Tom Brady’s biggest victory


(Photo courtesy of the New England Patriots)

By Clark Judge

Talk of Fame Network

Well, well, well.

Of all the victories Tom Brady produced in his 15 years in the NFL none was more complete, more resounding, more meaningful and more satisfying than the knockout he just scored over Roger Goodell and the NFL in court.

Because this one was about something bigger than a game, a division championship or another Super Bowl. This was about Tom Brady’s name, and not only did Brady go to the mat to preserve a reputation the NFL sought to damage.

He won.

He challenged the league to prove that it had the right to suspend him for allegedly cheating. He challenged it to prove it has the right to suspend him for allegedly lying. And he challenged it to do it on a neutral field, where he believed he had his best chance for a fair decision.

And it couldn’t.

Tom Brady won. The NFL lost. And Brady’s four-game suspension was vacated.

But Thursday’s decision goes way beyond a month off for Brady. It strikes at Brady’s legacy and how he will be remembered after his career is over. Had Brady lost, that legacy would’ve been tarnished – with critics alleging that his accomplishments were the residue of cheating.

But with Thursday’s victory, Brady preserved his name now … and, hopefully, forever. So that when his name is presented to the Hall of Fame’s board of selectors in the next 10 years, we can cut straight to the chase. The representative from New England (our Ron Borges?) can pull an Ira Miller and follow the former San Francisco Chronicle reporter’s cue when in 2000 he introduced Joe Montana to the Hall’s voters.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Miller said, “Joe Montana.

Then he sat down. There was no speech. There were no supporting statistics. There were no colorful stories or letters of recommendation. There were simply those two words: Joe Montana. Now that same process can be repeated when Brady’s name is submitted for consideration.

Ladies and gentlemen, Tom Brady. Nothing more. Nothing less.

There should be no discussion of cheating, and there should be no discussion of lying because U.S. District Judge Richard Berman told us there can’t be. OK, Tom Brady did, too. By steadfastly refusing to accede to the league’s demands he admit guilt to a crime it could not prove and by hiring a legal team to shoot down a case with more holes than Clyde Barrow, Brady forced the NFL to prove that it had the right to crush him for allegedly cheating and, worse, lying.

And it couldn’t. Instead, Goodell dug in his heels, hiding behind his right not only to enforce punishment but to uphold it on appeal and daring someone, anyone to say he was wrong.

Only Judge Berman just did.

He didn’t say Goodell didn’t have the right to punish Brady. He does. The CBA that players signed gives him that power. What he did say, however, was that he doesn’t have the right to suspend Tom Brady for non-cooperation or obstruction. He also said the NFL inquiry screwed up by not making legal counsel Jeff Pash available for cross-examination, as well as not providing the NFL Players Association with documents from the Wells Report.

In short, he said the NFL never should’ve pushed this case as far as it did, and, frankly, that’s what I don’t get.

“DeflateGate” never had to happen. It could’ve been resolved quickly and easily. All Brady had to do was say he didn’t know footballs were under-inflated, agree to cooperate and suffer what consequences the league deemed appropriate. In all likelihood, there would have been a negligible fine, and the matter would have disappeared.

But, according to the NFL, Brady resisted. And the more he resisted, the more the league determined the penalty would be severe. So, when the Ted Wells Report deemed Brady culpable for “general awareness” (huh?) of deflated footballs, Goodell jumped at the chance to drop the hammer with a four-game suspension. Then, after an unsatisfactory meeting with Brady, he refused to back down from what Judge Berman called Goodell’s “own brand of industrial justice,” and the war was on.

Well, be careful what you wish for.

A smart man once said you better know when to hold ‘em, and know when to fold ‘em, and the NFL did not. Despite repeated warnings from Judge Berman that its case leaked like the Costa Concordia, the league refused to budge – even after Brady offered to take a one-game suspension for his failure to cooperate.

Instead, hubris got in the way of a settlement. The league was so determined to prove it was right and Brady was wrong, it would settle for nothing less than an admission of guilt. Brady refused, of course, and we know what happened: Tom Brady scored the biggest victory of his career. Only, unlike others, where this one had drama it wasn’t particularly close.

Brady carpet-bombed Goodell, Ted Wells and all the king’s men.

