You’ve likely heard about the biggest NFL offseason story in the mess surrounding DeflateGate. But as this “investigation” into deflated footballs has lingered for eight months one of the biggest questions has been why would the NFL do this to their star franchise and one of its best players?
Perhaps this all boils down to an internal power struggle between the league’s most powerful men — the owners.
Back in July, Patriots owner Robert Kraft came out with a strong statement against the league because of the punishment of Tom Brady. Many assumed Kraft struck a deal with the league, accepting the largest fine in NFL history and stripping the organization of two draft picks because the NFL wouldn’t uphold Brady’s four-game suspension.
When the punishment was upheld, Kraft strongly spoke out saying, “I was wrong to put my trust in the league.”
A few days later, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones showed his full support of Roger Goodell.
It’s not entirely clear whether Jones was intially asked about DeflateGate, but he was asked about Kraft’s harsh comments to which he replied:
“He’s got obviously a very tough job. Now I see some people doing that, that’s that old violin that’s not feeling too sorry for him because that’s why you pay the big bucks is to deal with the big problems. But he’s doing an outstanding job.”
In a story about Jones’ comments, Todd Archer with ESPN dug up a quote from another who supports Goodell’s decision, Pats division rival and Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.
“I have a lot of confidence in Roger and the league offices,” Ross said. “I dealt with them, as you know with our controversy not too long ago, and they’re very objective. I don’t have all the facts. I don’t think any of us have all the facts. But I think the league takes everything into consideration, and I have a lot of faith in what the league ruled.”
Both of these comments mildly raised some eyebrows but were a mere blip on the radar until Outside the Lines released new findings from a previous Patriots scandal, SpyGate.
There’s no denying OTL’s report adds fuel to the fire. Especially the portion about low-level Patriots employees sneaking into locker rooms and rummaging through hotel dumpsters. But the portion that sticks out the most is the rare secret meeting called by Goodell with every NFL owner and head coach following the initial SpyGate report. It’s rumored this is when Goodell told the Patriots if they were caught cheating again, the punishment would be extremely harsh. Fast forward to DeflateGate and now it makes a little more sense as to why Pats head coach Bill Belichick deferred initial ball-handling questions prior to the Super Bowl by instructing the media to “Ask Tom Brady.” For those who have seen Belichick’s previous press conferences, you know he never answers questions like that. Ever.
Let’s keep in mind that while OTL’s new SpyGate story is an interesting addition, most of the information in the “report” isn’t new. And editorially, you have to question why ESPN would run a story filled with rumors and myths alongside very little factual information leaving the average reader to assume everything in the story is accurate.
But that’s the PR game the NFL has been playing since DeflateGate started.
Incorrect information was initially leaked to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen saying 11 of 12 balls were deflated during the AFC Championship game when only one game ball was under inflated by .02-PSI. Tom Brady’s cell phone was “destroyed” when in fact Brady willingly offered up screenshots of more than 500+ emails and texts and notified the Wells investigation team of his intent to purchase a new phone.
Brady has publicly fought the league on DeflateGate accusations and last week was rewarded with a ruling in his favor that the NFL couldn’t legally suspend him for four games. It was seen not only as a major loss for the NFL but an embarrassing one.
Not one to take a loss lying down, Goodell made his first public comments on the ruling during ESPN’s Mike and Mike Tuesday within a half hour of the “new” SpyGate findings. Curious timing, eh?
Over the course of 8-months, these small tidbits of information have and continue to be leaked from the league in an effort to manipulate the NFL fanbase into the “Patriots are cheaters” narrative though every team has been caught cheat at some point.
It also brings us back to the reason the league would take a minor story and turn it into one of the biggest controversies in the history of the league. And the theory that makes the most sense is despite the previous cozy relationship between Kraft and Goodell, the commish is now attempting to stay in good faith with the rest of the league owners who pay his salary by “coming down hard” on the Patriots.
With Kraft wanting to distance himself from Goodell and co, it leaves the door wide open for the Jerry Jones of the world to cement their stake as Goodell’s new BFF and likely, increase their team’s market share and ultimately their bottom line.