We’re now five months into the Deflategate story surrounding the Patriots and Tom Brady. It’s been the headline from a Boston sports perspective. It’s likely to continue to be the headline through the first month of the regular season if Tom Brady’s suspension is held up or is even reduced. Before I go into my main point about this article, I want to point out that I think the Patriots are the most successful franchise in professional sports over the past 15 years. Not only have they won four Super Bowls, but they have been contending over this entire stretch which is amazing in itself. For the most part, they have run the organization with a lot of integrity and professionalism. In addition, I think that none of this happens without Tom Brady. He has been the best quarterback in the league over the past fifteen years. Many would argue that he’s the best of all time. I would still put Joe Montana ahead of him, but I could see an argument being made for either player. Having said all of that about the Patriots, I think that the way Deflategate is being viewed locally is getting out of hand. The fans and some of the media have made it a point to try to tarnish the Wells report and pick it apart. Brady deserves fan support. However, it’s gotten to point where many fans aren’t considering that it’s even remotely possible that he may have done something that broke the league rules.
Let’s take a step back and review the events that led to where we are now. On January 18th, the Patriots defeated to Indianapolis Colts 45-7 in the AFC Championship Game. “Defeated” is actually putting it lightly. The Patriots dominated the game and the Colts had no chance. Brady played very well. He completed 23 of 35 passes for 226 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. The Patriots were on their way to the Super Bowl. Following the game, Indianapolis reporter Bob Kravitz reported that “the NFL is investigating the possibility the Patriots deflated footballs Sunday night.” The headline that Monday became more about the footballs than about the Patriots making it to their sixth Super Bowl with Brady and Bill Belichick. Many fans started the sour grapes argument towards the Colts. They made it into something the Colts were complaining about. As the days went on, both Brady and Belichick held press conferences. Belichick deflected the notion that he would know anything about how much air is in a football. Brady looked very uncomfortable. He was not himself. Many fans and media members even acknowledged this. After the press conferences, the focus was on the Super Bowl as it should have been. This was still a distraction, but we all knew that Belichick was going to use this as a way to motivate his team for a game that was going to be much more difficult than the AFC Championship Game. The Patriots were flat out denying any allegation that they knowingly deflated footballs. In fact, Bob Kraft stated “I want to make it clear that I believe unconditionally that the New England Patriots have done nothing inappropriate in this process or in the violation of NFL rules.” He also demanded an apology from the league if the Wells report did not “definitively determine” that the Patriots tampered with the footballs. It was a bold statement. The Patriots and their fans all banded together. It was the Patriots against the world.
The Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl over the Seahawks in perhaps the greatest Super Bowl ending in the history of the league. It was gratifying to not only win the Super Bowl for the fourth time, but to also shove it in the face of the league and the rest of the country who were potentially accusing the Pats of cheating once again. From there, there were various stories about all of the leaks in the allegations of the Patriots tampering with the footballs and that there would be no “smoking gun”. The general feelings were that the Wells Report was not going to be able to prove anything. However, as time went on, people started wondering why it was taking so long for the report to be released. If the Patriots did nothing wrong, why aren’t we seeing this report?
The Wells report was finally released on May 6th. We all know the story. Patriots employees John Jaremski and Jim McNally were reportedly sending text messages about the footballs and the Wells report stated “that it was more probable than not that Tom Brady (the quarterback for the Patriots) was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jaremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls”.
There was another interesting event with this story that happened on May 6th that did not get much publicity at the time. Both Jaremski and McNally were suspended without pay by the Patriots. I found this part to be very interesting. This point in the story has been ignored by many Patriots fans. Many fans have viewed Deflategate as a mission from the league to taint the Patriots legacy along with Brady’s. I would like to ask these fans the following questions.
If the Patriots did nothing wrong, why did they suspend Jaremski and McNally? As employees of the Patriots, did they do something wrong?
How would it benefit the league to tarnish the legacy of it’s most successful franchise?
The league announced the following of May 11th: Patriots fined $1 million, Patriots will forfeit 1st round draft pick in 2016 and 4th round draft pick in 2017, Tom Brady suspended 4 games. The initial feeling was penalty seemed to be harsh locally and even nationally in some cases.
On May 19th, Bob Kraft announced that he would “reluctantly” accept the league’s penalty. As expected, Brady appealed the suspension. Most players do in these situations and Brady should be no different. He has every right to defend himself in front of the league office.
So that’s where we are. The hearing for Brady’s suspension is on Tuesday, June 23rd. There’s a chance that Brady’s suspension will be reduced. However, it sounds like that may not be enough for many Patriots fans. Over the past month, we have expectedly seen Patriots fans come to Brady’s defense. “Free Brady” is all over the social media. Some local media and fans have done their best to spin this story and make it sound like Tom Brady did nothing wrong. Granted, it is possible that Brady didn’t break any league rules. However, given what we know about this story, it is likely? I would like to ask the Patriots fans who are looking to “Free Brady” these questions.
Do you think Tom Brady was completely unaware that the footballs were being deflated?
Do you think Tom Brady was telling the truth in his press conference to address the footballs after the AFC Championship game?
Do you think the intent of the Wells Report was to discredit the New England Patriots and Tom Brady?
Do you think the four game suspension for Tom Brady was fair?
Questions answered? Take a note of your answers. Now think about if the same exact scenario happened to the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning back in January. The AFC Championship game was in Denver. The Broncos win decisively and Peyton Manning throws three touchdown passes. The Broncos celebrate on the field and lift up the AFC Championship Trophy. The following morning, a report comes out that the NFL is looking into the Broncos deflating footballs. The Wells Report comes out in May with the same information about the Broncos.
Take the names Brady and New England Patriots out and answer the same questions above with “Peyton Manning” and “Denver Broncos”.
Sweep the press conference under the rug? Wells Report tell us nothing? NFL penalty too harsh?
Do fans want Brady to be freed because he didn’t break a league rule with Deflategate? Or is it because he’s the quarterback who has led the Patriots to four Super Bowls and is one of the top five athletes in the history of Boston sports?
This is not to suggest that all fans are not looking at this objectively. Many are. However, there are also a lot of fans who aren’t looking at the issue for what it is. They are more focused on their loyalties to their team and an all-time great player. There’s nothing wrong with rooting for the best outcome for your team and defending them. However, is it more likely that the NFL is being critical and not objective towards the Patriots and Tom Brady or is it more likely that many Patriots fans are not being objective with the Wells Report and the league ruling?
Which is “more probable than not”?