell's program of dartboard discipline is Brady's last resort.
The NFL Players Association will pursue an injunction for Brady in Minnesota federal court. The NFL filed a preemptive motion to confirm the suspension and establish New York as the jurisdiction.
There is no chance of the legal fees in this case being underinflated.
Brady will have to deal with exactly the type of acrimonious public spectacle he has spent his entire career avoiding.
Patriots fans were hoping for a Deflategate resolution; instead the scandal will hover over the organization as training camp begins Thursday.
A glacial 35 days after hearing Brady's appeal on June 23, Goodell slapped it down in a 20-page decision.
Goodell hung the ruling on the Nixonian notion that the coverup was worse than the crime, citing the revelation that Brady instructed his assistant to destroy his cellphone right before he met with NFL investigators for 5½ hours at Gillette Stadium on March 6.
The scheduled interview with Brady was confirmed by the NFL and Brady's representatives on March 3.
Moreover, Brady had a forensic expert look at the two prior phones he owned — both of which had not been destroyed, as he claimed was standard practice — prior to his appeal hearing.
Brady's destroyed cellphone is now the missing 18½ minutes of tape from the original suffix-gate scandal — Watergate.
"Rather than simply failing to cooperate, Mr. Brady made a deliberate effort to ensure that investigators would never have access to information that he had been asked to produce," wrote Goodell. " . . . Mr. Brady's affirmative action to ensure that this information would not be available leads me to conclude that he was attempting to conceal evidence of his personal involvement in the tampering scheme."
Patriotologists have pointed out that nobody would turn over his personal cellphone, especially a celebrity such as Brady.
They weren't asking him to turn over pictures of his supermodel wife, Gisele Bundchen. Goodell's decision spells out that the investigators asked only for e-mails and texts that dealt with football preparation, providing balls to officials, and the movement of footballs between locker rooms.
Certainly, Goodell and the NFL are not without scrutiny and scorn in this imbroglio.
It was laughable that Goodell stood behind the prejudicial and equivocal science of Exponent in the Wells Report, writing that he found Princeton University physics professor Daniel Marlow, who confirmed Exponent's work, to be "highly credible."
That's like an automaker finding a report that says it is not liable for a deadly manufacturing defect highly credible.
It lends credence to the claim of Brady's agent, Don Yee, that "the appeal process was a sham."
Goodell also contradicted himself when he held it against Brady that McNally and assistant equipment manager John Jastremski were not called to testify on his behalf.
Yet Goodell wrote that "most of their statements to the investigators are not credible."
The parallel Goodell drew in defending the excessive length of Brady's suspension was performance-enhancing drug use.
The problem with classifying deflated footballs as a performance-enhancer is that Brady performed better in the second half of the AFC title game against the Colts, with properly inflated footballs. He was 12-of-14 passing for 131 yards and two touchdowns.
However, the reality is that Brady and the Patriots have given the NFL enough rope to hang them from their pedestal atop pro football.
They have violated the golden rule of defense — don't act guilty if you're not.