Total victory is not possible in Deflategate. Both sides in this tug of war for the truth about air pressure in footballs should see that by now.
It isn’t possible for embattled NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, and it isn’t possible for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who has seen his reputation impugned and his private e-mails released for public consumption and derision.
Here is what is clear after almost eight months and a mind-numbing number of pages of reports, decisions, testimony, and legal filings — Goodell doesn’t believe Brady and almost no one believes Goodell is acting impartially or has any business meting out punishments. How does it help the multibillion-dollar brand of the NFL to have the credibility of its chief executive and greatest player simultaneously under attack?
Deflategate has become a quagmire. Damage and calumny have been inflicted on both sides. Any “victory” is going to come without complete vindication. The sooner the matter is resolved the better for all involved — and the football public. US District Judge Richard M. Berman, who is charged with hearing the case, was right when he wrote that the earth already has been sufficiently scorched.
We shouldn’t have to wait until the Aug. 12 status/settlement conference before Berman for an agreement to be reached. The NFL and NFL Players Association — and the principals they represent — should come up with a compromise in lieu of the ludicrous four-game suspension for Brady handed down and upheld upon appeal by Goodell. There is no elegant solution, but it beats the alternative of beating each other’s brains out.
Brady could serve a one-game suspension, and the NFL could acknowledge in writing that, while Brady was in a position to possibly possess awareness of the alleged deflation of footballs in the AFC Championship game, there is no irrefutable or reliable evidence that indicates Brady was “at least generally aware” of anything. Neither side would get what it wants, but both sides would get what they need, closure.
Brady serving any time is anathema to the most febrile portion of the Foxborough Faithful. They believe 345 Park Avenue sits at the nexus of Evil. However, remember that it was Brady who authorized the NFLPA to initiate settlement talks before Goodell ruled on the appeal. Brady just wants to focus on the drive for a fifth Super Bowl title without distractions or being summoned away for court appearances.
The unsealing of more than 4,000 pages of documents, including the transcript of Brady’s 11-hour appeal hearing on June 23 in New York, has swung the pendulum of public opinion in TB12’s direction.
The transcript shows that Goodell did not run the proceedings with the mien of a neutral arbitrator, and that in his decision upholding Brady’s suspension, he mischaracterized or misconstrued parts of Brady’s testimony. It is Exhibit A for why the owners should be eager to strip Goodell of his plenipotentiary power over disciplinary matters. It’s dartboard discipline being justified in a kangaroo court.
This type of authority should not be within the ambit of the commissioner’s office, especially when he can’t even figure out where the events in question took place.
When talking about the infamous Jets game on Oct. 16, the one where the footballs were overinflated, Goodell says to Brady, “Just so I’m clear, this is the Jets game in New York?” The game was in Foxborough.
It’s an honest mistake, but it makes you question just how much of the Wells Report the commissioner read.
You know it’s bad for Goodell when Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie sounds like a sage voice in the NFL wilderness. Making an appearance on the shrill ESPN program “First Take” Thursday, Cromartie defended Brady, saying he shouldn’t be suspended.
“Nobody is safe,” Cromartie said. “No matter who you are, Roger is going to do what he’s going to do. He’s going to make his own rules as he goes. It shouldn’t be like that.”
This is the same guy who once referred to Brady as a part of the anatomy that is like opinions on Deflategate — everybody has one.
But it’s not all smooth sailing for Brady in the NFLPA’s legal dump.
He suffered the release of his e-mails and the loss of one of his last bastions of privacy.
It has to be bothersome for him to see that his feelings on the available colors for an $8,500 pool cover, request for exorbitantly priced Tom Ford clothing, contention that ESPN is full of Patriots haters, and belief that his friend and career foil Peyton Manning only has two years left to his seven or eight have all gone public.
Brady also comes off as equivocal on his explanation for the destruction of his cellphone and not turning over texts and e-mails to Ted Wells.
Brady said on his Facebook page on July 29 that he didn’t provide information from the phone when first requested back in February and March because he didn’t want to set a precedent for the NFLPA. But that precedent already had been set in the investigation of former Miami Dolphins and current Buffalo Bills lineman Richie Incognito.
Brady also said during his under-oath testimony that he was relying on the advice of his lawyers when he didn’t turn over requested communication. He said if they had told him to do so he would have. Brady wasn’t using NFLPA counsel when he sat down with Wells. He was relying on Patriots lawyers. So, precedent for the union rings hollow.
If the NFL is out to bury the Patriots, the team has handed the league the shovel a few times with obstinate behavior and fuzzy explanations.
Now, the NFLPA has to clean up the mess for Brady.
Cooler heads should prevail. It’s time to settle.
Whoever wins in Deflategate has already lost too much.