Tag Archives: New Engalnd Patriots

Winning The Battle, But Losing The War?

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The National Football League and commissioner Roger Goodell finally got what they wanted as New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will serve a four-game suspension to begin the 2016 NFL season as a result of underinflated footballs during the AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts in January 2015. This marks the end of a battle between Brady and the NFL that has gone on for nearly 18 months as the league was seeking to drop the hammer on him. And although that the NFL finally got what they were seeking, did they really win?

Goodell like his predecessors who have served as commissioner of the National Football League have been judge, jury, and executioner on league matters. But unlike Bert Bell and Pete Rozelle, Goodell has had to deal with an abundance on player misconduct while being very inconsistent in the process.

Upon taking over in 2006, Goodell found himself looking into player misconduct with people such as cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones which resulted in him being suspended for the entire 2007 National Football League season. Goodell would continue to drop the hammer on players for misconduct, but he developed a reputation for not being consistent which including him suspending quarterback Michael Vick after he served a two-year prison sentence for his role in a dog fighting ring, while also reducing the suspension of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger from six games to four following sexual assault allegations against him.

But Goodell’s power would be tested in 2012 when he came down hard on the New Orleans Saints organization for their system of putting out bounties on opposing players. Goodell would suspend Saints general manager Mickey Loomis, head coach Sean Payton, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, and assistant coach Joe Vitt while fining the organization $500k and stripping them of multiple draft picks. Goodell then turned his attention to the Saints roster where he would suspend linebacker Jonathan Vilma for the entire 2012 National Football League season, defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove for eight games, defensive end Will Smith for four games, and linebacker Scott Fujita for three games. However unlike the Saints administration, the players would ban together and fight Goodell’s ruling.

With the support of the National Football League’s Player’s Association, the Saints players took their case to federal court where they were able to prove that Goodell had suspended them without evidence and subsequently their suspensions were overturned which was huge blow to the commissioner’s authority.

And in the case of Brady and the Patriots, Goodell was attempting to show that he still had the ultimate authority in the National Football League which could wind up hurting him in the end.

When the National Football League’s investigation of Brady and the Patriots began in the spring of 2015, the league hired “independent” investigator Ted Wells to conduct things. But Wells was already on the NFL’s payroll and all that he could conclude was that Brady “probably knew” that the footballs were underinflated. Brady did not fully cooperate with the investigation, but Wells never made it clear to him that he would be subject to discipline by the league if he didn’t.

Goodell would suspend Brady for the first four games of the 2015 National Football League season, and like the Saints players before him, he would appeal. However Goodell would invoke a clause in the collective bargaining agreement which allowed him to be the “independent” arbitrator on Brady’s appeal which would become a glorified witch hunt. Brady’s suspension was upheld which paved the way for him to take the NFL to federal court.

Last summer, Brady’s case would be heard by Judge Richard Berman in the United States District Court who ruled in his favor and overturned Goodell’s ruling. The National Football League and Goodell were in trouble from the first day of the proceedings when Berman asked them for their evidence against Brady to which they were unable to provide any.

But instead of taking the loss, Goodell decided to appeal Berman’s ruling to the U.S. Appeals Court where he and the deep pocket owners of the National Football League would find a three-judge panel ruled in his favor. Brady would appeal, but it would be denied which was to Goodell’s liking. There was the possibility of Brady taking this matter to the Supreme Court, but he decided against that option and will now serve his four-game suspension.

Goodell won out as he had the backing of some of the big boys such as Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti who wanted to see him make an example out of Brady and the Patriots. Goodell won out due to the fact that he exercised a clause which allowed him to be the arbitrator on Brady’s case, and it is something that he may never be able to use again.

When the current collective bargaining agreement was ratified between the players and owners, it was agreed upon that Goodell could act as an independent arbitrator on rulings. But what has hurt Goodell and the National Football League on their handling of Brady’s case is that the quarterback was suspended for something that nobody really cares about as playing with an underinflated football is the equivalent of driving 56 miles per hour in a 55 zone. Brady’s suspension of four games is the equivalent of a player that violated the NFL’s supplement policy, while players who have been arrested have received lesser penalties from the league which proves that Goodell cannot be impartial.

Goodell will claim that Brady failed to comply with the investigation while he is out to “protect the shield”. But the National Football League shield was tarnished a long time ago as they’ve failed to take care of their retired players that made the game the phenomenon that it is today as some of them have suffered debilitating injuries, while also being extremely reactionary with cases such as that of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice. Goodell initially suspended Rice for two games due to domestic violence. But when TMZ leaked a video of the full incident in which Rice was seen punching his wife (then fiancee) Janay Palmer, he would be suspended indefinitely by the NFL. This was done in spite of the fact that Rice gave Goodell and Ravens team officials including Bisciotti, a full testimony of his involvement well before the video was leaked. But like a true politician, all Goodell did was deny, deny, deny.

