This whole debate swirling around Tom Brady that has now shifted to Roger Goodell continues to focus on all the wrong things. It does not matter if the crime Brady committed had a minor outcome on the game against Indianapolis. Brady thought it was serious enough to conspire and bribe attendants to do it. He thought it was important enough to check in a few times on game day to make sure it was going to be done. The fact that it was done in the penultimate game of the NFL season, with so much on the line, dramatically amplifies the severity of the violation. Had the Patriots barely beaten the Colts that day, and maybe even had a critical fumble by Indy that helped decide the outcome, the whole conversation around Brady’s wrongdoing would be different. That is ludicrous. Brady had intent to impact the outcome of the AFC Championship game using means that he clearly knew were underhanded and against the rules. It does not matter if his cheating proved unnecessary or even irrelevant.
Goodell deserves criticism for his inconsistency when it comes to punishment. Hammering him on domestic violence is fair. Using that as leverage to imply he should have taken it easy on Brady is disconnected logic. The NFL invites some of that by acting as a judgment body on criminal acts over and above what the criminal system decides. It is debateable whether the league should have rules beyond a typical employer when it comes to crime. Where the league should have unquestioned authority to adjudicate is in areas that impact the gameplay on the field. They are the judge and jury for the rules that constitute gameplay.
I think Brady got off easy here. He was allowed to play in the Super Bowl two weeks after knowingly cheating to increase his chances of getting there. He added a fourth ring to his collection. The news of his violation had already broke. The NFL, desperate to protect the integrity of their crown jewel event, deferred any investigation until after the game. Had Brady come forward and admitted what he had done right there, he probably would have had a single-game suspension that covered the Super Bowl. He made the choice to play out the string, and got a ring as a result. He also gets a more severe punishment in terms of games and salary. Seems fair. If anything, I think he got off easy.
Bruce Irvin was suspended six games for taking Adderall in the middle of April a few years ago. That is a drug that exits the system in less than 24 hours. It is on the PED list because of how it can impact performance on gameday. Nobody would argue that taking Adderall five months before the seasons would have had any impact on a game. But Irvin violated a rule. He knew the rules. The punishment was severe. Irvin wrote a note apologizing to fans for making the mistake. He was humble and acknowledged he had done something wrong. Brady, and all his zealots, would do well to take a page from Irvin’s book.