05/12/2015 11:59 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Why the Deflategate Punishments Were Too Soft


(Photo credit: Keith Allison)

The "Deflategate" scandal has come to a conclusion, although likely a temporary one. The NFL rendered its punishments, suspending Tom Brady for four games, fining the Patriots $1 million, stripping them of a first-round draft pick in 2016, and a fourth-round pick in 2017.

The Patriots are going to accept their punishments, and Brady is expected to appeal.

But was it enough? Some of it was unprecedented, like the seven-figure fine. But the rest of it was not enough, and could have gone a lot further.

The draft picks sound significant, but really aren't. A first-round pick is something, but if the Patriots trade for another one, they don't forfeit them both, only the higher one. If the Patriots trade for one, bingo! They are back into the first round, rendering the punishment "No harm, no foul." They should have been rendered ineligible to select in the 2016 first round, and been handed the same fate for at least one additional season.

The fourth-round draft pick is not significant, and the Patriots will not really miss it.

Now, to Tom Brady. The problem with only four games is the list of opponents. Take a look at who the Patriots face:

vs. Steelers, at Bills, vs. Jaguars, at Cowboys

The way to best punish a football team is to suspend them for significant games, meaning division games. Brady misses only one game against an AFC East opponent, which makes this insignificant. If he missed at least two AFC East games, that would have been different. Since the league cannot pick and choose games to suspend him from, the alternative would have been an eight-game suspension.

Why so harsh? Refer to the Wells report to understand why. First of all, the Patriots were warned earlier in the season, when practice balls found their way into a Jets game. Yet, the Patriots continued to play fast and loose with the rules.

Secondly, withholding information, as the Patriots and Brady did, is in violation of the rule requiring complete cooperation:

Actual or suspected competitive violations will be thoroughly and promptly
investigated. Any club identifying a violation is required promptly to report the
violation, and give its full support and cooperation in any investigation. Failure to
cooperate in an investigation shall be considered conduct detrimental to the
League and will subject the offending club and responsible individual(s) to
appropriate discipline.

The Patriots denied a requested interview, and Tom Brady denied submission of his cellular phone. Both were important to the investigation, but the Patriots and Tom Brady just didn't care. So, even without the warning, Brady and the Patriots are subject to discipline, under the rule noted above.

Add the warning, and the mountain of circumstantial evidence, and the Patriots have a real problem. Their role is obvious, and clear.

Put on top the declarations by Robert Kraft of total innocence, and his demeaning the league's investigation in wake of the ruling, and the Patriots become a big problem.

The Patriots and Tom Brady were dealt with by the NFL. They just didn't do it anywhere near harshly enough.

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