It truly is amazing what context and full transparency can do to swing public opinion. When Tom Brady’s 4-game suspension for more probable than not general awareness of possible misconduct by game day employees was upheld last week, and the NFL dropped the SCANDALOUS new update that Brady had destroyed his cell phone just days before meeting with NFL investigator Ted Wells, it looked like Brady’s last hurrah was a slam dunk that turned into a posterizing face-plant.
With the release of Brady’s appeal hearing transcripts, though, the tone from almost everyone did almost a complete 180 from “Brady, you really F’ed yourself here, bud”, to (to quote a great NFL coach) “What the hell’s going on out there?!?”
On Thursday night, at about 1am Eastern time, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio hopped on Twitter and dropped the uncomfortable truth that everyone who’s been laughing at New England since January doesn’t want to hear:
Mike’s referring, of course, to the New Orleans Saints receiving a punishment that, at the time, was historically harsh for 2012’s BountyGate scandal. Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was suspended indefinitely, head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the entire 2012 season, the Saints lost their second-round draft picks in 2012 and 2013, and four Saints players, including linebacker Jonathan Vilma, were issued suspensions that ranged from a whole season (Vilma) to 8 games (Anthony Hargrove) to three games (Scott Fujita).
All four of those players eventually had their suspensions eliminated when former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue concluded the players’ appeal.
Predictably, someone piped up and told Florio that, if a team cheats, they deserve to be punished, and his response is simple:
Florio’s point here, I presume, is not that the Patriots are innocent, but that with both the Saints and Pats, the league found something fishy-looking, slammed both organizations with (at the time) historic punishments, and then backtracked into CYA mode when holes in the league’s investigations and discipline started coming up.
Just like they are now.
A reader who was surprisingly thoughtful, given that it was 1:00am, also pointed this out:
What Florio’s talking about here is the 2010 season, when the NFL and NFLPA failed to agree on a new CBA, resulting in a season that had no salary cap. When the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins jumped at the chance to sign players to contracts that front-loaded the majority of their salary in the season without a salary cap, the NFL came back a year later in 2012 and decided that the two NFC East rivals had “created an unacceptable risk to future competitive balance” and docked both teams a combined $46 million in cap space.
Let’s say that again: because of the lack of a CBA, the league had no salary cap in the 2010-2011 season. Washington and Dallas structured their contracts accordingly. The league punished both teams for, essentially, playing the hand they were dealt to their advantage.
And if you think New England is pissed off right now, as SB Nation’s Steelers blog Behind the Steel Curtain writer Christopher Carter astutely points out, the Steelers have actually been beating the “Roger Goodell has too much power and can’t be trusted” drum ever since the new CBA was passed in 2011. Context for that time period: Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger had been suspended for a crime he was never charged for, and linebacker James Harrison was regularly donating five figures a week to the NFL in fines.
The solution, Florio, concludes, is simple:
While Mike Florio has had his fair share of blazing-hot-take faceplants in the past (notably, his bonehead opinion on concussions), his message here should be heeded – enjoy bathing in the tears of Patriots fans while you can, because depending on which color suit Roger Goodell decides to wear next week, your team could be on the roulette wheel.