Now, of course, the league says it will appeal Berman’s decision, a move that could take months, and good luck, guys. When the NFL first took this case to an appeals court in New York, a pre-emptive strike that kept it out of the hands of NFLPA-friendly judge David Doty in Minnesota, the move was supposed to guarantee a slam dunk. After all, appeals in cases like this – or in cases outside of Judge Doty’s domain — seldom have been overturned.

Except this one was. And it wasn’t by Judge Doty, and it wasn’t in Minnesota. Which tells you … yep, which tells you the NFL didn’t have a case, after all, and shame on it for not knowing. The league pays its commissioner and lawyers a lot of money to make smart decisions, and trying to make this case against Tom Brady was not smart.

“As I have said during this process and throughout his career, Tom Brady is a classy person of the highest integrity,” said Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft. “He represents everything that is great about this game and this league. Yet with absolutely no evidence of any actions  of wrongdoing by Tom in the Wells report, the lawyers at the league still insisted on imposing and defending unwarranted and unprecedented discipline. Judge Richard Berman understood this, and we are greatly appreciative of his thoughtful decision.”

I don’t know what happens to Goodell or Wells or league lawyers after this. Regrettably, this matter is not over. But I do know what should happen to Tom Brady. He should be remembered as one of the best quarterbacks of all time and the best of his generation.


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  1. Rasputin
    September 4, 2015

    “What he did say, however, was that he doesn’t have the right to suspend Tom Brady for non-cooperation or obstruction.”

    Is that really something to celebrate? It seems as big a loss for fair play and the integrity of the game as it is for the league. I haven’t read the ruling, but reports are that Berman didn’t exonerate Brady (spin from the Patriots and Brady’s lawyer notwithstanding), but argued that there were procedural flaws, like Brady not being given sufficient notice that the violations could result in such a suspension, which is hardly tantamount to a vindication of one’s legacy. Cheating will certainly continue to be raised in discussions about Brady and the franchise in general.

    • September 6, 2015

      No, the reason to celebrate is that we can move beyond this. Finally. There was not one iota of evidence tying Brady to this alleged crime. I know what people believe and I know the “independent” investigation found “general awareness,” but, sorry, that’s not what we know. What we know is the league didn’t have one thing tying Brady to what it believed was a crime … after someone who would’ve been a lead witness, referee Walt Anderson, couldn’t remember what gauges he used to measure footballs and after two teams (Carolina and Minnesota) tampered with footballs last season and were not fined or suspended. I find it hard to believe that this case got where it was, but the NFL got greedy and was sloppy with its procedural work. People said they would never lose this case, and they shouldn’t have because it was about process. But they screwed that up, too. Lucky for them the judge wasn’t engaged to rule on the facts. Would’ve been tossed in two seconds.

      • Rasputin
        September 6, 2015

        Well, it’s not quite over, as the NFL is appealing. Regardless, it’s not like a court ruling based on technicalities is going to change people’s perceptions or stop them from mentioning this in the future.

        Remember the sanctions against the Patriots organization still stand. Do you really believe the Patriots weren’t breaking the rules, or, if they were, that Brady had no knowledge or involvement in that?

        • September 7, 2015

          It doesn’t matter what we believe. It matters what we know. And what I know is that there is not an iota of proof tying Tom Brady to the deflation of footballs. Sorry, but “general knowledge” does not pass as proof. The NFL relied on a flawed investigation. Never should’ve gone as far as it did. Never.

  2. Rich Quodomine
    September 8, 2015

    I don’t know if the decision itself changes everyone’s mind or not. People who hate or are jealous of the Pats will be. People who think Brady knew but it wasn’t worth this much fuss because a lot of teams cheat (pretty much where I am) will think the same. People who believe Brady in everything, will do so. What matters is that regardless of appeal, it’s done for a few months, so we can actually watch the game and not the court dockets.

    • September 8, 2015

      you’re right, rich. so was Brady when he said nobody won. lot of losers, but nobody more so than goodell and league. not sure why they pursued this investigation with such zeal. lucky judge didn’t rule on the facts of the case. would’ve been tossed in minutes.

    • Rasputin
      September 9, 2015

      While I tend to agree, I actually like Brady but I don’t think cheating should be condoned, so I guess I’m in yet another category.

      • September 9, 2015

        cheating shouldn’t be condoned, but what did the guy do? im still waiting for someone to tell me exactly what he did. he had “general awareness” that something was going on? please. i need more than that.

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