When the NFL leaked to the Indianapolis Colts that it was investigating the Patriots for potentially deflated footballs following the AFC Championship game, no one could have expected what was to follow. At the time, the Patriots had just defeated the Colts 45-7 to clinch their 6th AFC Championship trophy. The story then caught a lot of traction in the 24-7 news cycle we now live in. It was almost like September 2007 again, with the Spygaters dubbing this investigation as DeflateGate. Six months later, the investigation has been long over but the story hasn't ended yet.
When the false report of 11/12 footballs measured were 2 PSI came out, that's when the two lines in the sand were drawn. The two sides to this investigation are that the Patriots are cheaters and that the NFL orchestrated this as a witch hunt because the Patriots have been too good for too long and that conflicts with Roger Goodell's parity agenda. The DeflateGate investigation dominated the story line in the two weeks between the AFCCG and the Super Bowl. Bill Belichick had an impromptu press conference the following Thursday, where he described in great detail how the team prepares their footballs for games and theorized that the cold weather and wet conditions are more to blame for a loss in air pressure. After the Patriots flew to Phoenix, owner Robert Kraft challenged the NFL to find the team of any wrongdoing and demanded an apology. The Patriots would later win Super Bowl 49 because of Brady's 37 completions and 4 touchdown passes along with Malcolm Butler making the biggest interception in Super Bowl history. This victory felt the most special of the four, because of how long the team anguished in near-misses in the past 9 seasons.
Then in May, the long anticipated Wells report came out. In carefully worded and language that John Harbaugh would complain (John complains too much) is deceptive, the report mainly places the blame on Tom Brady for being "generally aware" and stating "more probable than not" that the footballs are deflated. The report has been blasted up and down this site as well as a handful of media outlets. Then the punishments were handed out. Brady was suspended 4 games and the team was fined $1M along with a 2016 1st and 2017 4th. That's right about where I lost it. Brady has since appealed it and the NFL is dragging their feet on a decision. Brady's team of lawyers, headlined by NFLPA attorney Jeff Kessler, leaked to the media the ultimatum of full exoneration or see you in court.
I believe that the reason Goodell went with the harsh punishments is because of how poorly he handled the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson cases from last season along with the growing domestic violence and concussion problems. People were losing confidence that Goodell could be an effective commissioner. Federal courts have thrown out Goodell's season-long suspensions on Rice and Peterson because of both suspensions are in excess of the new policy. Rice's 2nd suspension was overturned and Peterson's suspension only ended up 6 games. So Goodell went for the moon. In trying to do that, Goodell has created a mess to which there is no effective way out for him. He's going to catch flak no matter what happens next. If the suspension is not lifted outright, Brady is going to court and will end up playing the season since he'll find a way to push the court hearing into the next offseason. If the suspension is reduced or rescinded, it shows that Goodell is ineffective in the punishment phase and that he's all bluster and no action. Tom Brady has nothing to lose at this point, only Goodell does.
Now the scandal has moved onto a war of media leaks. Since the MLB All-Star break, the media has been reporting that the final decision will come out. It's been 2 weeks since then and there's no ruling yet. That begs the question of why the NFL is dragging their feet on this. Are they trying to run out the clock on Tom Brady (a tactic that most NFL teams have tried and failed at)? I don't think that strategy will work because Brady will just file an injunction to suspend the suspension (for a lack of better words) and play Week 1 anyway. The NFL does not want this going to the courts given how badly they've been burned in the Peterson and Rice cases along with a court in the state of Missouri not recognizing Goodell as an independent party (future impact on cases involving St. Louis and Kansas City to be determined) in these situations. This week is no different, as the NFL punted on a decision yet again. Had the NFL just elected to fine the team $1M without any suspensions or loss of draft picks, this story likely blows over quickly. Instead it has turned into a PR nightmare for the NFL now that Tom Brady and his team of lawyers have backed Goodell into a corner.
I'm not 100% sure how this is going to end up moving forward, but that's a different discussion for a different day. Tom Brady and the other veterans on the team will be reporting training camp next Wednesday (July 29th), then it becomes business as usual. Who knows if the NFL will make its ruling before then, but I do believe Brady will be suiting up and starting against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium on September 10th. The Patriots are looking to defend their title and be the first team to repeat as champions since 2004, when the Patriots won Super Bowl 39. I would expect no less than the 17-19 teams on the Patriots schedule to come at them with their best shot when the games begin.