Hurley: Roger Goodell’s DeflateGate Punishment Failed

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — The massive punishments handed down on Tom Brady and the Patriots never had anything to do with the “integrity of the game.” They had everything to do with competitive balance, with handicapping a perennial powerhouse, and with wiping the smug smile off Bill Belichick’s face.

This effort by NFL owners via Roger Goodell has failed. Miserably.

The New England Patriots are 3-0, guaranteed to be in first place after Week 4 when the greatest quarterback of all time returns to work. In the meanwhile, Belichick is receiving praise from all corners of the earth after coaching a team quarterbacked by a fresh-faced rookie in prime time to a thoroughly dominant 27-0 victory over a 2-0 football team on Thursday evening.

“Well,” a victorious Belichick said upon strutting to the podium late Thursday evening, “this is a really satisfying win.”

Satisfying indeed, and for more than just the immediately obvious reasons.

Furthering the damage for the small men who determined the over-the-top punishment to be fair is the fact that, realistically, the Patriots are much better off at this point in time than they were four weeks ago. Even if Jimmy Garoppolo doesn’t take another meaningful snap for the rest of the year, he’d be guaranteed to net the Patriots at least a first-round pick in a trade this upcoming offseason. Or, the Patriots could decide to keep him. At this point in time, it sure seems as though the team transitioning from Brady to Garoppolo just might keep the franchise on track for the next decade or so.

Talk about a backfire.

Think about it — if Brady hadn’t been suspended, the Patriots would still likely be 3-0. Yet aside from a few disgusted eye rolls around the country, hardly anyone would pay attention. Garoppolo would remain an unknown commodity with only a moderate value on the trade market. Jacoby Brissett would largely be an unknown. Belichick beating Arizona, Miami and Houston would be seen only as a man doing his job and nothing else greater.

Now, the owners who intentionally chose to overlook blatant instances of misbehavior from NFL officials and the commissioner, owners who were happy to see one of their own fall on the sword all for some poppycock credo about “integrity,” these owners are all feeling a sense of dread on this early autumn Friday morning.

And the Patriots? They’re 3-0, which is a better record than they had to start their Super Bowl-winning campaign in 2014. They know with a fair level of confidence that they have a backup quarterback who can play. Heck, they know their rookie isn’t too shabby, either. They know that, when needed, the defense can win a game on its own. They know that even without Tom Brady, without (an effective) Rob Gronkowski, and without even Garoppolo, teams will still come into Foxboro in nationally televised football games and repeatedly make critical mistakes for all the world to see.

Look, were the Patriots guilty of the charges in the first place? I don’t know. You don’t know. The NFL surely doesn’t know. But this punishment — a four-game suspension to Brady, the forfeiture of a first-round draft pick and a fourth-round draft pick, a $1 million fine — was never about the alleged offense. A drop in air pressure of 0.2 PSI has a less-than-zero effect on a football game, and everyone in football knew that. That’s why the Vikings and Panthers weren’t punished for manipulating footballs in plain view, why the Chargers weren’t punished for the stickum towels, and why nobody in the history of the sport at any level ever faced so much as a slap on the wrist for taking air out of footballs.

This punishment was about trying to catch an organization that wins more than anyone else doing something that could conceivably be interpreted as nefarious. It worked — in theory. Until now.

Theoretically, Brady does stand to have withstood some damage by the time his suspension ends. Some folks will blather on about “legacy” or some other word that sounds lofty but doesn’t actually carry any meaning. Still others will see the short-term success of the team under two inexperienced rookies and believe that the wins are somehow indicative that anybody can win games as the Patriots’ quarterback.

The reality is this: anyone who genuinely believes that a fraction of a PSI had anything to do with Brady’s historic greatness and unparalleled ability to read defenses, shuffle in the pocket, and throw a football on target for 16 years … those people’s opinions simply don’t matter. They don’t understand the sport. Brady’s “legacy” will be that of (at least) a four-time Super Bowl champion, three-time Super Bowl MVP, two-time league MVP, first-ballot Hall of Famer and the winningest person to ever play the most important position in team sports. Tom Brady’s “legacy” remains very much intact among those who matter.

The Patriots are still the Patriots, despite the best efforts of the petty NFL owners and the commissioner.

The DeflateGate punishments failed everybody except for the very people it intended to hurt.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.


One Comment

  1. lyfordjr says:

    “Look, were the Patriots guilty of the charges in the first place? I don’t know. You don’t know. ”

    I certainly do know. If they were guilty, the pressures that the officials recorded at halftime would have been significantly lower than they were. All of the scientific evidence backs up all of the denials. There is no evidence – none at all, zip, zero, nada – that anything untoward took place.

    1. We don’t know lyfordjr and neither do you. The PSI readings were never recorded before the game. Without those readings, nothing can be inferred or extrapolated from the half time readings.

      The whole deflategate debacle is supposition with a little shade thrown in by the NFL.

