On Wednesday, the results of the league’s investigation into whether or not the Patriots intentionally deflated footballs (aka Deflategate) in the AFC Championship Game were made public. The 243-page Wells Report states that it is “more probable than not” that the balls were deflated by two members of the Patriots personnel staff, Jim McNally and John Jastremski, and that quarterback Tom Brady was “at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities”. So in the end there was not enough evidence to say with certainty that they did it, but that leaves the question of what does this mean in terms of punishment?
When the investigation started over 100 days ago, people began speculating about how serious this could be. There were some that thought that it would be just a slap on the wrist for the Patriots and others that thought they could forfeit their spot in the Super Bowl. Even though we have the full report, no penalties have been handed out yet. It will be up to NFL executive vice president of football operations, Troy Vincent to determine what if any penalty will come down.
There are some people who believe that the Patriots should forfeit their win and their Super Bowl victory against the Seattle Seahawks. That will not happen as the report said that the inflation, or lack thereof, had no significant impact in the outcome of the Patriots’ 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts.
The fact is that the Patriots dominated the Colts in that game and then beat the Seahawks with the entire world watching the air pressure of those footballs, so the championship is safe. People will see the Patriots as cheaters, but that has been commonplace in the league for the majority of the past decade. This discipline is going to be more on a personal level which is going to be tough for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
It is clear that Brady was dishonest in his comments saying that he did not know of McNally and that is what the league is going to focus on. Brady is singled out in the report and figures to bear the majority of the responsibility, but what does that mean for a punishment? Brady has had a relatively clean disciplinary record up until this point, sure he whines a little more than most but that can be expected. What hurts Brady’s case is the fact that he lobbied the league for the ability to doctor game balls before games. Brady shouldn’t be hurt by the previous allegations against this team because he wasn’t directly involved in the wrongdoing or probably even knew that was going on.
It is hard for a Patriots fan to hear–let alone write–this but Brady is in trouble. He was caught in a lie and should be punished accordingly. Fines aren’t going to drive a message, especially considering Brady is second in the household in terms of earning potential.
That leaves suspension as the only option, but the real question is the length. The absolute worse the suspension should be is four games. This would be the same as if it was a performance enhancing drug, because in a way it was supposed to enhance Brady’s performance. In all likelihood, two games feels right. He misses opening night when they raise the banner in a primetime game and it will be important for the Pats to get out to a good start given how tough their division looks. Anything more than four games, seems too severe but the league wants to send a message.
Many people feel that the Patriots organization should face a punishment similar to what they faced when they were found guilty of the Spygate scandal in 2007. Belichick was fined $50,000 and the Patriots were fined $250,000 and lost their first round draft pick in 2008.
This was different as the Patriots were physically caught breaking the rules which is not the case here. When compared to some other team violations, the New Orleans Saints as an organization were penalized by the acts of their players and personnel and were told that ignorance is no excuse. The same could be said here, but the report specifically stated that there was no believed “wrongdoing or knowledge of wrongdoing by Patriots ownership, Head Coach Bill Belichick or any Patriots coach”. It would seem odd for the team to be penalized after being cleared in the report.
The NFL has to be careful about deciding what to do. If they suspend Tom Brady, that will bring an uproar from Indianapolis and Seattle fans who believe that they were robbed of a chance to win the Super Bowl. If Brady is the “mastermind” behind this, then he shouldn’t have played in the Super Bowl and it is safe to say that the Patriots would not have won that game with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback.
If the league wants to regain some of the credibility that they lost last year with the domestic violence mess up, the perfect way would be to suspend one of the league’s greatest players ever. There is also some that say that commissioner Roger Goodell won’t take much action against his friend Robert Kraft and his team. The league was hoping that the evidence would be more damning and they are still stuck in what seems like a lose-lose situation.
At the end of the day, McNally and Jastremski should and probably will either get fined and/or lose their jobs. They are lower level people and they are actually responsible for Deflategate and while it is unfortunate if they lose their job, they can be replaced easily and don’t have the backing of a union as strong as the NFLPA. Tom Brady on the other hand should receive a fine and a suspension of no more than two games. At the most the Patriots should be fined, but no draft picks. The league will be stronger for this because there are sure to be a new set of rules that will determine how footballs are prepped for play.