When Ted Wells released his findings regarding the now infamous Deflategate involving the New England Patriots along with their quarterback Tom Brady, fans of the New Orleans Saints rejoiced.
After being accused of having a bounty system in place, Who Dat’s could merely watch as their team was stripped of two second round draft picks(2012 and 2013) and lost head coach Sean Payton for 2012 due to a suspension.
GM Mickey Loomis and linebackers coach Joe Vitt were handed down suspensions along with players such as Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Anthony Hargrove, and Scott Fujita.
Hargrove who had signed with the Green Bay Packers was released due to his eight game suspension and his career spiraled from there.
It was like watching the opening of the old T.V. series “Branded” with the accused cowardly soldier, played by Chuck Connors, being stripped of his uniform and having his saber broken in two.
Jan 30, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a press conference for Super Bowl XLIX at the Phoenix Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell used words like “integrity” to validate the reasoning behind the harsh punishments and vowed to protect the shield of the NFL.
Goodell told ESPN’s Adam Scheffer in an interview that the Saints “continued to mislead” investigators in the Bounty scandal.
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Fast forward to Wells releasing his findings on Wednesday and Saints fans were rubbing their hands together to see what will happen with the Patriots.
The Patriots had their own version of being “branded” as cheaters after the team and head coach Bill Belichick were hit with a fine and loss of a first round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft where they were involved in Spygate.
Spygate of course refers to the incident in 2007 where the Patriots were accused of videotaping the New York Jets defensive coaches signals.
Another thing that fans are giddy about is that Goodell will now have to pass judgment on the team whose owner, Robert Kraft, he was extremely close to and seen in numerous pictures acting like old college buddies.
Feb 1, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft celebrates after the victory over the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
That brings up a point that Sports Illustrated’s Peter King wrote in an article from Thursday morning:
"The other 31 teams are watching very closely what Goodell does in this case. If he fines the organization but does not come down hard on Brady, other owners will feel that their suspicions that the close bond between Goodell and New England owner Robert Kraft (well, it used to be a close bond, before this investigation frayed it) played a role in the league taking it easy on New England."
King mentions Brady because the Wells report also said “based on the totality of the evidence, that it is more probable than not that Brady was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities.”
Feb 2, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (left) and New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during the Super Bowl XLIX-Winning Head Coach and MVP Press Conference at Media Center-Press Conference Room B. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
That’s a nice way of saying….”he knew”.
Also King noted that,
"According to the Wells report, an examination of Jastremski’s phone found that he and Brady had not spoken or texted for six months before the morning after the AFC championship. When the story broke that that the league was looking into claims of doctored football, the two men then spoke six times over the next three days, for a total of 55 minutes."
The Jastremski individual mentioned is Patriots equipment assistant John Jastremski who along with Jim McNally, the Patriots officials locker room attendant, are accused of altering the psi in the footballs the Patriots used.
Brady denied knowing McNally but both Jastremski and McNally both contradicted that in statements to the NFL investigators (some might call that Brady “misleading”…sound familiar?)
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As King pointed out it’s odd that prior to the Deflategate story Brady and Jastremski hadn’t spoken or text for six months then after the story surfaces the two spoke for almost an hour.
Although this evidence is circumstantial, Goodell doesn’t need concrete proof to pass punishment down onto the Patriots organization which is the exact opposite of what you’ll find in a criminal case.
Yes, Goodell can hammer the Patriots, although Belichick and Kraft have been “cleared”, as well as Brady.
“Could” being the operative word though…
Apr 23, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft (L) and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick (R) walk to the stakeout position to speak with the media after a ceremony honoring the 2014 Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots on the South Lawn at the White House. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
I really don’t see any harsh penalties coming for the Patriots organization itself since both Belichick and Kraft aren’t indicted as being conspirators for deflating the footballs.
But as NFL Network reporter Albert Breer mentioned yesterday:
But wait..I almost forgot. The Wells report did say on page 20:
"The Patriots provided cooperation throughout the investigation, including by making personnel and information available to us upon request. Counsel for the Patriots, however, refused to make Jim McNally available for a follow-up interview requested by our investigative team on what we believed were important topics, despite our offer to meet at any time and location that would be convenient for McNally. Counsel for the Patriots apparently refused even to inform McNally of our request. We believe the failure by the Patriots and its counsel to produce McNally for the requested follow-up interview violated the club’s obligations to cooperate with the investigation under the Policy on Integrity of the Game & Enforcement of League Rules and was inconsistent with public statements made by the Patriots pledging full cooperation with the investigation."
Evan Woodbery of NOLA.com summed the situation up in a very neat and tidy way:
In regards to Brady, he most likely could face a fine and/or suspension although there is no “concrete” evidence to show he ordered the footballs altered.
But there is still the issue of Brady claiming to not know who McNally is while both McNally and Jamtremski stated otherwise….oh yes.. and the feverish calls to Jamtremski after the investigation starts.
Still, even if Brady is suspended, I only see possibly 2 games(4 max) and would be floored if it went beyond that.
If Goodell is serious about protecting the “integrity” of the shield, he’ll think long and hard about the fact that this is the second time the Patriots organization has been before him for accusations of a cheating for a “competitive advantage”.
While Saints fans may not get the punishment that they feel the Patriots and Brady deserve, they should take solace in something else.
The man who “branded” their team is likely in a lose/lose situation after painting himself into corner with setting numerous precedents.
Goodell’s relationship and trust with players(already at a low) and 31 other teams hinges on the upcoming decision with the Patriots.
Spare the rod and he’s a hypocrite but pound the Patriots along with their golden child and his already fractured relationship, as Peter King mentioned, with Robert Kraft is completely shattered.
The deflated ball is in his court now…..