Deflategate's Legacy

When it’s all said and done, Tom Brady will be considered one of the best quarterbacks in the history of football. He’ll find himself a cozy corner in Canton, Ohio with a warming, reassuring spotlight above. He’ll retire to a life with more money than most of us can fathom. But for the next few months and occasionally over the decades to come, Brady will have to face the consequences of cheating.

Today Tom Brady was suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season for his role in the deflation of footballs below league standards. The New England Patriots were also fined $1 million (pocket change to any team) and docked a first round draft pick in 2016 and a fourth rounder in 2017 (a truly significant punishment).  

To many the punishment seems steep, not fitting for the crime. That is partially true, the punishment isn’t fitting for the crime. But it is fitting for an organization that has repeatedly attempted to bend the rules. The report describing the punishments cited prior offenses—also known as Spygate— and a lack of cooperation by the Patriots in this investigation to help warrant such a penalty. The punishment doesn’t necessarily fit the crime, though it does fit the now pile of crimes committed by an organization that shows an utter disregard for the integrity of the game.

However, to what extent the deflated footballs helped Brady’s performance is still irrelevant. Brady and some people within the Patriots locker room wanted those footballs deflated for a reason—to gain a competitive edge. For the Patriots, the crime committed was obviously worth the risk involved in getting caught; therefore the edge deserves harsh punishment.

There is no quantifying how much help baseball slugger Alex Rodriguez gained from taking steroids, but he knew it enhanced his performance and was punished accordingly. The same must go for Brady. Brady knowingly cheated, that’s the bottom line. If a player in the NFL is caught using a performance enhancing drug he is suspended for four games. Brady didn’t use a drug, but certainly attempted to enhance his performance. In that vein, four games seems not only acceptable, but the norm.

Just because Brady is…well…Brady doesn’t mean that he should get some slack. Many, including myself, have criticized the NFL for their inconsistent disciplinary standards. Many now, including myself initially, are pointing out how ridiculous it is that Brady has been suspended four games for deflating a few footballs while Ray Rice was initially only suspended two games for brutally beating his then fiancée. However, under further inspection that only points to the idiocy in the Rice suspension. The NFL screwed up on the Rice case, and they know that. Every suspension cannot be compared to the Rice mistake. They’ve now begun the process of bulking up their discipline process. Today the NFL proved that no one (other than Roger Goodell, of course) is bigger than the shield.

Now the question of Brady’s legacy comes into play. But rest assured Patriots’ fans, Brady’s Super Bowl rings still fit; MVP trophies still shine just as bright as they did yesterday. There is no impact on his legacy. Sure, questions will always be asked, but he is still one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. I can also promise you with almost certainty that Brady isn’t worried about his legacy either. He, his trophy case, and his bank account, know just how valuable his skills are. Again, when it’s all said and done Brady will be considered one of the greats and this will simply be a distant, forgettable blip on the radar. Tom Brady is a great quarterback. That doesn’t mean that he didn’t cheat. And that doesn’t mean he isn’t still great.