Follow Jeff on Twitter @BostonFatGuy
On Monday news came out that the NFL and NFLPA were not able to reach a settlement in the ongoing Deflategate saga. Judge Richard Berman explained to both parties he would have a ruling on the court hearing on Tuesday or Wednesday. Are we any closer to the end of the NFL’s version of Texas Hold’em or will Goodell keep raising in hopes that Brady will fold?
We are now eight months removed from the Patriots dominating the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game. Time has passed and a week and a half before the NFL’s 2015 season is set to start, the end of the 2014 season is all anyone can talk about. Monday’s proceedings were just another example of how deflategate has made a mockery out of the NFL and its most recognizable super star. Whether you are pro NFL or defending the wall and pro Brady, everyone realizes that this has been going on too long.
Is there an end in sight? Most likely not. If Judge Berman rules in favor of the NFL and stays the decision of Roger Goodell to uphold the four game suspension of Tom Brady, the NFLPA will most likely appeal to a higher court. If Berman rules in favor of Brady and the NFLPA, we may see the NFL appeal to a second district court, continuing to hold onto their article 46 claim. The fact remains that we shouldn’t still be debating an equipment violation close to a year after the fact.
Brady and his council, Jeffrey Kessler have admitted that Brady could have cooperated more with the Wells investigation. They have tried to appease the court by taking some responsibility. Goodell and the NFL have not. Goodell is coming off of the worst season a commissioner could have. Goodell is a man trying to save face, after domestic violence issues involving Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy. Goodell has been panned by every NFL fan at one point or another. He is banking on, that by sticking to his guns on Brady, the star quarterback of the leagues most hated team, he may continue to improve his approval rating in the other 31 markets. The NFL never believed the Patriots and Brady were innocent until proven guilty. Instead they spent millions trying to prove what they believed was true.
Despite growing scientific evidence that footballs do lose air pressure in atmospheric change, the NFL still believes that Brady had someone deflate balls. Despite new NFL rules on how to handle balls moving forward, the NFL is still assuming that the Patriots are guilty. Despite all the legal analysts, including judge Berman who have poked holes in the NFL’s arguments, the NFL is holding steadfast. Goodell is holding steadfast.
While the CBA’s article 46 allows Goodell to be the arbitrator, an independent arbiter has been used more often than not. Goodell denied the NFLPA’s request to have himself recused as arbiter. The move is the only move he had to save face. Goodell more than anyone has dragged this on. Goodell needed good press at the end of the season, and what better than to find the Patriots guilty. Leaking a false report on the amount of air pressure lost in each football to ESPN’s Chris Mortonsen started a chain reaction. The report instantly proved the Patriots guilty in the eye of public opinion.
In May when the Wells report came out, and it found Brady was more probable than not to at least be generally aware of the ball deflation, the NFL was already in too deep. Goodell was in too deep. The Wells report cleared the Patriots organization of any wrong doing, yet they were still fined one million dollars and a first and fourth round draft pick. Brady was suspended four games. Despite the holes in the Wells report, Goodell used the old sleight of hand trick, he had the public talking about the huge fine and discipline levied against Brady and the Patriots, while in the other hand he hid the inaccuracies of the Wells Report. Goodell staying on as arbiter in the case, assured him that the discipline on Brady would not be overturned. Despite all the evidence, science and under oath testimony, Goodell upheld the suspension, and even charged Brady as being the ringleader in a conspiracy to deflate balls.
Goodell and NFL lawyer Daniel Nash had to devise a plan to push this all the way to where it is, in hopes that Brady would give up his fight and accept his punishment. The punishment on Brady was revealed on May 11th. The NFLPA formally issued its appeal on May 15th. Goodell then knew that his next move had to be to stall and hope to wait out Brady. How else do we explain the 43 days between the discipline being handed out and Goodell hearing the NFLPA’s appeal? After the appeal another 35 days passed before Goodell upheld the suspension of Brady. That is eleven weeks to decide on an appeal over ball pressure.
There has been no urgency on the part of Roger Goodell to end this high stakes poker match. Goodell has slow played his hand from the beginning. He has raised each time Brady and the NFL have checked. Now all the chips are in the middle, and Brady and the NFLPA have called Roger’s bluff. Only Bermen turning over the “river” will tell us if Goodell has overplayed his hand.