Tom Brady could very well have the last laugh over NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell with a Super Bowl victory.
It’s no secret that Tom Brady and Roger Goodell aren’t exactly best friends.
In one of the more passive-aggressive power struggles the league has ever seen, the two icons have traded blows on judicial and social platforms. Goodell has thrown his share of punches, beginning with a suspension in now the infamous ‘Deflategate’ fiasco, yet Brady has managed to successfully counter on each occasion.
A Super Bowl victory for Brady would deliver a final knockout blow to a battle that first began in the summer of 2015.
When Deflategate first started, the gloves were officially dropped. Say what you will about the PSI levels of the footballs and Ted Well’s investigation, but Goodell’s handling of the matter is really what made this issue pettier than it could have been.
When Goodell ruled that Brady was to be suspended for four games, it came just before the preseason started, which gave Brady little time to decide if an appeal was worth it. It took Goodell over a month to make a simple ruling — something that could have only exacerbated Brady, Bill Belichick, and the rest of Patriots nation.
Given that the Patriots had been known for trying to gain an edge on their opponents in the past (everyone remembers ‘Spygate,’ right?) Brady’s superstardom and Goodell’s reputation for protecting the NFL’s brand, the biggest sports story of the year made headlines for the next several months.
When Brady testified against the league — a case arbitrated by Goodell himself–the transcript was made public. Did the NFL want this to happen? Probably not.
Brady was asked about his conversations with team employee John Jastremski over a two week period by attorney Jeffrey Kessler. During the testimony, he responded, “‘I think most of the conversations centered around breaking in the balls (for the Super Bowl).”
Goodell than stated, “For the reasons noted, I do not fully credit that testimony.” The commissioner essentially called Brady a liar.
Later in the hearing, Kessler asked Brady, “And you say that it is possible that you and John Jastremski were discussing the concerns that had been raised about ball deflation levels, right?”
Brady then responded, “Yes.” So, under oath, he admitted to having conversations about the issue of the quality of footballs with Jastremski. Goodell had made Brady out to be a liar and fell flat on his face.
The commissioner arbitrated the hearing and held up the ruling anyways. Well, of course, he did — he wasn’t going to admit being wrong. While there was no definitive proof that Brady had committed any illegal acts, there was apparently enough “evidence” for the suspension to stand.
Brady admitted to having discussions about ball deflation levels. Did he admit to ordering the balls to be doctored in a way to his liking? Not exactly. Though, it seems as if he did play a role in doing so, at least to some extent.
For the record, Brady isn’t the only quarterback who likes his footballs a certain way. Aaron Rodgers has made it no secret that he like his overinflated. Former Buccaneers QB Brad Johnson paid to have his footballs altered before the start of the Super Bowl.
While it’s very likely that Brady played some sort of role in the PSI levels of the footballs being altered, the issue was blown way out of proportion. The Patriots aren’t the only team that has tried to gain an advantage; they simply were one of the few to be caught doing so. Whether Brady was throwing footballs or tennis balls, it likely would not have had much of an impact on the end result of the AFC championship game, anyways.
It seemed as if Goodell had won. After months of hearings, appeals, etc., Tom Brady was suspended for four games. That only fueled Brady’s fire, as the Pats went on to capture home-field advantage in the AFC, while Brady’s regular season (28 TD’s, 2 INT’s) still has him in MVP conversations.
Brady’s revenge tour has continued and could hit its apex if he can force the man who put him through months of petty litigation to hand him football’s ultimate prize.
Goodell was recently asked by Fox Sport’s Colin Cowherd if giving the Lombardi Trophy to Brady would be uncomfortable. The commissioner replied, “Tom Brady is one of the all-time greats. He has been for several years. He’s on the precipice of at least potentially winning his fifth Super Bowl. He’s an extraordinary player, great performer and surefire Hall of Famer. So it would be an honor.”
Who does he expect to actually buy that kind of response? Given how he’s handled the Deflategate fiasco, the Ray Rice domestic violence case, and other league proceedings, Goodell’s credibility isn’t as legitimate as you would expect from the league’s commissioner.
As for Brady, we could soon be hearing how he feels about Mr. Goodell. He recently appeared on WEEI’s Kirk & Callahan where he was asked what he’d say to Goodell if the Pats were to win, “Hopefully we’ll finish the deal. Hopefully, we can finish it off and we’ll see. Maybe I’ll tell you after.”
Despite the Goodell-Brady superiority complex, the majority of the NFL world is likely rooting for the Falcons to upset a modern day dynasty from New England.
However, regardless of which team you support, it’s hard to argue that the thought of the most criticized commissioner of recent memory and the most villainous quarterback the league can offer, clashing on the same stage, wouldn’t make for a compelling final act.