Had the Brady case never been made public, this would not be a topic right now, and I would be writing about something else. But as the media got a hold of it and proceeded to act in the fashion of the glorified prostitutes that they are, Goodell figured that he would have to do something in order to protect his precious shield. However Goodell never made it public knowledge that the league conducted another investigation of how other teams around the National Football League prepare footballs prior to games during last season which was disclosed. And that alone makes you wonder if other NFL teams doctor the football as well, however no punishment is or will be coming down the pike for them.

Make no mistake about it that Goodell is in a bind as he must do what the owners of the 32 National Football League franchises want him to do which is not always going to come off well in the court of pubic opinion. But in this case it is 31 teams as Patriots owner Robert Kraft has now been made the black sheep of the family as the other team owners convinced him to not fight Goodell’s ruling which included his team being fined $1 million and losing multiple draft picks. Kraft is not without fault as his organization was caught up in the “Spygate” scandal of 2007 that saw them found guilty of taping opposing teams signals during games, but Brady appears to be guilty by association.

In the case of Brady it is guilty until Goodell says otherwise as the quarterback was not given a due process. And to those out there that will claim that Goodell is the ultimate authority figure of the National Football League, what would you do if your employer reprimanded you for something that either he/she didn’t have proof that you did while simply throwing their weight around?

Goodell has shown that he cannot be impartial as last season saw Brady taking more hits that in year’s past would have warranted penalty flags during the game, and fines to those defenders. But if Brady is supposed to be protected in the same fashion that other quarterbacks are, why did it stop now being that he fought the bully that Goodell is?

Once upon a time Ted DiBiase coined the phrase that “everybody has a price for the Million Dollar Man” as money talks louder than anything else. And as the Jones’ and Bischotti’s of the world are billionaires, their money speaks louder and they have the ability to bribe any judge and twist the legal system anyway that they see fit. Brady got caught up in that wash which led to Goodell’s victory. However when it’s time for the owners and players to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement in a few years, this ruling will be a major sticking point. So Goodell wanted to flex his muscles, but will it be worth it if this ultimately cost him some of the power that he was sorely seeking to keep as the players now have overwhelming evidence that he cannot be impartial?

And if the Patriots go on to win Super Bowl 51, it will be must-see television if Goodell has to hand Brady and company the Vince Lombardi Trophy after he has fought them vigorously for the past 18 months.

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So Much For The Patriots Demise

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After the New England Patriots lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 4, the rumor mill began to swirl about their downfall. The internet was buzzing with reports of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady looking to be traded while he was growing tired of the team’s head coach Bill Belichick. But that is why you don’t pay a ton of attention to what happens in the National Football League during the month of September. After their loss to the Chiefs, the Patriots were 2-2 and some people were saying that they were done. But autumn has brought new life to the Patriots and with it Super Bowl aspirations.

The Patriots have reeled off six consecutive victories as they are looking like a well-oiled machine and possibly the best team in NFL as they’ve done it in very dominating fashion. Off all of the Patriots victories during their current winning streak, only one game was decided by single digits. The Patriots got the ball rolling in Week 5 when they hosted the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals were 3-0 and coming off of a bye, but it was the Patriots that were the fresher and more precise team as they destroyed Cincinnati 43-17. With first place in the AFC East on the line in Week 6, the Patriots traveled to Orchard Park, New York for a showdown with the Buffalo Bills. The Bills were hopeful that this would be their year to get back to the playoffs, but it was New England that emerged victorious 37-22. After a tightly contested 27-25 victory over the New York Jets in Week 7, the Patriots would cream the Chicago Bears in Week 8 by the score of 51-23. In a battle for AFC supremacy in Week 9, the Patriots would host the Denver Broncos in a game that would have a huge bearing on the playoff picture. These two teams met in last season’s AFC Championship Game with the Broncos advancing to the Super Bowl and it was also another chapter in Brady’s rivalry with Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning that dates back to Manning’s time with the Indianapolis Colts. This day and the game would belong to Brady and the Patriots as they dominated the Broncos 51-23. The Patriots bye week in Week 10 did not cool them off as they ran roughshod over the Colts in Indy this past Sunday night 42-20. The Patriots are 8-2 as they have the best record in the AFC. In the process the Patriots have defeated every current division leader in the AFC and they are serving notice that they will be a team to be reckoned with come January in the playoffs.

Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft

The Patriots have not won a Super Bowl Championship since 2004, but they are the model team for consistency in the NFL. Since 2001, the Patriots have won 11 AFC Eastern Division Titles and they appear ready add another one to the mantle in 2014. In recent years Belichick and Patriots owner Robert Kraft have received criticism as it has been perceived that they have simply placed too much in the lap of Brady to do. But this year’s team in New England could be the best team that Brady has been a part of since the Patriots finished the 2007 regular season with a record of 16-0.

The Patriots have tremendous balance this season which puts less pressure on Brady. This past off-season, Belichick set out to upgrade the Patriots secondary. The Patriots lost cornerback Aqib Talib in free agency to the Broncos, but as soon as the deal was made, cornerback Darrelle Revis was headed to Foxboro to replace him. Revis is a five-time Pro Bowl selection that spent the first six years of his National Football League career tormenting Belichick and the Patriots as a member of the Jets and he is one of the best shutdown corners in pro football. Revis only has two interceptions this season, but he can blanket one side of the football field all by himself. Opposite of Revis at the other cornerback position stands 6’4″, Brandon Browner who was brought to New England this past off-season to team with the likes of free safety Devin McCourty in the Patriots secondary. These moves were made by the Patriots solely to compete with the Broncos who could be their biggest contender in the AFC as they have a slew of wide receivers led by Demaryius Thomas that put a ton of pressure on a defense.

The Patriots suffered a blow when middle linebacker Jerod Mayo was lost for the season to injury, but with Donta Hightower switching from outside to inside in the starting linebacking corp, the Pats have not skipped a beat while their pass rush by committee led by defensive end Rob Nikovich along with defensive tackle Vince Wilfork plugging the interior defensive line, the Patriots have a bend but don’t break philosophy which resembles what they were able to accomplish when they won three Super Bowl Titles from 2001-2004.

Like any good team the Patriots have a next man up philosophy. During their victory over the Bills, the Patriots lost starting running back Stevan Ridley to a torn ACL. But in Ridley’s asbence, running back Jonas Gray is making the most of his opportunity in the Patriots backfield. In 2012, Gray went undrafted by the NFL as he bounced around on the practice squads of the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens, but now he appears to have found a home with the Patriots. Gray is the Patriots second leading rusher this season and he stepped up huge in the victory over the Colts with 201 rushing yards and 4 rushing touchdowns. Gray did this behind an offensive line that was called the worst in football by some people after the loss to the Chiefs. But the law firm of offensive tackles Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer, guards Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell along with center Bryan Stork are opening up holes for Gray and the running game while giving Brady a clean pocket to decipher things in the passing game.

Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski

The running game and passing game have fed off of each other as Brady is completing 64 percent of his passes to go along with 24 touchdowns to only 5 interceptions. It is really helping Brady this season that he has his ace in the hole back in a healthy Rob Gronkowski at tight end. Gronkowski has not been fully healthy since 2011 which was the Patriots last trip to the Super Bowl. But Gronk is on pace for another season like 2011 when he had 90 receptions to go with 1,327 receiving yards and 17 receiving touchdowns which was a single-season NFL record for tight ends. Gronkowski’s presence brings that different element to the Patriots offense that Brady has been sorely missing. This season Gronkowski has 53 receptions for 734 yards and 9 touchdowns as he is one of the best red zone options in the National Football League in spite of the fact that he consistently faces double and triple team coverage.

This Patriots team has the feel of the team that won the Super Bowl in 2003. And Like 2003, the Patriots were 2-2 after four games before they won 15 straight en route to capturing the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Like these Patriots, those Patriots were left for dead and they simply found a way to win every Sunday. Belichick was the head coach of that team while Brady was his quarterback and they are rolling just like they were 11 years ago.

You could make the case that the Patriots have an important stretch coming up, but they have simply answered the bell against good teams over this current winning streak. The next two weeks will see the Patriots deal with NFC North teams as they host the Detroit Lions before traveling to take on the Green Bay Packers in what could be a Super Bowl preview. The Patriots will have a road affair with the San Diego Chargers before they finish up the final three weeks of the regular season with their AFC East foes in the Miami Dolphins, Jets, and Bills respectively. Each week brings a different game plan which the Patriots have been executing to a tee. This is the Patriots time of year to get their sea legs and as long as Brady and Belichick are around you cannot write this team off.

Source: Pro-footall-reference.com

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2014 Week 1 NFL Picks

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Geno Smith

Will the New York Jets start their season on the right foot?

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