The day before Roger Goodell temporarily died on Twitter this week, he attended Jim Kelly's golf tournament where he answered a question about the D-word. No, the NFL does not plan on engaging in settlement talks with Tom Brady over Deflategate, Goodell said to a reporter.
It makes perfect sense on the surface. The league has incurred about $25 billion in legal fees for the privilege of finally finding a judges’ panel to rule that, yes, Article 46 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement gives the commissioner the authority to discipline at will. Barring a successful appeal by Tom Brady—which has the slimmest chance of even being heard—the NFL won. They have the power. They have the legal precedent. All that integrity of the game nonsense? Please. Ask 5 different people what Brady actually did and you could easily get 5 different responses. Culpability is irrelevant at this point. Despite the fact that Tom Brady was suspended for something that we can’t describe with certainty but can unequivocally say did not alter the outcome of the 2014 AFC Championship, was never proven, and that stripped his right to due process along the way, Brady is likely to serve a four-game suspension to start the season.
Roger Goodell is the all-mighty, all-powerful commissioner and Tom Brady is an NFL player whose union bargained all his rights, a helpless mortal. Message sent.
But what if the narrative of this saga concluded in a stunning finale? What if Goodell, now clearly in the driver’s seat, changed his mind and settled with Brady? Give a little. A four-game suspension cut to two. Just think about it.
Settlement talks have ensued in this case before, when there was a legitimate question about the reach of Goodell’s disciplinary powers. The NFL stood its ground and the commissioner’s power to punish the league’s players has only become more validated. Now the NFL holds all the cards while waiting for the minute possibility that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rehears this case. Conventional wisdom would suggest that if Goodell was unwilling to settle while in a weaker position, he certainly won’t settle now.
But he should.
A settlement would not equal the cemented, rousing victory that would come once Brady’s appeal options vanish. For some, a settlement would be viewed as a veiled admission of fault, or doubt in the strength of their legal arguments.
But the league could easily frame the messaging in reality: enough is enough. Let’s end this sideshow with a two-game agreement and get back to football.
Furthermore, like anybody so rooted in its perceived righteousness that it is willing to alter the core accusation just to find a path to victory, the NFL has an incredible credibility problem that far outweighs whether or not Brady plays an extra 16 quarters of football.
Owners, players, fans, or virtually anyone with a functioning brain aside from big firm lawyers want this saga to end. The tentacles of issues run deep for the NFL right now, but perhaps nothing has defined its interventionist, hardheaded mentality and misguided priorities like this case.
By settling, Goodell personally has much to gain. In a crazy twist of fate, he might be viewed as, don’t laugh, a peacemaker. The fatigue from this case is so prevalent that even the instigator would get bonus points for ending it. And certainly now, with the power of the Second Circuit decision behind him, Goodell would be viewed as settling magnanimity instead of expediency.
There’s nothing left to prove for Goodell. When a parent sends a child to his room for intentionally squirting mustard into their smoothie (or deflating the car tires), eventually he is let out when a reasonable amount of time has passed. Hopefully a lesson is learned and they move on. It is beyond safe to say that a reasonable amount of time has passed in Deflategate.
If common sense isn’t enough motivation, how about the actual NFL product? Brady is arguably the most polarizing player in the NFL; he is also one of a few who single-handedly generate increased viewership. The Patriots were curiously scheduled for two night games in the first four weeks of the 2016 season. Week 1 in Arizona (Sunday Night Football) and Week 3 hosting Houston (Thursday Night Football). At the time of the schedule release, the NFL’s appeal had already been heard and many legal pundits (including our own Michael McCann) thought it was more probable than not that Brady’s suspension would be overturned. Was the NFL schedule created with sheer hubris? Obliviousness? Stupidity? No matter the answer, a nationally televised Jimmy Garoppolo-Brock Osweiler battle in Week 3 has all the makings of a game you can consciously skip (or take to social media vent about Brady’s absence.)
For obvious reasons, Goodell doesn’t tweet much these days. But the day the NFL account was hacked, he sent this message:
It was a side of Goodell rarely seen in the public eye—playful, witty and modern. Perhaps his near death experience provided a new lease on life. Perhaps he will now understand that some battles are not worth hanging on to. Especially a battle he’s most likely already won.
In other news this week…
Accordingly to ESPN’s Nick Wagoner, the Rams are again engaged in contract extension talks with Jeff Fisher. Since joining the Rams in 2012, Fisher 27-36-1 and devoid of a winning season. Even if the deal is for one-year, he’s not a lame dame coach, what kind of message does that send? Reward mediocrity.
The Marshawn Lynch interview, conducted by SI’s Jon Wertheim, is so raw, real and effecting. Lynch is one-of-a-kind—still, I hope other athletes and publicists took note and will consider loosing the reins a bit.
Ben Roethlisberger appeared on The Bachelorette. Of the 1700 NFL players, Roethlsiberger was chosen to appear on a dating show. Sure, makes perfect sense.
49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman called the NFL’s Top 100 Players, as selected by peers, “totally bogus,” and suggested that players were never even handed ballots, according to Bay Area News Group reporter Cam Inman. NFL Network shot back with a picture of two 49ers filling out a ballot back in December and has said about half the players vote. I’m not sure which side to fully believe, but trying to group such a variance of positions into one listicle is pretty bogus to me.
Out of office
I’m headed on vacation for two weeks. “Week Under Review” will return on July 1st. Enjoy the rest of June and thanks for reading!