1. The Pats will still be great
You do understand what's going to happen, right? It's predictable. It's the most predictable thing that will happen during this entire Deflategate mess.
The Patriots will get to another Super Bowl. Probably win it, too.
There is no team in all of sports, maybe in the history of sports, that feeds on us-versus-the-world like the Patriots. Tom Brady is the warp drive of that mentality. This is the same guy who cried when speaking about being overlooked in the 2000 draft.
We saw some of that defiance in the Super Bowl. Oh, you really think I won all of these games because of deflated footballs? OK. Sure. Just keep thinking that as you watch me light up this elite Seattle secondary.
The Super Bowl against the Seahawks was one of Brady's finest moments, fueled by the words of his critics. We will see that again this coming season. It will be Brady's redemption season.
Consider how perfectly it's all set up:
• The AFC East still stinks. No one is ready—yet—to take the division from the Patriots. Not Miami. Not Buffalo. Certainly not the Jets. Even if the Patriots lose every one of the four games Brady could potentially be suspended, it won't blow their shot of winning the division. And winning the division is the launching point for making a deep playoff run.
• Brady will probably be gone just two games. It's possible that Brady serves the entire four. But the league hasn't had great luck on initial suspensions. Ray Rice won his appeal. Adrian Peterson won his. Even if he somehow serves all four, these are the Patriots' first four games next year: home against Pittsburgh, at Buffalo, home against Jacksonville and then at Dallas. That's not easy, but it's also not overly nasty.
• It's not like they really would go 0-4 without Brady, even if he missed all four games. Jimmy Garoppolo is supposed to be pretty good—emphasis on supposed to be, because who the hell knows (his career stats in the NFL are 19-of-27 for 182 passing yards, one touchdown and zero picks; that's, um, pretty insignificant)—and the last time Brady missed time, the Patriots went 11-5 playing the backup.
• They still have Bill Belichick. This is the biggest factor. He's the best coach the sport has ever seen. Belichick is like Brady in that he is at his best when things are at their worst, and this moment certainly counts.
• They started 2-2 last year. Remember when so many people wrote them off? Wrote Brady off? What'd they do? They circled the damn wagons. Going 2-2 motivated them to win a Super Bowl. Imagine how motivated the Patriots will be because of Deflategate.
The Patriots deserved to be punished harshly. The league's actions were justified. This will hurt the organization for sure. But it's not a fatal wound. These are the Patriots. They don't die. They just keep winning.
2. Would Robert Kraft sue the league?
The severity of Commissioner Roger Goodell's punishments has to be considered bold, first because he potentially lost his greatest ally in Patriots owner Robert Kraft—one owner I spoke to, who asked not to be identified, said the relationship between Goodell and Kraft is practically dead—and second because it could even lead Kraft to take legal action against the league.
But it seems that Kraft is so angry, it's remotely possible he takes some kind of action.
3. The draft pick is the biggest issue for the Patriots
I think the worst part about the punishment isn't the temporary loss of Brady but the permanent loss of a first-round pick. The Patriots under Belichick haven't been great at picking in the first round, but those picks are still like gold-pressed latinum. Losing one is simply devastating. Worse than losing Brady, and far worse than losing $1 million.
4. The Captain America Factor
One of the more amazing things about Deflategate was how it served as another example of the cognitive dissonance between fans and their heroes who are caught in wrongdoing.
We see it repeatedly in sports. Alex Rodriguez was clearly a drug cheat, but some Yankees fans still believed his story. Ryan Braun failed a drug test. Cheated his ass off. Clearly guilty. Some Brewers fans, despite the evidence staring them in the face, still believed Braun. Lance Armstrong lied for decades. Clearly cheating. Had a dedicated fanbase that believed him.
On and on it goes. The suspension of critical thinking is something that crosses racial lines. There were just as many lemmings who believed Barry Bonds actually did think he was taking flaxseed oil as there were Mark McGwire super believers.
We're seeing it now with Tom Brady.
Part of this is the media's fault (including me). Brady is a great player—I've said before he's the greatest quarterback to ever play the game, and Deflategate doesn't change that—but we've built him up to be superhuman. A man without faults. Perfect. This results in fans believing he would never cheat because they think of him as infallible. It's the Captain America Factor. It goes beyond the usual fan zealousness and extremism when it comes to Brady.
That's the only explanation of fans not believing the Wells Report. No rational human being can read that report—especially the part where the one dude calls himself The Deflator—and think Brady wasn't involved in purposely deflating footballs.
Brady is like the other stars. He's been raised to deity level, and people have forgotten that he's just a man. Fallible like the rest of us. Like Braun. Like A-Rod. Like Armstrong. Like all of us.
5. A mystery Deflategate team?
Conversations with team officials revealed two things about Deflategate not generally known. First, as one stated, "large swaths of the league" contacted Wells with tales of Patriots cheating, but he didn't use much of that information in his report. My guess is that's because A) the info wasn't relevant to the case; and B) it was unusable because it couldn't be proved—or was just flat-out false.
Second, after Deflategate first broke (and possibly during Wells' investigation), there was apparently one team raising more hell with the league than the rest—and it wasn't the Colts or Ravens. My sources wouldn't say who that team was, so the best we can do is guess.
