Reimer: Three years after trying to ruin Tom Brady, Roger Goodell is now relying on Patriots to save his Super Bowl

Alex Reimer
January 18, 2018 - 10:49 am

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The person who’s most concerned about Tom Brady’s busted hand doesn’t reside on Route 1 or even within the parameters of 495. He spends his days on Park Avenue in Manhattan, and doesn’t allow anybody to eat a slice of pizza without him.

Three years ago, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and his minions appeared intent on ruining Tom Brady. The Patriots prepared for Super Bow XLIX while combating fantastical allegations of football subterfuge. It’s difficult to imagine the league doing anything that could subvert the Patriots now. Brady is the only person who can prevent Super Bowl LII from generating the least amount of interest in years. Goodell’s wife is turning her burner Twitter account's avatar into “Pat Patriot” as we speak. 

The NFL suffered a significant ratings decline for the second straight season. Ratings were down nine percent compared to one year ago, prompting angst among the league and its television partners. That trend continued during the Divisional Round, despite three incredible games. The four contests experienced an average ratings drop of 11 percent nationally when stacked up against last season.

As Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch notes, the Super Bowl and conference championship games have historically been adverse to ratings issues. The last six conference championship rounds haven’t attracted less than an average audience of 44 million viewers. Advertisers and partners will be watching that number carefully over the weekend. 

The NFL still rules in comparison to other options on TV. Thirty-seven of the 50 most-watched broadcasts in 2017 were NFL games. But if the AFC and NFC championship numbers are below the 44 million threshold, the conjecture about the league facing a serious ratings crisis will only grow louder. 

No Super Bowl since 2009 has drawn less than 100 million viewers. Those gargantuan numbers have been propped up by big-time QB match ups and heart-palpitating finishes. It’s easy to see Blake Bortles-Nick Foles or Bortles-Case Keenum ending that streak. Then, on the day after the biggest game of the year, the NFL’s decline would once again become the major point of conversation. Conservatives would blame the kneeling saga and liberals would point to the barbarian violence. Instead of being celebrated, the NFL would resume its newfound place as a partisan punching bag. 

The NFL needs the greatest quarterback and coach of all-time to be in Minneapolis. It needs Robert Kraft and his A-list posse. It’s not hyperbolic to say at least the five biggest stars remaining in the playoffs are all with the Patriots. Name five figures left who are more famous than Brady, Bill Belichick, Kraft, Rob Gronkowski or even Danny Amendola. The most well-known player on the Jaguars might be running back Leonard Fournette, who’s name recognition is probably even lower than Devin McCourty, James White, Dion Lewis and Brandin Cooks. Remember, Jacksonville did not play a single primetime game this season.

The Patriots’ storylines resonate with every possible audience out there, leading off with Brady chasing his sixth Super Bowl ring as the best 40-year-old quarterback who’s ever played. One of the most commonly cited reasons for the NFL’s audience decline is the lack of star QB’s. This year was especially brutal, with Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck and rookie sensation Deshaun Watson all missing either the entire season or significant time. Bortles and Keenum squaring off in the final game would embody this troubling time.  

In one paragraph, Vice Sports’ Dave Lozo outlines all of the reasons why the Patriots are the only team that can save this year’s Super Bowl. “The Patriots are villainous cheaters with a player, coach, and owner that consider Donald Trump a friend … Tom Brady is a snake-oil salesman peddling magic water and pajamas,” Lozo writes.

The Patriots offer scandal, controversy, contempt, and, yes, Trump. In the era of cord-cutting, cable news is the only genre that’s seen its ratings improve. If the Patriots are involved, Trump will once again loom over the Super Bowl. That’s a very good thing in terms of broadening interest, no matter how far-fetched his association with Brady might be. 

Three years ago, it appeared as if the NFL was looking to catch the Patriots and punish them for wrongdoing. But this time around, don’t be surprised if Mike Kensil himself deflates Brady’s footballs in the bathroom minutes before game time. Brady has never been more important to the league than right now. 

Comments ()