I'm pretty certain that 20 years from now, my grandchildren will be discussing the Deflate-Gate suspension, not as a thing of the past but as a continually living and breathing thing whose final outcome is open-ended, to be debated and appealed into perpetuity. That's how it feels, at least. This freaking thing just won't die.
Prior to last season, a federal judge had ruled that the four-game suspension imposed on New England Patriots QB Tom Brady for his role in the alleged deflation of footballs before the 2014 AFC Championship Game was unlawful, and overturned it. However, on Monday, a federal appeals court overruled that judge, and now the four-game suspension is reinvoked for the upcoming season.
The three-judge appeals court panel voted 2-1 that it was within commissioner Roger Goodell's power to punish Brady for conduct affecting the integrity of the game, that the players association collectively bargained this level of power with the commissioner, and that it therefore must accept whatever ruling Goodell hands down.
"We hold that the Commissioner properly exercised his broad discretion under the collective bargaining agreement and that his procedural rulings were properly grounded in that agreement and did not deprive Brady of fundamental fairness," the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals indicated.
According to ESPN's Adam Scheffer, Brady is exploring all of his options in battling the ruling of the appeals court, which is why I jokingly say that this thing may still be in a legal tennis match for the next several years. Reality is that Brady is running out of options, and eventually the only avenue left will be the Supreme Court, which likely wouldn't even hear the case. (For a good overview of the legal recourse, Clay Travis has one on his Outback blog.)
So let's assume for purposes of conversation that the suspension holds up and Brady serves his four games during weeks 1 through 4 of the upcoming season. Well, this would have a few ramifications...
1. The Texans' 2016 schedule just got easier!
I'll be honest, when I was cheering on Roger Goodell last week to get his way in the appeal of the suspension overturn, I was just joking around. I had no idea it would actually happen! But now that it has, may I say kudos to the appeals court for making the Texans' schedule a little easier. That Week 3 matchup on a short week looks less daunting on paper with Jimmy Garoppolo starting for the Pats. By the way, here are the four games Brady would miss:
9/11 at Arizona
9/18 vs Miami
9/22 vs Houston
10/2 vs Buffalo
Bovada has set the number of games the Pats will win out of these four at 1.5, for what it's worth.
2. Jimmy Garoppolo is the only Patriot happy with the decision of the appeals court.
He will never admit it publicly, but Garoppolo has to be thrilled that he's going to get what amounts to a four-game audition for the rest of the league. Assuming that Brady is serious about playing into his forties, there's no place long-term for Garoppolo in New England as anything more than a backup. His contract is up in two years. Four games of solid performance could be enough to net him an Osweiler-esque contract from somebody in two years.
3. Could Brian Hoyer be getting a phone call from his old team?
Right now, Garoppolo is the only quarterback under contract for the Patriots with clearance to play in Week 1. They need to sign or draft at least one more quarterback. My guess is that they want a veteran. Hoyer will likely get better offers with greater promises of playing time (once Brady comes back, Hoyer would be third-string), but who knows what the draw of going back to one of his old haunts might be?
4. Brady actually protected himself financially for this very outcome.
When Brady renegotiated his contract a month or so ago and converted several million dollars of his 2016 salary from salary to bonus money, ostensibly for cap purposes, it also ensured that the four game checks he would lose if the suspension was reinstated would be much smaller...
5. Can anyone in the AFC East take the crown from the Patriots?
Since 2003, the only season in which the Patriots didn't win the AFC East was 2008, when Brady missed the entire season with a torn ACL. So with Brady missing four games, does the door open for a new AFC East crown holder in 2015? Well, there are certainly no patsies among Miami, the Jets and Buffalo, but are any of them double-digit-win teams? I would say, on paper and with a new head coach in Adam Gase, the Dolphins are the most promising, but they've burned me before. And I can't take Ryan Fitzpatrick or Tyrod Taylor versus 12 games of Brady. So the Patriots still are the likely favorite.
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6. Roger Goodell somehow winds up more empowered.
Somehow, in spite of complete butcherings of the adjudication of the Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Brady cases, Goodell wound up having his power solidified even more after this whole process. Only in America!
7. South Park got its shots in...
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.