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DeflateGate, Patriots fill the NFL’s 100 Most Important People rankings

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The Patriots are still at the center of all things NFL.

USA Today compiled a ranking of the NFL’s 100 Most Important People. The New England Patriots are well represented, as are the persons heavily involved in DeflateGate. It’s no surprise that the farce of an investigation led by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell hangs over the league- and it’s with this in mind that we look to the results.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones leads the list, which is fair. He’s taken over for Patriots owner Robert Kraft as the most influential owner, helping lead the Rams transition to Los Angeles and supporting the Raiders move to Las Vegas. Kraft might have led the list, but DeflateGate has dropped his status within the owners as the “new money owners” have control of the league direction.

Goodell comes in second and has his 10 year anniversary as commissioner this fall. He has found a way to handle nothing correctly off the field, yet still drive insane and record-setting profits and revenues. He serves as the league’s punching bag, allowing the owners (including Jones) to have their petty fights behind the scenes to sink the Patriots, yet deflecting all of the blame from the other owners. He’s going to be up for a new contract in the coming years and it will be interesting to see what is in store.

Panthers QB Cam Newton comes in third due to his athletic “gifts and charisma”, and then Patriots head coach Bill Belichick ranks fourth.

“Belichick has built an AFC East champion 13 times, reached the conference championship game 10 times and won four of six Super Bowl appearances in that span,” Nate Davis writes. “It’s a remarkable outlier of a feat in the post-free agency, parity-driven NFL. No other team has appeared in more than three Super Bowls or won more than two since 2000.”

I will continue to say that Belichick is the single-most important asset in the NFL and that his ranking fairly reflects his influence on the Patriots and the rest of the league. His ability to build a team that competes on an annual basis is rivaled only by the 80s and 90s 49ers- the Patriots can tie the 1983-98 49ers for most consecutive winning seasons (16) this year- and the 49ers didn’t have to deal with the salary cap for the bulk of their run.

“Perhaps no team better maximizes the abilities of players who might appear marginally talented – Troy Brown, Tedy Bruschi, Rob Ninkovich, Mike Vrabel, Wes Welker – than Belichick’s football factory.”

Davis should have also highlighted Danny Woodhead and Julian Edelman to collect the whole set (I kid, I kid). But it’s true. Belichick is the best coach in the NFL at circling a player’s strength and playing to them, even within the confines of the Patriots system.

NFLPA director DeMaurice Smith ranks fifth, thanks to his role in constructing the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA)- for better or for worse. USA Today points out that Article 46 in the CBA is the key component in the DeflateGate trial.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft ranks 6th due to his role in grabbing the television contracts that have made the league ridiculously wealthy, and QB Tom Brady ranks 10th.

So six out of the top 10 have some relationship to DeflateGate. Not bad.

NFL VP of officiating Dean Blandino ranks 15th, US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ranks 18th, VP of football operations Troy Vincent ranks 27th, NFLPA lawyer Jeffrey Kessler ranks 38th, general counsel Jeff Pash ranks 43rd, and anthropomorphized garbage dumpster Ted Wells ranks 47th. So major scores for the DeflateGate crew.

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski ranks 50th and is the 12th ranked active player, which kind of reveals how “importance” is defined off the field with football.

“Gronkowski has already set several receiving records for his position and is quickly putting together a Hall-of-Fame resume. But his zany and fun-loving personality have also made him a ubiquitous presence on social media and TV (he’s now got a show on Nickelodeon). He hosted a fantasy cruise in the Bahamas earlier this year, and he’s even the newest cover boy for Madden NFL.”

I’m actually surprised by how few players are on this list. There are 22 active players on the list, but the last three (OT Eugene Monroe, ED Greg Hardy, ED Michael Sam) are all free agents.

Nine quarterbacks made the list, but Saints QB Drew Brees and Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger couldn’t make the cut. Most players that made the list have admirable causes outside of football.

But in the top 50, it’s clear that the Patriots reign supreme. There’s Kraft, Belichick, Brady, and Gronkowski. There are eight other key players in the DeflateGate saga.

It’s a Patriots world and the NFL is just living in it.