The legacy of three men is now locked into the stupid and needless “scandal” that is DeflateGate. The two obvious culprits are Mr. Teflon Hot, Patriots QB Tom Brady, and his hooded, antisocial head coach, Bill Belichick.
Add NFL Police Commissioner Roger Goodell to the list. He may not be fired anytime soon, but if Goodell does not want to be forever enshrined as Commissioner McHypocrite, he better not blow this one in this, his Year of Credibility.
On Wednesday, the NFL conveniently released the findings of its DeflateGate investigation — after the Super Bowl, the combine and the draft. According to the 243-page report by NFL-appointed attorney Ted Wells, Patriots staffers deliberately deflated the footballs before the start of the AFC title game against the Colts in January, and QB Tom Brady was “at least generally aware.”
Change the word “generally” to “completely” and we’re good. It somehow cleared Belichick. According to reports, the NFL will soon administer discipline.
Between some slightly deflated footballs and videotaping the other team practicing, neither of which I believe influenced the outcome of the games in question, the Patriots were caught violating the rules. Goodell better impose a legitimate action against those involved, including the coolest guy in the club — Mr. Gisele Bundchen.
Goodell this year has sent the standard “message” with the 10-game suspension of Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy for his “infractions,” and now he must do the same for Brady, the Patriots and the head coach. No, domestic violence and taking the air out of a football don’t quite compare, but violating rules written in a rulebook should matter. If not, why bother?
If Goodell does not want to look soft on crime, the real Patriots must do the time. The Patriots need to lose multiple draft picks, including a precious No. 1, and Brady and Belichick must at least miss half the season.
Don’t buy that Belichick did not know. This is as offensive as Enron CEO Ken Lay’s claims that he had no idea that his top employees were breaking the law to the substantial benefit of his own bank account.
Anything less than a serious suspension for football’s most celebrated B&B and Goodell will have the appearance of the country club president who plays favorites with those who play in his foursome.
If Goodell pulls another Jim Irsay and prefers to blow Brady and Belichick a kiss on this, his legacy will be tainted, too. His reputation is already awful after he fumbled the NFL’s high-profile domestic violence cases last year, and the man needs a winner.
A 10-game suspension for Hardy helps, but — as sad as this is — what people want to see are Brady and Belichick thrown in football jail. The league was deliberately tardy in releasing this report, yet is not too late to at least try to send a message that fairness still matters, even when it’s not convenient.
Life is not fair, and neither are sports, but if a league as big and powerful as the NFL is not trying to endorse and push for equality in its game — its product — then having a rulebook is useless.
By now we are numb to our “heroes” being exposed and defrauded as the humans they are — constantly looking for an edge, willing to drive 85 in a school zone or brazenly doing whatever they want because they can. Brady and Belichick are better at what they do, and they obviously have no problem pushing, or ignoring, a few rules.
In the Patriots’ era of invincibility they have SpyGate, DeflateGate and now have a convicted murderer as well (Aaron Hernandez). If that trio of shame does not taint their legacy, nothing can.
No matter what they may say otherwise, to men such as Brady and Belichick, their legacies matter. The same goes for Goodell.
The obscure lower-level Patriot employees involved in this “scandal” will most certainly be fired, but those two are not the NFL’s top concerns. Those guys were doing what they were told. As evidenced by the humorous text exchange issued in the report, the employees handling the footballs don’t care much for Brady, and they were following orders.
This pair will most assuredly be made scapegoats, and surely Goodell will be smarter than to use these men as sacrificial props to satiate the masses. We may be stupid, but we are not dumb.
Brady and Belichick are still Hall of Famers, but how they will be viewed and regarded has permanently changed. In the end, they are great, but they are the equivalent of Barry Bonds, Lance Armstrong and a host of other talented performers who pushed the edge, and ignored the rules. Either that, or they were simply terrible at cheating.
Their legacy is secure, both the good and the bad.
Goodell’s is unfinished. If he wants to repair it, he should start by doing the right thing and enforcing a rulebook that the Patriots, once again, have violated.
Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.
Mac Engel, 817-390-7697
Twitter: @macengelprof and The Big Mac Blog