HOUSTON, May 11, 2015 — National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell channeled the late Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis on Monday. The quarterback is going down, and he is going down hard. In this case, the quarterback is Tom Brady, who was belted with a four game suspension as a result of the Deflategate scandal.
For the uninitiated, investigator Ted Wells determined in his report that a pair of New England Patriots employees deflated footballs to below regulation size. The report also determined that Tom Brady knew about the behavior. Brady refused to cooperate with the investigation and now he has been given a timeout and sent to his room, grounded with no football for a month.
There are plenty of reasons to dislike Tom Brady that are not legitimate. He is rich, married to supermodel Gisele Bundchen, has four Super Bowl rings, and defenders get penalty flags for breathing near him or harming his hair while rushing the passer. Plus, Tom Brady was once named one of People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People.
Jealousy aside, there are legitimate reasons to be troubled with Brady. He has a tendency to be very smug. Patriots supporters will not admit this, but then again New Englanders practically invented smugness. From Ted Kennedy to John Kerry, Tom Brady is now another in a long line of New England royalty who got caught disobeying rules for which he lobbied.
In fairness, Brady is actually from the Northern California Bay Area, also known as the New England of the West.
There is no question that Brady is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. He did not need to gain an illegal competitive advantage. Neither did Richard Nixon, who without the Watergate scandal would have defeated George McGovern and won maybe 45 states instead of 49.
During one of his flippant press conferences, Brady said of the Deflategate scandal that, “This isn’t ISIS.” He is right in one sense and wrong in another. From a human society standpoint, this is not a matter of life and death. He did not murder anybody as former teammate Aaron Hernandez did. Nor did Brady run drugs, commit rape, beat his girlfriend, run a dogfighting ring, or violate any other federal or state laws.
From a football standpoint only, what Tom Brady did was far worse than Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Ben Roethlisberger and Michael Vick combined. They committed various bad acts that shocked the human conscience. However, none of the others ever cheated the game of football. Brady did.
Roethlisberger’s three AFC championships and two Super Bowl wins are not in question. Neither is Ray Rice’s ring. Adrian Peterson’s nearly breaking the single season rushing record is not tainted. Michael Vick’s highlight reel plays early in his career can never be disputed. He was Superman in a football uniform.
Brady is a great football player. He is now also a cheater.
He may still be a first ballot Hall of Famer, but some Canton voters might block his entry for one year. He will probably not face the same fate as Pete Rose or the steroid era baseball players, but he will never be seen as Joe Montana or even Peyton Manning.
Those guys won the right way, without question. Brett Favre was addicted to painkillers and texting a reporter who was not his wife. Joe Namath hung out with gangsters in nightclubs. None of those guys betrayed the game of football. They did not cheat.
Even the Oakland Raiders of the 1970s, who were famous for cheating, did not cheat the game of football itself. They were honest thieves. They said they would do everything they could to win, but their Super Bowl wins were earned honestly.
Can that be said about Tom Brady? In the wake of the Spygate scandal of 2007, these questions were already being asked. Did the Patriots defeat the heavily favored St. Louis Rams in 2001 because of cheating? Did the Greatest Show on Turf suffer an upset for the ages because of stolen sideline signals?
Tom Brady became a national name only after his first playoff opponent was cheated out of a playoff victory.
In 2001 in the snow, with the Raiders leading the Patriots 13-10 and under two minutes left, Brady went back to pass. He was hit by Charles Woodson and fumbled. Greg Biekert recovered for the Raiders. The Silver and Black were on their way to the AFC Title Game. Then came the infamous “Tuck Rule.” A fumble became an incomplete pass and the Raiders never saw the ball again. New England won in overtime.
While Brady himself did not cheat, he showed an absolute lack of class after the game. Rather than show the appropriate humility, he laughed, offered a cocky grin, and practically bragged about being given a game stolen from the other team. He rubbed salt in the wound, creating an entire generation of Brady haters.
The Patriots became insufferable in their arrogance, bragging about “The Patriot Way” of doing things right. This continued while they were doing the wrong thing in so many different ways. While Brady certainly cannot be blamed for Aaron Hernandez murdering people, he can be blamed for being part of a corrupt locker room culture that crossed the line.
Brady gets to keep his four Super Bowl rings that his team won by a combined 13 points. He can breathe knowing that he earned his most recent ring because the Seattle Seahawks decided not to allow their best offensive player Marshawn Lynch to carry an oblate spheroid about 39 inches.
He will never have to give back the only 16-0 perfect regular season set in 2007. He will never have to give back his Tuck Rule victory or his first Super Bowl MVP award that really belonged to the New England defense. Brady had only 75 yards passing until the final drive, finishing with 120 yards. He gets to keep the car that should have gone to cornerback Ty Law.
What he has given up is much more precious than four football games. His integrity is finished. The whispers will never go away. Everything that owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick have achieved together will now be followed by an asterisk.
Tom Brady is a four-time Super Bowl champion. He is also a four-game suspended athlete.
He has held the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Vince Lombardi did not cheat the game of football. Neither did George Halas, Chuck Noll, Tom Landry, Bill Walsh, Bill Parcells or Tom Coughlin. Neither did their players.
Players that Brady defeated lost with honor. Kurt Warner, Steve McNair and Rich Gannon played great football with integrity.
Brady will always be in the conversation of the best football players of all time. He will also be in the conversation on who has disgraced and dishonored the game the most.
Now and forever, Tom Brady will forever be labeled a cheater.
Is that fair? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. Life is not fair, and neither is football.
Ask the Raider Nation about fairness in football. The Tuck Rule will haunt them forever.