The Patriots Are Deflategate Losers Regardless of What Happens with Tom Brady’s Suspension

Losing a first-round draft pick is a much bigger deal than losing Brady for four games.

Bill Belichick

Photo via AP

It doesn’t matter which way Judge Richard Berman rules on the interminable, unnecessary saga over slightly deflated footballs. The Patriots have already lost.

Getting Tom Brady’s four-game suspension vacated would be a win for justice, due process, and fairness. The NFL continues to argue Article 46 of the collective bargaining agreement gives Roger Goodell the power to wield his disciplinary gavel regardless of the facts, which makes him more like an emperor than a commissioner. When Judge Berman was hammering the NFL on its flimsy case two weeks ago, the best retort NFL attorney Daniel Nash could come up with was, “The findings of the commissioner are entitled to deference.”

That’s rich, and downright dangerous. If Judge Berman rules in the league’s favor, it means Goodell’s disciplinary power is limitless. Every player, coach, or owner who has watched this embarrassment of a case unfold should be shaking in his boots.

But as far as the Patriots’ success on the football field is concerned, Brady’s standing for the first four games of the season is almost irrelevant. Sure, it would be nice to have him out there, but if he does have to miss time, the Patriots should be able to go at least 2-2 in his absence. That’s the same record they had last September, by the way.

After matching up with the Steelers on opening night, the Pats will take on the lowly Bills and Jaguars over the next two weeks. A Bill Belichick-coached team shouldn’t lose to clubs quarterbacked by Tyrod Taylor and Blake Bortles. It’s not much more complicated than that.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, Brady will play when the games matter most. Whether or not he served his suspension will likely be a distant memory by the time December rolls around.

But the consequences of the other penalties Goodell levied on the Patriots will probably be felt for years to come. Even though Ted Wells’ not-so independent investigation exonerated the organization from blame in Deflategate, the NFL still docked the Patriots a first- and fourth-round draft pick. Belichick will have two fewer chances this spring to upgrade his roster than the competition, and that’s just criminal—especially because, again, the Wells Report said Belichick and the organization didn’t do anything wrong.

In his 15 years as Patriots head coach, Belichick has drafted six Pro Bowlers in the first round. That number will likely increase in the coming years, too, as long as Nate Solder and Chandler Jones continue to improve.

Stripping the Patriots of a first-round pick robs them of the opportunity to land the next Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork, or Logan Mankins. The fourth-round selection isn’t insignificant, either. Belichick has drafted two Pro Bowlers, Asante Samuel and Stephen Gostkowski, from that spot.

Despite his harsh rhetoric directed at the league office, owner Robert Kraft accepted the Deflategate penalties in late May. Instead of risking a drawn-out legal battle against the league, and in turn his 31 billionaire owner counterparts, Kraft decided to submit. Capitulating was a good move for Robert Kraft, power-broker. It was a bad move for Robert Kraft, owner of the Patriots.

There was no quid-pro-quo between Kraft and Goodell. When Brady’s suspension was upheld at the end of July, Kraft stormed to the podium at Gillette Stadium and said he was “wrong to put his faith in the league.”

But the ironic part of this is, even if there were an agreement between Kraft and the NFL, it still would’ve been a bad deal for the Patriots. Getting Brady’s suspension reduced would not have been a win if it meant the Pats were still out of a first-round pick.

Deflategate is expected to drag on whichever way Judge Berman rules this week, as the losing side will probably appeal his decision. But the real battle here was lost the moment Kraft submitted to the shield at the Owners’ Meetings in San Francisco. Now the Patriots are just looking for a moral victory.