Tom Brady Appeal in Perspective

In this post, we’ll be putting Tom Brady’s appeal ruling in perspective.  Many Boston sports fans have been anxiously awaiting the ruling on Brady’s four game suspension appeal from the NFL.  Brady has been the face of the Boston sports scene for 15 years and is arguably one of the top five athletes in the history of Boston sports.  After leading the Patriots to their fourth Super Bowl last year, Brady’s popularity has been bigger than ever in Boston.  He has always been viewed as a player who works hard, does things the right way, and is all about the team.  When the league handed down the four game suspension to Brady in addition to team penalties of a $1,000,000 fine and the loss of two draft picks, many Patriots fans felt like the punishment was excessive.  Given how much Brady has meant to the Patriots and the NFL, the results of this appeal ruling means a lot to a lot of fans.

In our post on June 21st, titled, “Deflategate: Why Free Tom Brady?”, questions were asked about if the issue Patriots fans had about the ruling was more about who was being suspended than the reasons for the suspension.  Here is the link to the post:

In today’s post, we’ll examine the repercussions of Brady being suspended.  There has been speculation that the ruling on the appeal will be coming in the next couple of weeks.  There has also been a lot of discussion by fans and media on what Brady’s camp would accept for a suspension.  Given how the NFL has handled many of the appeals, there is a lot of confidence amongst fans that the suspension will be reduced.  The question is how many games.  It seems unlikely that the suspension would be completely taken away, but it remains a possibility.  As everyone awaits the ruling, it seems that the whole mindset of what the Patriots are all about has been put to the side for their quarterback strictly from a general fans point of view.  The Patriots have always been about the team first.  Rather than challenging the league ruling, they accepted the penalty and were willing to move on.  They didn’t appear to be very happy about the ruling in their statements.  However, they did what they felt was in the best interest of the team.

This does not appear to be about the team when it comes to Tom Brady’s suspension.  There has been speculation that if Brady’s suspension is reduced to just one game that he is going to challenge it.  The “Free Tom Brady” camp is all on board with this approach.  If it were about the team, would one or two games really matter?  On opening night, the Patriots are playing the Steelers at home without Le’Veon Bell.  The Patriots would likely be favored to win this game without Brady.  If they didn’t, losing the first game of the season certainly is not going to ruin their season.  They lost the first game to Miami last year and they went on to win the Super Bowl.  Challenging a one, or even a two game suspension, would prolong this and it would hover over the team as the lead story until there would be resolution.  Putting the player ahead of the team is not the “Patriot Way”.  This is less about the impact to the team and more about Brady’s legacy.  If he truly believes that he has done nothing wrong than he has every right to defend himself.  It could be that the organization feels that they at least did something wrong and Brady feels that he did not.  However, it would be interesting if Brady’s approach is different than the approach the team took.  I wonder what Bill Belichick would think of Brady’s decision if he was suspended for one or two games and he let it drag through the entire season rather than accepting the ruling.  Perhaps he would be fully on board with his quarterback defending himself.  Or, perhaps, he would look at it much differently…

Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the Patriots have always thrived on the “us against the world” mentality.  They have used it to their advantage many times when they were underdogs and were not getting credit for their success.  They used it to their advantage after Spygate.  They again used it in the Super Bowl last year after they were being investigated for Deflategate.  If Brady were to take the one or two games, Belichick, Brady, and the Patriots would be able to use this next year at a completely new level.  It would be another way of showing the league and the rest of the country that they cannot stop them from being successful.  It would be the ultimate motivator for the team.  The Patriots want the rest of the country to be against them.  They have used it to their advantage and it has made them more successful.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that Brady doesn’t miss a game to suspension whether that be through the appeal ruling or if it goes to court.  Regardless of the ruling, the court of public opinion on this issue will not change.  If Patriots fans have a goal of Brady’s legacy being clean, that is already behind us.  There will be people that think he cheated regardless of the results of this ruling.  In addition, there would then be a public national outcry that Brady plays under different rules than the rest of the players in the league.  We would be hearing that Brady cheated and because of who he is he got away with it.  Rather than the Patriots having the “us against the world” mentality, the Patriots would now be viewed as a team who has a quarterback that gets special treatment.

If Brady’s suspension gets knocked down to one or two games, it likely would actually help the team this year in the long run.  The team would be backing their quarterback 100%, he would be motivated to play at an elite level and out to prove himself, and the Patriots would be out to prove the world that they can’t be stopped.  If this drags on, it’s likely going to be the story hovering over the team for the entire year.

From a fans and media standpoints, this has become more about the legacy of a player than the success of the team.  Who is more important: Tom Brady or the New England Patriots?

In terms of the best interest of the team’s season, would having a 38 year old quarterback miss the first game or two games of the season be the worst thing?  Isn’t the goal to have all of the players healthy and ready for playoff games in January?  Let’s face it.  Brady’s days of playing 16 games a year at an elite level are winding down.

Again, if Brady believes he did nothing wrong then he has every right to fight this to the end.  However, the public outcry on this compared to the actual impact on the team are not matching up.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.


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