Let's get to the most important part of this latest news: Tom Brady destroying his cellphone.
In its decision to deny Brady's appeal of a four-game suspension for his role in Deflategate, the NFL alleges the Patriots quarterback willfully obstructed the investigation, citing the cellphone. On the day he was supposed to meet with investigator Ted Wells, Brady stuck his phone in a blender. Or he hit it with a chainsaw. Or he gave it to his assistant to destroy. Something like that. However he did it, he obliterated the phone.
So, pause here for a moment.
Go back to the league's investigation. The NFL's cops wanted to talk to Brady, and Brady knew they would likely ask about the phone. So what did he do? He got rid of it.
Now, Brady didn't have to turn over the phone. He could have told the NFL to screw off. But this isn't about rights or what's legal. This is about appearance. And why would someone who's not guilty be nuking his phone?
All he had to do was just tell the NFL, "No." And he did—so why destroy the cellphone?
It goes back to an old saying: The cover-up is worse than the crime.
Here's what the league stated in its final decision:
The most significant new information that emerged in connection with the appeal was evidence that on or about March 6, 2015—the very day that he was interviewed by Mr. Wells and his investigative team—Mr. Brady instructed his assistant to destroy the cellphone that he had been using since early November 2014, a period that included the AFC Championship Game and the initial weeks of the subsequent investigation. During the four months that it was in use, almost 10,000 text messages were sent or received by Mr. Brady using that cellphone. At the time that he arranged for its destruction, Mr. Brady knew that Mr. Wells and his team had requested information from that cellphone in connection with their investigation. Despite repeated requests for that information, beginning in mid-February 2015 and continuing during his March 6, 2015, interview by investigators, information indicating that Mr. Brady might have destroyed his cellphone was not disclosed until months later, on June 18, 2015, and not confirmed until the day of the hearing itself.
Again, a quick pause. The cellphone was destroyed after the NFL requested the information on it. Brady claims that he always destroys his phones, but that's no excuse here. He destroyed this one knowing the NFL wanted the data on it.
I had heard some time ago that the NFL had new evidence. Now we know what it was. Now we also now why Roger Goodell upheld the four-game suspension. He had no choice. Brady was playing a conniving shell game with his phone.
So now comes a basic question: Do you believe Brady?
"Unless you happen to be an apologist or a fan of the Patriots," Bill Polian said on ESPN, "it's pretty hard to point fingers at the NFL. They went by the book."
The NFL doesn't have subpoena power. It can't go to the phone company and get the records. It has to rely on the cooperation of Brady. The NFL is big on cooperation and became that way, intensely, after another Patriots scandal: Spygate.
This is why Polian called the destruction of the phone something that "just shocks me." I know Polian has reason to be biased, as a former exec for the rival Bills and Colts, but he's also right.
Because, basically, the phone was one of the few ways for the NFL to see the truth, and Brady destroyed it. Knowing the league wanted it. This was anti-cooperation.
One more thing needs to be singled out from the decision. Neither of the two Patriots game-day officials—one of whom took the balls into a private bathroom before the game, according to the Wells Report—were called as witnesses by the union at the appeal hearing. The NFLPA declined an opportunity for those two individuals to be heard by the commissioner before he made his decision. That also speaks volumes.
So now, likely, comes the next phase: the court fight. Brady probably will take the fight to federal court, meaning this case is far from over. In fact, it could go on for months more.
Unless one thing happens.
What Brady needs to do—in order to avoid what will be a nasty fight, a sort of civil war—is just come clean.
No reasonable, non-biased person believes Brady. His side of the story simply strains credibility too much. Maybe he does always destroy his cellphones, maybe it was within his rights to withhold the phone anyway, but to destroy it knowing that league investigators wanted it on the day he's meeting with them?
We've all screwed up. I have. Everyone has. It's time to move on from this screwup.
That probably won't happen. Brady will probably go to federal court, and he and a team of lawyers will do court muay thai. It will likely be a legendary fight, tearing apart the league from the inside. The only winners will be the lawyers. Big bank, baby.
The way to avoid that is for Brady to finally admit his wrongdoing, take his punishment and sit his ass down. End this nasty fight that will only get uglier. If he doesn't—if he does the expected and fights a symbolic fight—the league will suffer.
Here is what Brady should do:
Call a press conference. Say he wants to apologize. He was wrong. He misled people. He's sorry. Take no questions. Then drop the fight and move on with life.
One day, Tom Brady will go into the Hall of Fame, and if he ends this now, it'll be a distant memory on that day.
But fighting, saying he's innocent when the evidence shows that's not the case, makes him look Lance Armstrong-ish. His story is not believable, and everyone's tired of the drama it's causing. If he keeps fighting, he'll be remembered as causing more fissures at a time when the league's image is already cracking. He will still go into the Hall—he is, to me, the best quarterback ever—but that other part, the deflating part, will get more play in his career story.
Just admit it, Tom. End this. Move on.
So the league you love can do the same.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.