Roger Goodell’s worst mistake of his blunderous administration was tying Spygate to Deflategate. In the former scandal, the evidence of New England Patriots malfeasance was not disputable, and Goodell as commissioner of the National Football League imposed moderate penalties.
But he issued a stern warning in writing, which would come back to haunt him: any future misdeeds by the organization would bring a heavier penalty than if Spygate had not occurred.
Outside the Lines on Tuesday reported the NFL had extensive evidence that Spygate was a much larger espionage operation than had been publicly stated. For at least five years before they were caught, Bill Belichick’s staff had surreptitiously videotaped opponents’ practices, keeping notes connecting signals to diagrammed plays.
OTL reported: “Yet almost as quickly as the tape and notes were found, they were destroyed, on Goodell’s orders. League executives stomped the tapes into pieces and shredded the papers inside a Gillette Stadium conference room.”
In other words, the Patriots’ sins in Spygate were greatly understated, and the evidence covered up and then destroyed, because it would have degraded the NFL brand if Belicheat’s full program had been exposed.
Goodell placed himself in a compromising position, by developing a cozy relationship with Patriots owner Bob Kraft. Richard Sherman, the outspoken cornerback of the Seattle Seahawks, was right to question how Goodell could reasonably pose as a fair arbitrator in owner/player disputes when he partied in Kraft’s home.
Surely Kraft appreciated the fact that the commissioner let his team off lightly for Spygate. Which is why Kraft has been muted in criticism of Goodell on Deflategate. Kraft felt compelled to apologize – we could almost see tears – for not taking Brady’s side from the beginning of the fight.
Of course, other NFL owners knew Goodell had gone light on the Pats for their spying, and they were mad as hell about it. They smelled blood with Deflategate, and Goodell, attempting his delicate balancing act, willingly tossed them Brady.
Goodell played into the hands of Brady’s attorneys by establishing the concept that the quarterback – or someone else – might be punished for offenses committed by others. Such as Belichick 7-13 years ago.
As the sharks circled around Brady, who, by the way, was far more aware of PSI than he admitted in his few media appearances, Goodell needed to be careful to be fair. But he is not a lawyer or a judge, and he was overwhelmed as he tried to be prosecutor, judge, jury and arbiter.
Richard Berman saw the lunacy of all the charades and machinations, and he didn’t need lengthy deliberation to rule that the law was clearly in favor of Tom Brady vs. the National Football League.
Goodell keeps his job because under this direction the NFL has vastly increased its revenue streams.
But now some owners are wondering about the costs. Goodell bungled the concussion issue, then domestic violence, and now he shows little integrity in protecting the integrity of the game.
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank said it may be time for the commissioner to give up his power to be sole arbiter of disciplinary disputes.
But Goodell told ESPN the league (meaning Goodell) resists third-party arbitration.
He said that before appearing in Judge Berman’s court in New York he spoke with union chief DeMaurice Smith about making changes in the CBA, which should never have put so much power in one person.
Goodell decided to appeal Berman’s verdict, even though only 5 percent of the time does a federal appeals court reverse the trial court.
Hmm, I wonder how much the NFL is paying attorneys for the appeal. Whatever, it’s. surely a pittance compared to what it spent for the Wells report on Deflategate and the response to Brady’s lawsuit.
Goodell seems to think it’s all part of doing business, that “you can’t expect to win them all.”
But you have to wonder if he should be fighting them all. He’s beginning to look like the face of failure, helplessly flailing through the Ray Rice Elevator KO, and then embroiled in ten months of Deflategate.
And thanks to his appeal, it’s not over yet.