I was — and am still am — a firm believer that Tom Brady and the Patriots should’ve been punished for orchestrating plans to deflate footballs.
But now that they’ve been handed a fine, a loss of draft picks and a four-game suspension, the court of public opinion could sway their way with one simple question.
Who has more integrity, the Patriots or the NFL?
It’s a simple, yet impossible question. On one side you have the Patriots that have turned into the most coveted franchise in the last 14 years. In that time, New England has never finished a regular season under .500 — including the perfect slate of 16-0 2007.
Of course, there’s that issue with Spygate. The Patriots were caught for videotaping the Jets’ defensive coaches signals.
After that, people started to raise an eyebrow whenever the Patriots did well. They wondered if it was truly earned organically or through borrowed means. And that of course leads us to the current Deflategate, which had nothing to do with the score or outcome in the AFC Championship Game last year.
But that’s the worst part about the entire story. The Patriots blew Indy out of the water but still needed any inherent advantage possible. That just shows a boatload of arrogance that they wouldn’t get caught or the naïveté that wouldn’t be punished even if they did.
Then there’s the NFL. The shield has taken a few dents the last few years.
First, there’s the ongoing problem with concussions. Now that head injuries are finally getting understood, lawsuits by former players aren’t going away.
Next, there’s the Ray Rice debacle. How did the NFL commissioner not know there was a video of the assault in the elevator? And if he really did know, why didn’t he do anything about it?
And like the Patriots, the NFL has a pretty large ego issue. The NFL is currently oversaturated with television offerings on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays during the regular season. One of the NFL’s best qualities is that it only happens once a week, but with games showing up on TV more and more, it is slowly drifting away from required viewing.
But the biggest integrity question mark is that Roger Goodell pays himself $45 million to run the league. He has to be embarrassed that he’s making that much because the NFL will soon opt to pay taxes just so that they don’t have to report the incomes of its executives.
Neither one is better than the other. The Patriots have turned into the Yankees of the NFL. They are easily the most hated, while also being the most successful.
The fact that they had to cheat to win — twice — just means they will do it again. The only thing that Brady is going to remember from this year is that he gave New England its fourth Super Bowl title.
The NFL had to punish the Patriots to try and gain a morsel of credibility with the public. If they let the Patriots walk, everyone would’ve screamed for an asterisk or claimed that the Patriots are coated in Pam since nothing sticks to them.
Now that it’s going to the appeal process, the NFL must realize that it will be fighting a mirror image of itself.
The question is, who is Goodell going to believe?
Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn