Tom Brady's agent and attorney, Don Yee, released a statement following Roger Goodell's decision to uphold his initial four-game suspension and the gloves are all the way off. Yee called the entire process a "sham," resulting in Goodell simply rubber-stamping his own prior decision. When reading the NFL's 20-page decision on the matter, it's hard not to agree.
The funny thing about this decision, and it is a microcosm of the NFL as a whole, is that it goes to painstaking, pseudo-legal efforts to bolster an argument and decision that is essentially: I mean, come on. He did it! And that is probably true! Tom Brady almost certainly knew what was happening with his footballs but, to brazenly rip off Colonel Nathan Jessup, phone calls and football measurements? Please tell me you have something more, Commissioner.
Just read the decision, all 20 ridiculous pages of it, and you will see a man bend over backwards to show you his serious face. Issues on Appeal the page reads. There are three:
- "Was the decreased air pressure in the footballs the result of tampering or natural environmental factors?"
- "What role, if any, did Mr. Brady have in the scheme to tamper with the footballs?"
- "Did Mr. Brady refuse to cooperate with the investigation?"
Reading the second issue on appeal, the resolution of the first issue is obvious. The section dealing with the air pressure question is simply a rehash of the Wells report with Goodell noting Brady's objections and finding them unconvincing. The explanation of Brady's role, however, is amazing.
Essentially, because Tom Brady called Jim Jastremski after word first broke about the scandal and the talked for a period of time, when they had not communicated by phone ever before, that is proof that Brady knew something. What that something is? We don't know, neither does the NFL. Amazingly, Roger Goodell can think of no reason for this "unusual pattern of communication" other than ones that fit his prior decision. Here are some, just of the top of my head:
- It's two weeks before the Super Bowl.
- There is a big story brewing about the footballs and as quarterback and ball boy, both men deal with footballs quite often.
- Perhaps they want to know what's going on? Possible phone conversation: "Do you know what this is about?" "No, do you?" "What the heck's going on, here?"
- Tom Brady had complete and total trust in his ball handlers, thus never needed to speak to them until they messed up and has no gotten more hands on.
Now, these are just possible explanations. The actual explanation is almost certainly that Tom Brady knew the balls were being deflated, and he was calling his guys to make sure everyone was on the same page, and then destroyed his phone just to be safe. But. There. Is. No. Evidence. At no point in time does Roger Goodell offer anything close to a fact, or tidbit of information that says Tom Brady knew about the "scheme to tamper with the footballs."
Most people don't think Tom Brady is "innocent." Almost anyone with a brain understands that he was somehow involved, but they don't care because they think it's a stupid scandal to begin with, or because the NFL has once again bungled a fairly straight-forward matter. It's OK, and even admirable to want treat things seriously and project an air of authority and control over your game. But if you're going to do that, if you're going to treat this like a legal proceeding with a 20-page opinion explaining your ruling, you need to provide something better than verbal diarrhea that is the rough equivalent of a lawyer standing in court pointing at all his charts and exhibits and saying "Come ahn!"
You can't have it both ways. If you're going to mirror a legal proceeding, you can't just do so when it's convenient for you. That is, unless you are Roger Goodell and the NFL.