After the 2014 AFC Championship Game, reports began to surface that there was a possibility that the New England Patriots used under inflated footballs during the first half of their 45-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. A media fire storm would swarm over the Patriots leading up to Super Bowl 49 with the main focus being on quarterback Tom Brady for his alleged role. But the Patriots are one of if not the best team in the National Football League when it comes to not allowing distractions to sidetrack them from their goal of winning. And the Patriots would use the allegations as added motivation when they defeated the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl 49 28-24 with Brady being named as the game’s MVP. That off-season would see the National Football League conduct an “investigation” of the Patriots and all that could be found was that there was a “possibility” that Brady knew of the footballs being under inflated. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would drop the hammer which saw the Patriots stripped of multiple draft picks in 2015 and Brady being suspended for the first four games of the season.
But with the help of the National Football League’s Players Association, Brady fought the league tooth and nail over his suspension. The matter would ultimately play out in Federal Court over the summer of 2015 with Brady being exonerated. However Goodell and the NFL would not accept the court’s ruling and last March they would appeal in order to have Brady’s suspension upheld.
Brady would sit out the first four games of this season as he was turned into a martyr over something that nobody really cared about. And for Goodell his once steady relationship with Patriots team owner Robert Kraft who some once deemed as “the assistant commissioner” was now strained at best.
But what was done by the National Football League to hamper the Patriots has only helped them. In four games without Brady, the Patriots went 3-1, and with him back in the lineup they would go 11-1. Overall Pats would go 14-2 in the regular season which paved the way for them to have home-field advantage in the AFC Playoffs.
And home-field advantage really benefited New England as in two playoff contests they outscored the Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers 70-33 which has paved the way for them to appear in the Super Bowl for a record ninth time.
Goodell has gone out of his way to treat the Patriots as the black sheep of his beloved National Football League. Since Brady took the NFL to Federal Court, he doesn’t have the luxury of the same amount of roughing the passer calls that he received in year’s past, while Goodell has acted as if the Patriots organization doesn’t exist.
Goodell has avoided Gillette Stadium all season long like the plague to the point that he made consecutive trips during the postseason to the Georgia Dome in order to watch the Atlanta Falcons which is an oddity since commissioners tend to travel around and observe the entire league.
Under the surface Goodell may have not wanted to cause a distraction by avoiding Foxboro, but he won’t have a choice if the Patriots do what the odds makers in Las expect them to do which is to win the Super Bowl in a few days. Each year following the Super Bowl, the commissioner has handed the winning owner the Vince Lombardi Trophy. And in this era of entertainment, the trophy presentation has been made into a grand spectacle on a podium that includes the winning head coach and the Super Bowl MVP. However if the Patriots are successful against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl 51, it more than likely will be because of Brady which would mean that Goodell would have to come face-to-face with the owner, head coach, and quarterback whom he threw the book at.
But this isn’t to say that Patriots are faultless in everything which dates back to Spygate. This is simply an issue with Goodell and his inconsistency as a commissioner. When Goodell came down hard on the New Orleans Saints organization for Bountygate, the players that were implemented went the same route that Brady did which led to their suspensions being overturned, and the commissioner simply left the matter alone. However in the case of Deflategate, Goodell blitzed Brady at the request of some of the power brokers in the National Football League such as Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in order to make an example out of him.
Kraft merely accepted the National Football League’s punishment towards his franchise due to the fact that his hand was forced by the other billionaires that own teams in the league. And just like Jones and the other NFL team owners are accustomed to getting their way, the same can be said for Kraft who gave a passionate speech this past Sunday when he accepted the Lamar S. Hunt trophy which acknowledges the AFC Champion. Kraft said “For a number of reasons, all of you in this stadium understand how big this win was.”
After everything that has gone down, the Patriots are going to have their fare share of detractors if people allow their thought process to be dictated by what the mass media says. However each time that the Patriots are put on front street, the production as a team only gets better. And just as the Patriots win in Super Bowl 49 over the Seahawks should have been the icing on the cake as far as doubting them, they could add an extra coat of frosting by winning another Lombardi Trophy, while also serving up a huge dosage of humble pie to Goodell.
So in Houston on February 5, there won’t be a hiding place for Goodell if the Patriots are able to win. And whereas the National Football League has been complaining about ratings being down for the entire season, everyone will be tuning in should New England win as Goodell would have no choice but to acknowledge one of the league’s best franchises.