Opinion

Roger Goodell Goes To The Mattress

Marc Sterne Producer, "The Tony Kornheiser Show"

I don’t know if Roger Goodell has ever seen the Godfather, but I’m going to assume that he has. I’ll make that assumption because by refusing to reduce Tom Brady’s four game suspension, he sent a message to Brady, the Pats, and the rest of the league that was as clear as if he’d wrapped his statement around a fish and delivered it to Bob Kraft’s front door.

I can see it now – Julian Edelman answers the door, picks up the fish and says “I don’t understand, what does this mean?” From the back of the room, Bill Belichick says “It’s a Sicilian message – it means that Tom Brady sleeps with the fishes.”

Ok, I get it, there are a few things wrong with this analogy: Goodell is more like Fredo than Sollazzo, Brady isn’t Luca Brasi (he’s got to be Michael, right?) and for that matter, Brady is definitely not sleeping with the fishes. The Patriots QB ain’t going away quietly into the night. He’s going to war with the Commissioner, and by the time this is over, there will be plenty of carnage all around the NFL.

And that’s what stuns me most about this decision, it’s just bad business. Goodell could have taken the moral high ground by reducing the suspension to two games or even one. At that point it might have been difficult for Brady to mount a campaign against the league to clear his name. There would have been an incredible amount of pressure on him to accept a 1 game suspension and put the whole thing behind him for the good of the team. But now, Brady HAS to fight this thing all the way to the end. This will get ugly, and it will be a stain on the league throughout this entire season.

Goodell’s decision smacks of pettiness and vindictiveness. He wanted to show everyone that he’s the boss, and in doing so he’s putting the league in harm’s way. With the season on the way, the focus should be on training camp battles, and the games to come – not the legal sparring between the player’s union and the league over this suspension. But that’s probably what Goodell wanted from the start.

That would explain the over the top reaction (a million dollar fine, two draft picks, and a suspension for a quarter of the season) over something that appeared to not have a big deal for the NFL. I mean, if it was really was such a big deal, then why didn’t the league have control over the balls since the beginning of time? It would also explain the acceptance of the shoddy science in the Wells report, and the inexplicable double standard that Brady’s sentence sets when compared to players who commit domestic violence, do drugs or who get caught driving under the influence.

Now you might say that Goodell’s hand was forced by Brady’s lack of cooperation – most notably the destruction of his cell phone. But to me, that’s all just sauce for the goose. Goodell has been spoiling for a fight with the Patriots and this was his ticket. Who knows, maybe he is more like Sollazzo, and he’s actually doing all of this at the behest of some owners behind the scenes (Irsay and Bisciotti = Tataglia and Barzini).

The league will survive this – no matter what the outcome of Brady’s appeal, but it didn’t need to go down like this. Or maybe it did. Perhaps Clemenza was right when he said that this sort of stuff needs to happen every ten years or so to clear out the bad blood … who knows?

The only thing I know for sure is that none of these guys should stop at any tollbooths along the Long Beach Causeway.