The NFL dropped the hammer on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on Monday to the tune of a four-game suspension for the key cog of the Super Bowl champions and issuing a $1 million fine along with stripping the team of two draft picks.
Opinion varied around the league from the suspension was a little too heavy handed (ESPN’s Jeff Saturday) to being a little too light according to Keyshawn Johnson.
Incredibly, the 243-page Wells Report that concluded with phrases like “more probable than not” and “generally aware” lacks the teeth to substantially backup the NFL’s strong penalties imposed on Monday evening.
Of course, the league has every right to protect “the integrity of the game” if they feel it is being compromised. However, I’d like to see the NFL properly orchestrate an investigation that delivers information and facts that support the punishment and discipline of players and organizations.
The problem with Brady’s suspension can be accurately summed up in one tweet by Joel Klatt of Fox Sports:
The Ray Rice incident was a tipping point for player discipline issues. When NFL commissioner Roger Goodell originally suspended Rice two games for last spring’s incident, he set a brutal precedent for how players should be disciplined. It took TMZ exposing the second video with Rice actually punching his wife on tape to force Goodell’s hand into a different decision.
As a result, the Brady suspension leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of some and rightfully so. Based off of circumstantial evidence, Brady’s purported transgression is akin to being a first-time violator of the league’s substance abuse policy and more important than a domestic violence issue.
Outside of the Rice decision, one of Goodell’s claims to fame was being heavy-handed in player discipline and doing what was necessary to “protect the Shield.”Yet, even before the Rice situation there was another dubious circumstance. Perhaps Goodell’s most notorious discipline matter prior to the Rice situation came in 2012 when dealing with the New Orleans Saints and Bountygate.
Goodell torched the Saints organization in the participation in a bounty program, which included the year-long suspension of head coach Sean Payton; the indefinite suspension of then-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams; and penalties for general manager Mickey Loomis and assistant coach Joe Vitt. Also, Goodell suspended players Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith, and Scott Fujita for their role in Bountygate. However, all four player suspensions were reduced by appeals court due to insufficient evidence.
For example, Vilma was originally banned for the entire season. Soon after his suspension, Vilma released the following statement:”I am shocked and extremely disappointed by the NFL’s decision to suspend me for the 2012 season. Commissioner Roger Goodell has refused to share any of the supposed evidence he claims supports this unprecedented punishment. The reason is clear: I never paid, or intended to pay, $10,000, or any amount of money, to any player for knocking Kurt Warner, Brett Favre or any other player, out of the 2009 divisional playoff game, 2010 NFC Championship Game, or any other game.”How about Smith, who received a four-game ban?
“I am disappointed the NFL has punished me with a four game suspension. I have never in my career, nor as a Captain asked others, to intentionally target and hurt specific opposing players. I was in no way involved in establishing or assisting Gregg Williams with implementing a bounty program. The accusations made against me are completely and one-hundred percent false, and I plan to appeal the decision along with the help of the NFL Players Association,” he said via statement sent by his publicist.
“Through this entire process, the NFL never notified me of what I was being accused of, nor presented me with any evidence or reasoning for this decision,” Smith’s statement continued. “I am interested in discovering who is making these specific and false accusations, and as well as why a decision was made without speaking with me and giving me the opportunity to review the facts. I am going to work with my union to clear my name and returning to the game I love and respect. Thank you to our fans for the continued support.”
Flashing back to present day, there is a significant lack of definitive evidence (as was the case with the player suspensions in Bountygate) other than the Wells Report extrapolating the meaning of texts and Jim McNally calling himself the Deflator, which in no way implicates anyone in the situation.
The biggest red flag in the proceedings though appear to be Brady’s refusal to turn over e-mails and his cell phone in the investigation.
The “lack of cooperation” appears to be viewed as some form of obstruction of justice. As a result, it appears the league is taking Brady’s unwillingness to play ball as more of a slap in the face than a few balls missing extra PSI.
It’s evident that by putting this much time and energy into the Wells Report that the NFL wanted its pound of flesh at any cost. After all, no one has explained why the Indianapolis Colts played the second half of January’s AFC Championship game with deflated footballs.
In the end, regardless of what you think about the Patriots, this is a dark day for the league.
If you’re going to suspend arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history, you better have more damning and concrete information than floating words around like “more probable than not.”
Now, Brady and the Patriots are ready to dig their heels in on this fight. Soon after the suspension announcement, word came out that Brady planned on appealing the four-game ban.
This could have been prevented by multiple parties. Brady may not have been forthcoming enough in the beginning. Indianapolis could have spoken up a lot sooner than the night before the AFC title game since their claims of chicanery date back to their regular season meeting with the Patriots last November.
Yet, here we stand. A simply outrageous issue is set to head into overdrive. There is no reason for an issue involving air pressure in a ball to hit appeals court.
Now, the NFL may be forced to show some substantial proof (and rightfully so) if they want a four-game ban to stick.
More probable than not, It’s just another day in the Roger Goodell regime.