The quarterback that appears to have everything roll off his shoulders is now shouldered with a big asterisk on his latest Super Bowl win. So what? He and the New England Patriots continue to win.
After Spygate, the Patriots’ latest Super Bowl is sullied with “more probable than not” allegations that at least three of their employees, including Brady, were engaged in intentionally skirting the rules by deflating footballs in their AFC Championship Game win over the Indianapolis Colts.
Detractors and haters – as if the Patriots didn’t have enough of them by simply being the most successful franchise of the last two decades – will decry them as cheaters. Supporters will point to the NFL’s own claim that “it is impossible to determine whether this activity had an effect on the outcome of games or what that effect was.”
Still, the NFL brought down stiff punishment on both Tom Brady and the Patriots. Brady was suspended four games, and the Patriots were fined a record $1 million and had first- and fourth-round draft picks taken away. Yet, both Brady and the team will recover without much effect. It’s what they do and they do it well.
Scout.com’s Colts reporter, Phillip B. Wilson, had worked with the reporter that broke the so-called “Deflategate” story, Bob Kravitz, and had a front-row seat as the story broke following that AFC Championship Game.
“The Gillette Stadium press box was understandably abuzz about the deflated footballs allegation. And given the Patriots' history with Spygate, to be honest, I didn't doubt there was something to it,” Willson said Monday after the penalty was handed down. “I worked with Bob Kravitz, who broke the story, for a dozen years at The Indianapolis Star. I knew someone from the Colts had leaked the story to him. Stories don't fall in the lap of reporters at that hour unless someone important spoke up. Kravitz is tight with Colts owner Jim Irsay and general manager Ryan Grigson.
“Colts fans have been going crazy about ‘Deflategate’ ever since. They seem to forget that their team lost 45-7 in that game, and that the Patriots were forced to play with properly inflated footballs in the second half, when they outscored the Colts 28-0. The weight of the footballs didn't impact this outcome. Fans need to remember that when they're going off about what might have been.”
The NFL said as much in their report on Monday. But clearly Tom Brady, he of “more probable than not” knowledge, must have figured a slightly deflated ball would help his cause. If not, why do it or condone others doing it by doing nothing?
With the Patriots, everyone is watching after Spygate and ready to rat them out, especially AFC opponents that have a chance to meet up with them regularly in the playoffs.
But Brady will rebound. It’s what he does and he does it well. Remember when the stories of his imminent decline were being spewed through the incessant talkers around the league after one month of the 2014 season? The Patriots were “only” 2-2, with Brady throwing four touchdowns and two interceptions in that stretch. More importantly, he had taken nine sacks. But as the criticism mounted about eroding skills, Brady’s response on the field was more important than any shrugging of the shoulder and male-model smiling he did in press conferences.
Brady bullishly responded and the Patriots won their next seven games –meaning game over for the AFC East title—and 10 of their last 12. Did he really need to have footballs deflated to win games? Probably not, but did Bill Belichick need to push the envelope with his use of ineligible receivers or Spygate? No to that, too.
Brady and Belichick are just that good at their respective crafts, and apparently just that competitive to look for advantages—some legal, others, at minimum, untoward.
When it’s illegal in NFL parlance, it brings the bile of those that find it easy to hate those more successful, and there hasn’t been a team as dominant in the Brady tenure as the Patriots.
Brady and the Patriots proved last year that a sluggish four-game start is easily overcome, yet he suffered a deeper penalty than the team.
What’s $1 million to a team that is printing money on the heels of another Super Bowl win? In a $9 billion business, the Super Bowl champions are the ones selling gear to the crowd wanting to be associated with winning glee. The Patriots will hardly feel the sting of the fine in a post-championship year. They can make that up—as if they needed to—by auctioning off the shredded sleeves from Captain Hoodie’s game-day collection.
It was the biggest team fine in NFL history, and still a drop in the bucket compared to what the Patriots surely made off their Super Bowl win. Belichick was fined $500,000 for Spygate and continues to win like few others.
The forfeiture of picks, a first-rounder in 2016 and a fourth-rounder in 2017, will sting only a little for an organization that always seems to uncover talent that fits their schemes in any round of the draft. We all know what round Brady was selected, so to think they will be meaningfully hurt by the loss of a couple picks is foolish folly. And, oh by the way, the Patriots went 11-5 in 2008 without Brady.
But Brady was deflated more than anyone else by the NFL’s discipline, and he probably should be if you believe the text messages between him and the two employees implicated are damning, but he is appealing, for whatever good that does with a league that essentially hears its own appeals.
Brady’s big supporters, with obvious skin in the game, responded.
“The discipline is ridiculous and has no legitimate basis,” his agent, Don Yee, said.
And, just for good measure, if Brady’s suspension is kept at four games after his appeal, his first opponent upon his return is the Colts. The NFL will win with that prime-time matchup, and Brady probably will, too.
“Tom Brady has our unconditional support,” the Patriots said in their own statement that called the investigation one-sided. “Our belief in his has not wavered.”
Why would it? Brady will rebound and the Patriots will be contenders once again at the end of the season. It is, after all, “more probable than not.”
Watch: Dr. Roto calls for the 4-game suspension a week ago