If Roger Goodell knew his ankle-biting minions were hunting minnows with a speargun on Jan. 18, he may have appreciated their zeal. But he would have told them their time would be better spent on bigger things.
Right now, the NFL Commissioner’s face is the one on the dartboard. Even people who loathe the Patriots reserve next-level disgust for the poopshow that Goodell is presiding over. But even if this is the iceberg that sinks Goodell, it’s his crew that put him in peril.
This has to have struck Goodell at some point. He is in for the fight of his Commissionership trying to make a four-game suspension stick to Tom Brady. All because a $5M, 103-day investigation stated two guys probably let a hiss of air out of footballs before the AFC Championship Game.
Think about the preceding paragraph and forget all the other happy horsecrap we’ve been flinging for five months. That’s what it is. The reigning Super Bowl MVP, the best quarterback of his generation is currently banished for a quarter of the season some footballs – not all – were a fraction underinflated according to some widely disparate measurements which nobody in the league ever paid attention to previously.
Processing the reality of this today, I thought to myself that this must be what old people felt in 1969 when they saw on TV men playing golf on the moon. Fantasy.
But here we are. And the funniest, most ironic thing is that the Ginger Hammer didn’t even know he was being set up Jan. 18 by his overzealous men in the field.
He probably had no idea that an accusatory email was sent by the Colts equipment manager the week of the AFC title game that basically stated, “You guys, everyone knows the Patriots let air out of the footballs...”
Nor did Goodell likely know his Game Operations people – Mike Kensil and David Gardi – mobilized upon receipt of the email, looped in the officials and started rubbing their palms together with anticipation.
By Monday morning, Kensil, Gardi and Troy Vincent – all among the suits who’d been in Foxboro – were able to proudly showed Rog what they’d landed and the progress they’d made in their investigation. Goodell must have been horrified.
But it was already too late to cut the thing loose.
The Colts equipment guys – who made the initial accusation – had run a sideline test and found the ball was under 12.5 PSI (page 7 of Wells Report). Kensil had stormed around the Patriots sideline at halftime telling Pats employees they were in “big f****** trouble." Gardi was firing off accusatory emails to Robert Kraft. Kensil had told Colts GM Ryan Grigson the Patriots were caught. Grigson told Colts owner Jim Irsay. Somebody told Indy media guy Bob Kravitz. It was “out there.”
Nobody among Goodell’s lieutenants seemed to realize that they were running around with handfuls of pure uranium and – by dint of their actions – pushing an unaware Goodell out on a plank.
Nobody said, “Fellas...ummmm, Ideal Gas Law…?” so the 11.3 and 10.9 PSIs were chalked up to a systematic plot to deflate footballs by the Patriots, not – as it turned out – Mother Nature.
Nobody seemed to spend a lot of time saying, “Hey, we might have them here We better make sure we dot our i’s and cross our t’s.”
Gardi’s email to Kraft on Monday announcing the league was launching an investigation demonstrated the early stupidity of the Game Operations people. One Patriots ball measured at halftime was at 10.1, stated Gardi. None of the Colts balls measured at halftime was under 12.5, stated Gardi.
In fact, three of four balls were under 12.5 PSI at halftime on one of the gauges. If Gardi, Kensil and Vincent had slowed down and not immediately turned into a pack of overaged Encyclopedia Browns, they could have saved the NFL a lot of humiliation.
But now, Goodell is forced to defend to the hilt a trumped-up, barely believable charge, an eye-rolling investigation and a draconian punishment.
He’s going to hear the Tom Brady appeal. He can’t back down now or he’ll undercut the $5M investigation he commissioned, Vincent’s authority and the progress he made convincing people he’s not Robert Kraft’s stooge.
So, he’s going to uphold the suspension (most likely) and then get his face pushed in by Jeffrey Kessler and the NFLPA when they start going to town on Ted Wells report.
They’ll start with the fact that literally hundreds of games have been contested with footballs that were certainly under 12.5 PSI thanks to slow deflation caused by cold air and you have an absolutely laughable penalty of four games for Brady.
Then they’ll get into the measurements and inconsistencies, the biases and presumptions, the plausibles and not plausibles.
After that, they’ll point out that the tenor of the investigation from halftime on put the Patriots on the defensive and, really, how could you blame them? Look at how these guys conducted themselves? Why would someone want to cough up a cell phone or submit to a fifth round of questioning when it was clear this fishing expedition was trying to catch something – ANYTHING!
And Goodell is anchored to this mess. Thanks to his guys.
We all take turns hammering Goodell, but he’s really just a receptacle for bile we’d spew at whoever was in charge of the NFL.
Football is played by incredible athletes and tactically managed by coaches who can be truly brilliant in the way they manage people and the games.
The NFL is a coalition of billionaire businessmen that own the players, coaches and teams and pushes the sport as a product. Its commissioner is the person hired to make sure the product keeps growing and the money keeps flowing.
If the behemoth is forced to address morality, integrity, sportsmanship, health or social issues, it will do so but only insofar as getting the consumer (and we in the media) thinking they’re really doing the right thing. The commissioner is charged with being the face of social responsibility as well.
He sucks at it. Anyone would. It’s like herding cats. If it’s not an owner like Irsay doing something embarrassing, it’s a dozen players doing stupid things because they’re young dumb and rich. Meanwhile, every team is eye-gouging and hair-pulling to get to the top and all the bean-counters are trying to make sure the beans keep piling up.
The owners chose Roger Goodell to be the face of their coalition and told him that, when the poop hits the fan, he is to wipe it off his face with dignity and keep on speaking like nothing happened.
It was up to the people under Goodell to manage the poopstorms. Make sure the little ones are handled well and that he’d take care of the big ones.
This was a little poopstorm. Or should have been. Goodell couldn’t find a way to stop it from turning into a giant one. And he just may drown in it.