NFL commissioner Roger Goodell handed down his decision on Tom Brady's appeal of his four-game suspension for Deflategate Tuesday, upholding Brady's full punishment and setting the stage for him to either accept sitting out the first quarter of the 2015 season, or take the NFL to court.
In his 20-page ruling, Goodell reveals that Brady had destroyed his cell phone on March 6, the very day he was to meet with investigator Ted Wells. Brady said it was common practice, but for the commissioner this was the final nail in Brady's coffin. This was the only new revelation of the appeal ruling, but it's a big one.
The rest rehashes Goodell's support for the initial findings of the Wells Report, while also dismissing all arguments made by Brady and his attorneys that might've poked holes in the extensive document released on May 6. This includes rejecting popular issues with the Wells Report such as the use of the logo vs. non-logo gauge and the measurement of the Colts' footballs taking place after they had warmed up in the official's locker room during halftime of the AFC Championship Game.
The commissioner also rejected the AEI study that concluded the deflation for the Patriots' footballs was within the Ideal Gas Law range.
Goodell reinforced what he sees as the key elements to Brady's punishment — text messages from Patriots employees Jim McNally and John Jastremski that included McNally referring to himself as the "deflator," a sudden increase in communication between Brady and Jastremski after the AFC title game, and the discussion of gifts that Brady had given to both men in charge of preparing and handling the footballs.
The commissioner also justified Brady's four-game ban by focusing on what he saw as Brady's deliberate attempt to circumvent a rule that affected the integrity of the game.
Now Brady must choose whether to put this behind him and start preparing for the Colts on Oct. 18, or to take the NFL to court, which would have no guaranteed outcome.
If Brady wants to continue the fight, his first order of business must be to have a court issue a stay on his punishment until his case is decided. While that is possible, Brady will be taking the chance that he could lose in court and end up serving his suspension at a more critical time in the Patriots' season.
Or he could get lucky and the issue won't get decided until 2016. Still, the Deflategate cloud would continue to hang over him, with no end in sight.
Did the NFL nail Brady with any cold, hard proof? Not really. But there was enough circumstantial evidence from the Wells Report to make it seem possible Brady was orchestrating a ball-deflating scheme. The destruction of the cell phone was the cherry on top and one that could be a real problem for Brady in court, complicating a case that seemed much more of a slam dunk before this ruling.
Should Brady be required to turn over his cell phone to the NFL at all is a question worth debating, but the NFL feels he should and that is all that matters right now. Certainly that would be one of the main points of contention in a court of law.
The ball is in Brady's hands once again and historically he's best when the pressure is on him.
This might be his most interesting last drive yet.