Let’s set the table with some facts before we get to my opinion on this:
1) This is not a criminal investigation, and thusly every “more probable than not” dumb shit hot take that wants to make itself look informed by simply saying the burden of proof isn’t good enough isn’t looking at the burden of proof to begin with. All Ted Wells had to do in his investigation is find out what the most likely thing to have happened was. In this case “more probable than not” is a distinct legal term befitting of the requirements of the NFL’s bylaws regarding independent investigations (which work more like civil suits than anything else). If the NFL were suing the Patriots, they’d win. They’ve concluded the preponderance of evidence, perhaps in particular the man who deflated the balls referring to himself as “the deflator” (circumstantial, surely), points in the direction of a deliberate tampering of the game balls.
2) This is not just about deflated balls. Had the Patriots simply come out and admitted the infraction, a simple equipment tampering fine would have sufficed. Alas, like many scandals, the magnitude of the punishment will be more reflective of the cover-up than of the crime. Not only did the Patriots foolishly stonewall the investigation from the top down, providing a significant amount of the “preponderance” needed to reach its conclusion, but Robert Kraft has been nothing short of an unbecoming ass of an owner during the proceedings.
3) The Ideal Gas Law doesn’t bail the Pats out – Fivethirtyeight reviewed the scientific side of the study and proved that the difference in pressure between the Colts’ balls and Pats’ balls could not have been due to chance. Furthermore, they deduced that the odds of NE fumbling as rarely as they do being due to chance is over 10,000 to 1. No coach is that good.
If you rightfully ditch the burden of proof of a murder trial, and look at what’s there, the Pats are guilty. So how do you set the bar for one of the biggest punishments in NFL history amid a domestic violence maelstrom and a concussion lawsuit?
4 games for Brady, 2 draft picks (because 1 didn’t deter them last time), and $1M (which carries the weight of a jizzy sock to these billionaires, but still looks ominous, so it’s a nice balance)
Somehow, this “exceeded all of Robert Kraft’s reasonable expectations”. May I?
Other reasonable expectations of Robert Kraft:
1) Putting his wife’s initials on team jerseys in 2011 and trying to sell them after she passed away
2) Picking up a 32 year old girlfriend after his wife passes, and after he commemorates her on team gear, then flaunting her in the owner’s box in the late wife’s seat 8-10 times a year on national television
3) Refusing to cooperate with a league investigation, then bashing the limitations of its findings
4) Drafting Aaron Hernandez when he had KNOWN gang ties at the time, then giving him an extension, then saying “Our whole organization has been duped.” after his murder arrest ignoring that Urban Meyer and Bill Belichick have been close friends for decades
5) Serving on an NFL committee whose sole purpose is to create the threat of a team moving to Los Angeles and fleece nine-figure sums of tax dollars to build new stadiums so he and his unfortunate billionaire friends don’t have to
6) Puffing out his chest and insisting his franchise did nothing wrong when there was no way to reasonably expect his being directly involved with ANY actions of the underlings who handled the balls
We can start right there. How is someone who vociferously defended illegal actions of his franchise that he had no chance of being privy to allowed to serve on ANY NFL committee? Robert Kraft should be banned for life from the competition committee, banned for life from any NFL expansion committee, and no member of the Patriots should serve on the competition committee through 2020. Leave money out of this and block the organization from moderating the rules and remove them from committees that aim to better the league. If you act like you’re above the rules and above the league’s discretion, you should have no say in either for years to come.
I have no issue with the draft picks, as it is both a reasonable punishment broadly for something as pervasive as lack of institutional control and a logical extension of the previous stripping of draft picks that obviously didn’t deter the Pats from breaking the rules. A 1st round pick is obviously worth its weight in gold, and 4th round picks are very often used in the high round trades that get the Pats a stockpile of picks.
The 4 games for Brady is too little, and that has more to do with the current climate of the NFL rather than the size of the infraction. Think of it this way: Tom Brady is more important to his team than any player on the NFL is to his team with a handful of, at best, arguable exceptions. If a repeat cheater can bend the rules to his liking, get caught, win the Super Bowl, and only get a 4 game suspension in a league where nobody repeats anymore anyway, wouldn’t you cheat? If I’m the Eagles, I’m trying to strap a jet pack to Mark Sanchez to see if it will fit unnoticed under his jersey. The worst thing this punishment could be is something other teams look at and go “Hmm…worth it.”, and I think a 4 game suspension that is open to appeal is just that. I would have given him a year, not because what he did was so bad, but because I would want the rest of the league to be permanently deterred from doing anything like this. You can never get ahead of the innovation of cheating, but you can change the tune of a team that thinks they can get away with it.
Aside from being a blind homer, I don’t see how you defend this. The idea that the league would be “out to get the Patriots” when CBS has a restaurant on the campus of Gillette Stadium and every network seeks to feature this team on national television every chance they get is absurd. Furthermore, just about any critique of the investigation is directly a result of the Patriots not cooperating with it. How can you appeal this as not being appropriate when you’re the only reason there isn’t full disclosure? It’s not everything I wanted, and I didn’t like that they put a huge fine in to make it look worse than it is, but I’ll take it. I don’t think they’ve gone unpunished here, but you do have to ask yourself this: If the last two Super Bowls featured three teams that bent the rules for offensive pass interference, bent the rules for defensive pass interference, and outright tampered with equipment then covered it up, are we in a cheater’s league now?