Roger Goodell won’t be able to dodge the Patriots in the Super Bowl. (Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)
It probably doesn’t make a difference to Roger Goodell whether the Patriots win the Super Bowl. For him, Deflategate is ancient history. He won a long time ago.
When owner Robert Kraft grabbed the microphone Sunday following his team’s blowout victory over the Steelers in the AFC championship game, he seemingly spoke for every aggrieved Patriots fan around the world.
“For a number of reasons, all of you in this stadium understand how big this win was,” Kraft told a rabid crowd in Foxboro.
It wasn’t difficult to connect the dots. Almost two years ago to the date, the NFL caught the Patriots playing with slightly under inflated footballs against the Colts. Over the next year-and-a-half, even when the science said there was no wrongdoing, Goodell smeared Tom Brady’s character and imposed draconian penalties on the team –– including suspending Brady for four games. Now, in two weeks, Goodell may be in the building when Brady is handed the Lombardi Trophy. Talk about sweet revenge.
Once a regular visitor to Gillette Stadium, Goodell has avoided it since Deflategate started. He’s been in Atlanta for the last two weeks closing down the Georgia Dome, one of the most unremarkable venues in professional football.
It’s unclear whose decision it is to keep Goodell in hiding. According to Comcast SportsNet’s Tom E. Curran, Goodell would’ve been at the AFC championship game Sunday if he had gotten his way. So perhaps somebody else in the league office, or the Krafts themselves, are making the call. But then again, it’s hard to believe that Goodell would allow other people to dictate his schedule. After all, this is guy who doesn’t permit his staffers to eat pizza until he gets the first slice.
Regardless of the reason, Goodell’s absence plays into the narrative that he’s afraid of facing the wrath of Patriots Nation. But that’s a self-indulgent way to think. The truth is, Goodell approached Deflategate in a cold and calculated manner. As ESPN reported, he knew several owners wanted him to severely discipline the Patriots. Around the league, the absurd Deflategate punishment was viewed as a “makeup call” for what some considered to be Goodell’s hastily conducted Spygate investigation. He stripped the Patriots of a first-round pick and docked Bill Belichick $500,000 for taping the Jets’ coaches from the wrong area, but also destroyed the tapes.
In addition to currying favor with his billionaire backers, Deflategate was an opportunity for Goodell to reaffirm his unilateral disciplinary powers. After the Bountygate and Ray Rice suspensions were overturned, he needed to score a legal victory. That’s what happened when a federal appeals court reinstated Brady’s four-game ban last spring. Now, it will be much more difficult for the players’ union to wrestle away disciplinary control from Goodell during the next round of CBA negotiations. To Goodell, leverage is more important than Brady’s reputation.
Brady and the Patriots were Goodell’s latest victim in his seeming indefinite power grab. He used them, and now he’s onto his next duplicitous act, such as screwing the people of San Diego and Oakland. For Brady, winning the Super Bowl may be an act of vengeance –– even if he doesn’t like to admit it. But for Goodell, it’s business as usual.