The Wells Report has come to the conclusion that it is “at least more probable than not” that New England Patriots QB Tom Brady was at least “generally aware” that team employees has intentionally deflated football in last season’s AFC Playoffs. While many others, including head coach Bill Belichick, seem to be exonerated for any part in Deflategate, Brady appears more likely than not to be guilty of at least some wrongdoing. Now, the question remains, what sort of punishment will the NFL levy against Brady and the Patriots?
The NFL Game Operations Manual states that violations of the PSI rule triggers a modest $25,000 fine. That would seem to be letting off the Patriots way too lightly, so expect more than that. Perhaps, the league could fine New England upward of $250,000, like it did for Spygate, or $500,000, like it did to the New Orleans Saints for Bountygate. Draft picks were also forfeited in both incidents.
The Patriots are not going to be stripped of Super Bowl XLIX. This is not the WWE or some other organization that takes away a championship and rewards it to whomever it wants. The Patriots are the defending Super Bowl champions, whether people like it or not. That will not change.
Fines are extremely likely. Forfeiture of draft picks is certainly possible. A suspension of Tom Brady is improbable, but not out of the question. In fact, Vegas has taken off the Opening Kickoff game between the Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers from the betting books. That would at least insinuate that they are least bracing for a possible suspension of Brady.
Then again, if the NFL wants to really come down on Brady, forget about suspending him for a game or two in the regular season. Wait until the NFL Playoffs begin. Make him sit out the first game for the Patriots in the postseason. That would be a much more harsh – and perhaps, fitting – punishment, since Deflategate occurred in a playoff game.
Either way, can we please stop using the word gate in each and every NFL-related investigation? It has more than run its course.