  2. “Look, were the Patriots guilty of the charges in the first place? I don’t know. You don’t know.”

    Of course we know. 21 professors at 10 universities–including MIT, Penn and Stanford–examined and dismissed Exponent’s work in the Wells report as a “scientifically worded surmise” with no scientific basis. Literally every scientist who wasn’t on the NFL’s payroll that examined the Wells report in detail has dismissed it as a disgrace; science fully explains the pressure loss in the Patriot game balls. Write it with confidence: there was no cheating.

  3. Ronnie Dodge says:

    Mr.Hurley you have just written the best article I have ever read. I look forward to the article after the Superbowl. Cheers brother.

  4. Gabby says:

    I don’t believe it failed. Rules and consequences. You think that Goodall’s point was to see the Pats fail? No way. His intent should be the integrity of the game. (I am not here to debate the punishment) What I think this shows? The true Grit of the Patriots and that they are an unbelievable team. And I do agree they should be raising the trophy on Superbowl Sunday. This is an amazing team.

    1. laddy says:

      Yes Gabby, there should be consequences for breaking rules but this was a witch hunt to try to damage the team that keeps winning. First of all in that game, the Patriots did not gain any advantage in the first half when the balls were supposedly tampered with and the refs, whom held the ball more than anyone didn’t notice the difference. Then there was no solid proof, Brady just finally was fed up with the witch hunt and decided to take the ridiculous punishment and get it over with. How come NFL players whom have been literally caught on tape beating their wives/children or girlfriends have not had the same steep punishment. What about the players involved in shootings and or dog fights? How about the teams caught with sticky towels like the article said or worse deflated balls? So amazing no-one can explain why Brady’s punishment was so steep and the others a slap on the wrist. Not to mention recently the Patriots player supposedly failing the drug test getting a four game suspension for first offense but the other NFL player with previous offenses only getting a one game suspension. This was a witch hunt that has failed!!!

      This article was one of the most well-written fact filled article I have seen and kudos to a reporter that finally wrote an unbiased article. Even if the Patriots don’t get to the Superbowl they have proven that they know how to play the game and they are a class act organization. They have taken a second string QB and beat two teams…they were gunning to hurt Garoppolo and they succeeded but hmmmm guess what, that doesn’t stop them. They took a 3rd string Rookie and beat another team! No matter what their record ends up as, they have proven that they are AMAZING and the rest of the league should stop whining and just play the damn game!

  5. Amazing article. Well-written, concise and thoroughly truthful. #GoPats

  6. Admin says:

    I have to say if anything this will help Brady he is 39, and no matter how well he maintains his body having a 4 week rest at the beginning of the season will keep his body fresh down the stretch in the playoffs. I think he and Bill made a decision to just drop it, put the distractions aside, and take the suspension at the best possible time for the team and his long term health.

  7. Well said. The Patriots organization did not deserve this. Justice will be an undefeated season capped with a Superbowl win.

  8. KK says:

    So, are you saying that rewriting a maximum $25,000 fine into a 1 million dollar four game QB suspension was less than legit?

  9. mfgr says:

    Going after Brady was ultimately about the League owners and Goodell flexing their muscles and sending a message that under the current CBA if Brady isn’t safe from attack, no player is.

    Ultimately the NFL wants to use this as a bargaining chip to force the NFLPA into giving up something big such as extending the season to 18 games in return for a reduction of Goodell’s dictatorial power.

  10. Momo says:

    Great article and so on point. Factual, truthful & concise.
    I do have to wonder how this article would be received outside of Patriots Nation. Die-hard fans can see what has happened at the hands of Goodell. The organization is hated across the country for what they have accomplished. We get knocked down – and we get up again. Boy it is great to be a Pat’s fan!!

  11. jaimee says:

    SCREW Goodell! he is a hack who is worthless as they come….he should be suspended from his job!

  12. David Rutigliano says:

    this may be the greatest article ever written!! thank you!!

  13. “Look, were the Patriots guilty of the charges in the first place? I don’t know. You don’t know.”

    Deflategate has been debunked thoroughly and completely.
    Numerous scientists from around the country have analyzed the numbers in the Wells report and stated explicitly and unanimously that there is no evidence of tampering. Also, a number of others have written critiques of the Wells report that rip it to shreds identifying an appalling amount of deceit and fraud in the Wells report. The only people who still believe that Brady and the Pats are
    guilty of anything are those that are unwilling or incapable of reading and understanding the Wells report and the numerous critiques of the report.
    The first time ever that the nfl measured football pressures during a game, they were completely unprepared to understand the data
    they saw. Their expectation was that if a football measured 12.5 psi in the warm locker room it should measure the same on the cold field. By now even the semi-literate should understand that is not true. The very first moment the nfl saw a football measure below 12.5 on the field they made an assumption of guilt which, they did not know at the time, was not consistent with science. They ran with that assumption until it was too late to fess up.

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