The Patriot Way?

On Tuesday, the NFL upheld it’s four game suspension of Tom Brady which now causes a dilemma for the Patriots.  The NFLPA is appealing the suspension and it’s unknown whether or not Brady will be available for the first four games on the season.  This post will not be about whether or not Brady deserves the four game suspension.  This could be debated in this case and in any other discipline decision the league makes.  While all of the focus from a fan and media perspective has been completely on Brady, there has not been as much discussion on how this will impact the Patriots team in terms of preparation.  In other words, this situation is making Bill Belichick’s job much more difficult.  In less than six weeks, the Patriots will be facing the Steelers in the opening game of the NFL season and they don’t know who their quarterback will be.

Ideally, the Patriots would have liked this to all go away with perhaps a fine for Brady for his role in Deflategate.  The reality has set in that we are now past that point.  It’s a more definitive possibility that Brady will be missing four games.  By appealing, this is likely to drag out and continue to be the lead story surrounding the Patriots team all season long.

Let’s consider the options.  If Brady were to take the four game suspension, the Patriots would likely start Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback for those games.  Garoppolo has been tagged as the future quarterback of the organization.  Playing four games would give the team a good sense of how he would handle himself even if he’s not completely ready at this point.  Perhaps he would surprise some people.  If they are still committed to Brady for the short term future, they could also use Garoppolo as a trade chip if he plays well.  Granted, the team’s record may not be as good after four games with Garoppolo.  However, this is a team that’s won Super Bowls after starting 1-3 and 2-2 after four games.  The Patriots would still very likely win the AFC East.  In addition to seeing Garoppolo, the team would be able to put Deflategate behind them and use the us against the world mentality to their advantage.  There has been no coach who has done a better job with this motivational strategy than Belichick.  Starting in Week 6, you would also see Tom Brady more motivated than he ever has been in his career.  Is that so bad?

Let’s now consider the alternative. Brady isn’t suspended for the first four games.  He starts the season and plays well as he usually does.  The Patriots get off to a great start in the first four games.  All positive, right?  Except that the whole time the looming suspension will hover over the team.  Players would be asked about it daily. Belichick would dodge the questions.  More importantly, at any point, their star quarterback could miss four games.  There is the possibility it could include playoff games in January.  In addition, the team wouldn’t get to see Garoppolo.  No one would truely know if this kid can play for another full season.

Hypothetical question:

Would you rather have Tom Brady for the whole regular season with a 14-2 record with the possibility of him missing the playoffs?

Or would you rather the team go 12-4, Brady misses the four games, and he’s all set for the playoff run?

Would Belichick take the latter of the options?

This story is very intriguing.  Yet, at the same time, it’s a complete mess.  Most Patriots fans are blaming the NFL for creating this.  However, the Patriots are equally guilty of getting this story to this point.  Their approach of completely denying they did anything wrong is getting to be very hard to believe.  After all, they reportedly suspended two team employees as a result of this situation.  There was a reason for those suspensions.  It’s time to put an end to this.  It actually could benefit the team in the long run.

Isn’t this supposed to be about the team and not one player?  At one time, in Foxboro, this approach was called The Patriot Way.  Kraft accepted the team penalty.  It sure seems like the impact on one player’s legacy is far more important than impact the team right now.

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