By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — “Not again!” the people cry.
“I don’t want to go through all of that again!” they scream.
“Really? PSI? Didn’t we already do that?” they curse.
Well guess what, nerds? Deflated football talk is back — and it’s back big!
OK, the second part is a blatant lie, because for whatever reason nobody cares about the Giants making the exact same accusations against the Steelers as the Colts made against the Patriots, and nobody cares that the two Steelers footballs measured inside the range of measurements from the Patriots footballs.
It’s literally the same exact thing, except instead of 18 months of constant coverage, a four-game suspension on a star quarterback, a relentless pursuit of that star quarterback by a bellicose commissioner, a $1 million fine and the loss of a first- and fourth-round draft picks, we’ve got … nothing.
Well, we’ve got a hastily written note — check that, a screenshot of a hastily written note — from NFL PR man Brian McCarthy. The note mistakenly used the term “chain of command” instead of “chain of custody.” And that was that.
Look — I know that no sane person wants to sit down and talk PSI, Ideal Gas Law, Ted Wells, “logo gauge,” Walt Anderson, Jim McNally and right on down the line. It was exhausting in real time and there’s very little desire to go back. I get it. I do.
But you have to understand, in defiance of all logic and common sense, the air pressure inside of a football was made out to be one of the greatest offenses to the “integrity” of the game in the history of football. The almighty commissioner climbed atop this PSI hill and decided it was where he must dig in his heels and take a stand.
After all, the integrity of the game was at stake. It was a fight that, simply, had to be fought. Roger Goodell humbly volunteered to lead the charge.
And it wasn’t just as if Goodell was going through the motions of procedure. He was carefully orchestrating every aspect of this story, from the savvy hiring of Ted Wells to write a 200-plus page press release, to the devious omission of NFL executive VP Jeff Pash’s involvement in editing that league-issued release, to the self-appointment as “unbiased arbiter” of Brady’s appeal hearing, to the leaking of the destroyed cell phone story, to the hiring of Paul Clement, to the comparisons of having marginally underinflated footballs to taking steroids or purposely losing games, to ultimately winning the whole thing in an appeals court and getting the satisfaction of victory while watching that quarterback miss a month of a football season.
Perhaps the most illuminating comment on Goodell’s mind-set during the all-out assault on Brady came in May of 2015, after he had issued the suspension and team punishments following the public release of the Wells report. (Emphasis mine.)
“We’re very careful with [suspending a player] and we’re very thoughtful with it,” Goodell said in May 2015. “I have great admiration and respect for Tom Brady, but the rules have to be enforced on a uniform basis and they apply to everybody in the league. They apply to every club, every individual coach, every individual player and that is something where we put the game ahead of everybody.”
Later, he added: “One of the primary responsibilities for the commissioner is to protect the integrity of the game and to do what’s right for the game of football. That’s my job. I made this clear at Super Bowl. It’s our job to determine if there are violations of our rules, of our policies, of our procedures, and to enforce those. It’s my job here to make sure we protect the integrity of the game and we are protecting our policies, our procedures.”
Several months later, after Brady had won an appeal of his suspension in a federal court, Goodell reiterated his message.
“Our rules apply to everybody. They apply to every single player. And every single player expects those rules to apply to everybody. Every coach does, every fan does, every partner, every team does,” Goodell stated. “Our rules and the integrity of the game aren’t different because somebody is popular or somebody is a Super Bowl champ or not. They are to be applied evenly. Our teams expect that and that’s our job, that’s our responsibility. It’s my job. So no, I don’t regret that and we will continue to uphold the integrity of the game and we will do that as vehemently as we can.”
The rules apply to everyone. There are zero exceptions. The integrity will be upheld — vehemently.
This was Roger’s word.
Well, Roger, what is it? Do the rules apply to everyone? Or did you make a special case to single out Brady, for whatever reason you might have had?
Because as of right now, the Steelers’ footballs were reportedly measured at 11.4 and 11.8 PSI. For the Patriots, nine of 22 measurements came in at higher than 11.4, and four measured at or above 11.8. Given what we know about the variabilities in gauge accuracy and the effects of temperature and timing, it’s not at all a stretch to say that the Steelers’ footballs were the same as the Patriots’.
And yet, no investigation, no fine, suspension, no docked draft pick.
And, of course, no consequences for Goodell and the men in charge.
“We put the game ahead of everything,” Goodell said in May 2015.
Everything, that is, except his own personal accountability.
Goodell said, in plain terms, “I have great admiration and respect for Tom Brady.” His actions have told a wholly different story.
Do the rules apply to everyone on a uniform basis? Is Goodell’s job to protect the integrity of the game? Or is it to dismiss baseless accusations so as not to stain the sport or the players involved?
Goodell has many questions to answer. But with nobody holding him accountable — and seemingly very few even interested in having anybody do so — he’ll assuredly answer none.