KRAVITZ: Brady wins, Goodell loses, but Patriots still take a hit

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, left, and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady
Bob Kravitz

The National Football League, and its knee-capped, emasculated commissioner, Roger Goodell, miscalculated this from the moment L’Affaire Brady moved to Judge Richard Berman’s courtroom. With each settlement conference, it became abundantly clear that the judge was inclined to take up residence in Tom Brady’s and the NFLPA’s corner, thus making it apparent – even to a dope like me – that the NFL needed to settle with Brady.

Perhaps settled for a one-game suspension, maybe two for Brady’s failure to fully cooperate with the Wells investigators, specifically his decision to have an associate dispose of his cell phone.

Now, would Brady have accepted those terms? We may never know the answer to that question. But what we do know, and it was hammered home Wednesday with Berman’s decision to vacate Brady’s four-game suspension, is the NFL should have backed out and made a deal.

Click here to read more about DeflateGate from Bob Kravitz.

Now, they are left with eggs over easy on their face, and Goodell has once again been diminished in the eyes of the public and the league at large. The man makes $44 million a year in salary, but you have to wonder, even at that pay grade, is it worth it to be turned into a human piñata at every turn?

Here’s my take on the Berman decision: He sided with Brady over procedural issues. Cited a lack of notice on the integrity-of-the-game issue, saying it involves executives and coaches, not players. Denied Goodell’s suggestion that ball deflation rates with the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Didn’t allow Brady’s lawyers to speak to NFL lawyer Jeff Pash. And several other procedural notations that led to his final judgment.

Berman never specifically took the Wells Report to task in his ruling, as he did so often during the settlement talks. Never suggested the Wells Report missed the boat in its findings that John Jastremski and Jim McNally engaged in a scheme to deflate the footballs before the AFC Title Game, never specifically took issue with the Wells Report conclusion that Brady was at least generally aware of what was happening with the football.

But that, in the end, didn’t make a difference. The Judge determined that the NFL did a slip-shod job in its investigation, and he called the league on it.

My feeling continues to be this: While the Wells Report did not do as strong a job tying Brady to the deflation scheme as it did Jastremski and McNally, it’s still difficult for me – and, I think, most reasonable observers – to believe those two underlings would have engaged in this activity on their own. Quarterbacks are very detail-oriented, especially when it comes to the inflation and feel of the footballs they throw. Would those two gentlemen have gone rogue in this situation? I can’t believe, for one moment, they would have done this without some direction from their quarterback.

Click here to read more about DeflateGate from Bob Kravitz.

But it’s not what I believe or what you believe; it’s what Judge Berman believes, and for now, he’s the law. So you accept and respect his findings – something the Patriots refused to do with the Wells Report – and move on. Brady will likely play this season. Next, the NFL will continue to pursue this, will take it to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, at which point, it impossible to guess how they might rule. Unfortunately, this thing isn’t over. Not even close.

Deflategate timeline

Clearly, though, ample damage has been done to The Shield, and most notably, Goodell. He lost on appeal in the Ray Rice case. He lost on appeal in the Adrian Peterson case. Now, he’s lost on appeal in the Brady case. Whatever power he once held, and it was significant given his law-and-order stance when he took the job, is gone and gone forever. There will come a point when NFL owners, who pay Goodell’s salary, will take a long, hard look at the commissioner and ask the question, “What’s he doing?’’ This was Goodell’s last stand, and he got run over the way the Patriots ran over the Colts in the AFC Title Game.

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There can be no question now that Brady is the ultimate winner, and we’re not just talking about Super Bowls and his ability to score a super model wife. In this case, he was able to have an associate dispose of his cell phone – basically, obstruct justice – and never have to pay the price for that act.

My guess is, they’re having a duck-boat parade in Boston today, thrilled over Brady’s victory in court. And they should be happy. They’ll have their star quarterback for the opener, and presumably all season. This much should not be completely forgotten, though: The Patriots lost a first- and fourth-round draft pick and were fined a million dollars for their misdeeds the Wells Report endeavored to uncover. That is not insignificant, in the slightest. Well, the million dollars is; that’s pocket change for an NFL franchise. But the two draft choices? Those are a very big deal.

Click here to read more about DeflateGate from Bob Kravitz.

In my view, the Patriots won here and the Patriots lost here. They won – or Brady won – because the quarterback will likely play the entire football season. The Patriots lost here because A) they’re still looking at the lost draft choices and B) most of the nation outside of New England continues to believe the Patriots engaged in an effort to create an un-level playing field against the Colts. Outside of New England, I would suggest that people will continue to look at Brady with a jaundiced eye, like a guy who lawyered up (as was his right) and somehow skated despite the fact he attempted to obstruct justice.

So for now…it’s over. But it’s not close to over. The NFL, which needs to restore Goodell’s power and ability to mete out justice, is taking this to another court, as it should. So if you thought you had Deflategate Fatigue before, just stick around.

Click here to read more about DeflateGate from Bob Kravitz.