Tom Brady Punishment in Context

05/18/2015 11:25 pm ET | Updated May 18, 2016


Photo Credit: Keith Allison

The "Deflategate" saga has moved into the penalty phase. Now, eyes are predominantly set on Tom Brady, star quarterback, and the on-field face of the New England Patriots. The verdict was a four game suspension to begin at the beginning of the 2015 season, which has garnered the support of most NFL fans, and the understandable ire of New England Patriots fans.

As expected, Tom Brady filed his appeal last week. The NFLPA made the letter public on Friday, making the main appeal points available for all to see. They make three points, one of which we are going to discuss. The letter mentions that the penalty is "grossly inconsistent with the League's prior disciplinary treatment of similar alleged conduct, including lack of cooperation and not complying with League rules regarding game balls or other equipment."

To put it into context, there really is no history regarding equipment and game ball rules. There just haven't been issues and complaints with regards to players breaking these rules. It goes on to state, "Indeed, no player in the history of the NFL has ever received anything approaching this level of discipline for similar behavior." But is that really the case?

If we look back into NFL history, the argument made doesn't really hold water.

Back in 1925, Art Folz was a backup quarterback for the Chicago Cardinals. In the early days of the NFL, teams were responsible for their own schedules, so they would schedule weaker opponents in order to bolster their record. The Milwaukee Badgers were one of those teams, and they were on the late season schedule of the Cardinals.

Folz convinced four high school players to join the Badgers under assumed names in order to ensure the team being too weak to handle the Cardinals. This attempt to undermine the integrity of the game earned Folz a lifetime ban, although it was later rescinded.

In 1946, the Bears faced the New York Giants in the NFL championship game. Frank Filchock and Merle Hapes were members of the Giants, playing QB and RB respectively. Prior to the game, each were accused of taking bribes to fix the upcoming game. Hapes admitted guilt prior to the game, and was suspended for the game. Filchock denied it, played the game and later admitted guilt at the trial of the man accused of bribing the players.

Both Filchock and Hapes also received lifetime bans from football for clearly undermining the integrity of the sport.

Now, to compare the severity of these situations to Tom Brady is to be blind to reality. I am in no way saying that due to these previous incidents, Tom Brady should receive a lifetime ban from the NFL. Far from it. Looking at it honestly, even a full year ban for Brady would have been an overreaction.

Nor am I evaluating Tom Brady's guilt or innocence. This is based on an assumed guilt, because that is what the report has found, whether you agree or not.
Based on that, these incidents are comparable because they all infringe on the integrity of the National Football League. Deflating footballs is not the same as taking a bribe, not even close. Deflating footballs is not the same as hiring inferior players to play for an opponent, not even close. But all three incidents, to varying degrees, have an impact on the play on the field.

Drawing that parallel, doesn't Tom Brady deserve SOME suspension for being part of a scheme to commit conduct detrimental to the game? In context, a four game suspension is actually reasonable, and does have history to back it up.

For more from Alan Schechter, check him out at End Zone Score.