6. Good for Bob Kravitz
WTHR Sports' Bob Kravitz, who broke the Deflategate scandal after the AFC Championship Game, had scathing words for Boston fans and media after the Wells Report was released. His assessment certainly doesn't apply to all local media covering the Patriots, but it definitely does to some.
It really was quite disturbing to see some of the writers act as defenders of the Patriots—as their PR. Especially since the Patriots have their own PR wing. They're good. They don't need any help.
7. NFL players: Get your cash
In Jacksonville, it was a simple 11-on-11 drill. The contact was minimal, the normal level of NFL violence not there, and still, Dante Fowler Jr.'s knee buckled. In the span of a few seconds, in his first NFL practice, he tore his ACL and was gone for the year.
Soon after the Fowler news broke, rookie tight end Jeff Heuerman also obliterated his ACL during a non-contact practice in Denver.
Two teams. Two rookies. Two non-contact drills. Two destroyed ACLs.
This is what every fan who yells about overpaid players should remember. For these guys, it can all end in an instant.
I know that men and women of the military or police officers or firefighters or others can lose their lives in an instant. But this is a conversation about football.
The loss of Fowler and Heuerman are lessons. Small lessons and there are bigger ones, but these are still excellent lessons nonetheless. It goes to something I've been saying for some time: Every player should get every penny he can.
Team doesn't want to pay you what you're worth? Hold out. Get that cash.
This isn't about rookies specifically (their rookie deals are slotted). I'm talking players in general. We see them get concussed, suffer broken limbs, get CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), get addicted to painkillers, among many other things. They have a good life, but their careers can end in a moment.
This passage from the National Law Review (via collegeandprosportslaw.com) about former USC wide receiver Marqise Lee and how loss-of-value insurance doesn't always work is also instructive:
Lee, once projected as a first-round pick, purchased loss-of-value insurance in August 2013. He paid a $94,600 premium for $9.6 million in coverage. Lee believed that the coverage protected him if his draft position dropped and he signed a rookie contract worth significantly less than that projected $9.6 million amount. Lee injured his left knee just two games into the 2013 season. As a result of the injury, Lee's draft position dropped to the 39th overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft. Ultimately, he signed a contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars for $5.17 million. Lee filed an insurance claim and attempted to collect on the policy but was unable to do so as the insurance company raised a defense that Lee had misled them with regard to pertinent medical information. In March 2015, Lee, along with a former USC teammate facing a similar issue, sued the insurance company over their failure to honor the policy.
So even if you have insurance, there's a chance the insurance company won't pay.
Some rookies learn that valuable lesson, even then. The lesson: Get that cash.
8. Genuinely feeling bad for Jaguars
I remember when I was working in Jacksonville, and I was in the office of then-general manager James Harris. We were watching tape of Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones. The tape on him was unbelievable.
He was making plays all over the field. The speed…the ability…the athleticism. It was incredible. It was clear the Jaguars were going to take him, and I thought, "This guy is going to be a star."
He wasn't. He was a total bust. He was drafted in the first round in 2005, played four seasons, was suspended for substance abuse and never played another down of football again.
I don't have affection for any team, really. Once you see the sausage made, type of deal. But if there was one, it would be the Jaguars. I feel horrible for them and their fans, because when you look at the injury to Fowler, two things stand out: the horrible luck of the team and just how hard it is to draft.
They've picked in the top 10 each of the past eight years. Look at how they've fared:
|2015||3||Dante Fowler Jr.||Injured in his first practice|
|2014||3||Blake Bortles||Still don't know|
|2013||2||Luke Joeckel||Bust so far|
|2012||5||Justin Blackmon||Gigantic bust|
|2011||10||Blaine Gabbert||Eternal bust|
|2010||10||Tyson Alualu||Solid career|
|2009||8||Eugene Monroe||Decent player but traded to Ravens in 2013|
|2008||8||Derrick Harvey||Eight sacks in three years, then cut|
The players they've picked have been considered talented by almost everyone in the league. Still, their recent first-round picks have been mostly unbelievably bad.
The last truly good first-round pick the Jaguars made was tight end Marcedes Lewis in 2006.
Eight straight years in the top 10, and almost nothing to show for it. That's just…sad.
9. NFL getting revenge against ESPN?
SportsBusiness Journal executive editor Abraham Madkour posed an interesting question after the NFL schedule release last week: "It's clear that ESPN has the weakest of the NFL's three prime-time schedules for the upcoming season. But is that a payback from its relentless editorial coverage of the league's tumultuous past 12 months?"
Could that even be remotely possible? Would the NFL punish ESPN for its coverage of the league's problems the past year? It doesn't make sense. Sure, the NFL gets super pissed at certain coverage (including mine), but the league punishing a crucial partner seems a bit much. The biggest reason being the league would be hurting its own product, which would just be dumb.
10. Thanks Obama
Michael Barbaro @mikiebarb
Christie spent $82,000 of taxpayer money on food at NFL games. http://t.co/itVhgg4RWC5/11/2015, 11:12:17 AM
That's a lot of taxpayer-expensed grub, Governor Christie.
But really: How does anyone spend 82 G's on stadium food? Even over a period of a few years? How is it possible?
Well, look at the suites at Cowboys games, for example. There's this passage that discusses food and drink: "Suite Experience Group clients typically spend between $1,000-$2,000 for catering, with some clients spending even more if they order significant amounts of alcohol."
So that's how it's done.
Hope the booze was awesome.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.