Last weekend, I was chatting with a buddy and came up with a perfect solution to the Tom Brady appeal debacle: Brady accepts a one game suspension (or a record fine) and says nothing more than “I should have done more; I’m sorry for my lack of cooperation”; the NFL drops the Deflategate issue at large, and everyone moves on; no one cares about this anymore, including the Colts. Alas, the NFL apparently offered him just that, and he said, “no, I’m Tom Brady!” and refused to admit anything about anybody.
Now, let me make one thing clear: the NFL made a public relations flub by pre-emptively going to court in Manhattan, which is a sharp move, legally the smart move, but ultimately a move that looks like bullying, if not controlling, an employee who has been the face of your league, whether you like it or not. The decision to fully uphold the four game suspension appears, to my eyes, petty, like Roger Goodell is trying to score brownie points with the owners who are not Robert Kraft, and possibly trying to represent the majority who hate the Patriots and their success. If Goodell had reduced the suspension, it would have actually given the NFL the moral high ground; they could say, “look we recognize we didn’t have a completely solid case, and as such, am reducing the suspension to make clear that non-cooperation will not be tolerated.” It also would have made Brady look petty for threatening legal action, and given them a better argument in court. It also would have ended all comparisons to Greg Hardy’s four game suspension for domestic violence, which subsequently got more press as a result.
Where did Brady screw up so bad? Let’s face facts: the NFL wanted a mea culpa, and it would not have effected Brady’s legacy if he admitted to minor wrongdoing, apologized, and said “onto training camp!” He failed to recognize that the massive court cases, likely to be merged into one case in Manhattan district court within the week, will reflect badly on him far worse than the NFL, and ultimately could cost him games at a critical part of the season. Furthermore, it seems like he failed to recognize that the destroyed cell phone, while ultimately a red herring, would be used like a noose to hang him, or at least distract the public. Brady, and his people, seriously lacked vision on what was coming in the approaching days after the announcement. The totality of the story makes him look like a child, crying because he can’t go the ball game after failing to do his chores. Considering how mangled the Wells investigation was, and how little they actually proved, Brady could have avoided the whole discussion about footballs and cell phones, and just plead down to a citation, effectively.
Let’s get one thing straight: Belichick has Tom Brady’s back. I can understand him, at the start of training camp with a million things going on, not wanting to discuss Brady’s suspension, and furthermore, wanting to focus on the team at large. He has a tall task ahead of him: managing the huge camp with distractions galore, per the usual routine; you don’t need to have seen Hard Knocks to know that. Something tells me that the two of them have spoken about it, and Brady may even have been the one to tell him to initiate radio silence on the topic. Furthermore, apparently Robert Kraft has advised the team, post-start of training camp, to not discuss it anymore*, which is the smart move given the sharp rhetoric going on.
The NFLPA likely needs to get Brady to agree to a settlement, something made more apparent since the judge overseeing the case has told both sides (as of July 30, 2015) that they should seek a non-litigation resolution. Given the NFLPA’s happiness over having a neutral arbitrator, I foresee that being a sticking point during the next round of CBA negotiations, because as more cases like this occur, the NFLPA will more and more say, “nope, we want a neutral arbiter on all appeals, and not one the NFL picks.” That said, the NFL and NFLPA would do well to reach a swift settlement; this story has dragged way too long, and needs to be ended. Like yesterday.
*according to Belichick at press conference, July 30, 2015