Monday, May 11, 2015

Tom Brady Suspended 4 games for DeflateGate

Justice was served Monday night in the form of a suspension that has rocked the NFL to its core and taken down one of the game's most treasured athletes with it.

When the New England Patriots begin their defense of a Super Bowl title this September they will do so without Tom Brady under center, as the quarterback has been suspended for the season's first four games after his involvement in DeflateGate. Brady was cited hundreds of times in the report as having indirect, or even direct knowledge of what both Jim McNally and John Jastremski were doing to the footballs before Patriots' games; a history of violence that could date back years.

The two equipment guys were both suspended indefinitely, and chances are they will be fired and will never see an NFL field again. Justice has been served there, since both were totally rouge and irresponsible in their behavior by first trying to fool the NFL by concealing the deflation of footballs, and for lying to investigators during initial stages of the search.

Yet this story really isn't even about them even though it begins with them. This is about Tom Brady, the once highly decorated quarterback with four Super Bowl rings, a red hot super model wife, and a life most would kill for. Yet Brady, like his head coach Bill Belichick, felt that just being good wasn't good enough.

The report hints all to often, and even concludes that Brady had his thumb on both Jastremski and McNally, ordering that the balls be prepared to a certain specification, even if it were under the 12.5 psi limit.

Therefore Brady deserves to be suspended. He was as much responsible for breaking the rules as anyone and did so with the thought process that he could get away with it. And for a majority of his career he has gotten away with it. While the report said that Brady did interview with investigators, he didn't fully comply as he didn't hand over emails and text messages asked for by the Wells' team which makes him even more culpable in the matter.

When the NFL came out with the report last week, Brady, his agent and the Patriots trashed it as lacking "sufficient evidence," and Brady himself waved it off as no big deal in an interview with Jim Gray.

Such hubris. Such arrogance. This is what the Patriots deserve. This is a franchise that has carried itself above the NFL for far too long. From SpyGate in 2007 to DeflateGate today, the Patriots think they can do as they please and nobody will notice. They win Super Bowls with players who were once considered scraps, and nobody says a word. They set records for consecutive home wins and nobody bats an eye. They go 16-0 in 2007 and were that close to being considered the greatest team ever. Nobody dare questions the Patriots because they are so wonderful.

That opinion is now dead, and should never live again. The Patriots are their own worst enemy in this case. Not only are they arrogant and bask in the glory of their own self gratification, and abundant love from the media, they are paranoid. They are so worried that they won't be loved, and won't be considered the best that they cheat.

Cheating to the Patriots is the only guarantee they have at staying atop the mountain. For 14 years it worked. Even after SpyGate, all they got was a slap on the wrist from the NFL. Not this time.

In addition to losing Brady, Robert Kraft will be $1 million poorer, and the Patriots will lose a first round draft pick in 2016 and a fourth rounder in 2017.

The only thing the NFL didn't do was suspend Belichick. While the Wells' report exonerates the coach, there is little doubt he has been the main orchestrator in the Patriots cheating ways. He should have been suspended at least 2-3 games.

Without Brady, the Patriots will suffer. They open against Pittsburgh, visit Buffalo in week 2. After a winnable game against the lowly Jaguars in week 3, they will face the Cowboys following a Bye Week in week 5. With untested Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback that sounds a lot like 1-3. By the time Brady gets back, the Patriots will be visiting the Colts -- the team that blew the whistle on Brady's entire operation.

While it would have been nice to see Brady get 6-8 weeks or even the entire season on the bench, this penalty seems sufficient and satisfying. The Patriots will suffer greatly for Brady's transgressions and their chances at repeating are greatly diminished. Cheaters never win ... ever.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Wells' report condemns Patriots, Brady Faces Stiff Suspension for DeflateGate

14 weeks and over 100 days after the New England Patriots were suspected of deflating footballs during the AFC Championship game, the Ted Wells' law firm hired by the NFL to investigate the matter has finally come out with its report implicating two Patriots personnel employees and quarterback Tom Brady for their involvement in the scandal. It's about time too.

In a document that spans over 138 pages, the investigation finds that the Patriots "were in violation of the NFL Playing Rules and were involved in a deliberate attempt to circumvent those rules." More specifically the investigation does implicate Brady for having some knowledge of what both went on during the scandal.

"It is more probable than not that Tom Brady was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of Jim McNally and John Jastremski involving the release of air from the Patriots game balls."

The two men in question are Jim McNally, a part time employee for the Patriots, responsible for delivering game balls, and John Jastremski, a Patriots equipment assistant who were the main culprits in the scandal. The duo plotted out ways to change the physical dimensions of the football to fit the preferences of Brady, whom the reference in text messages obtained in the investigation.

It was McNally who was the man that took the footballs into the bathroom for 90 seconds, and the report seems to indicate that that was enough time for him to deflate the balls with a needle. Regardless both McNally and Jastremski are cooked. Neither will be employed by the Patriots nor any NFL franchise for that matter ever again. They compromised the league and acted like they were above the rules. They have to pay the price.

But here is the kicker, why would two regular joe's do this by themselves with full knowledge the consequences would be detrimental for either of them in the end? That is why Brady is the real culprit here. He instructed both Jastremski and McNally in preparing the ball to his liking and got away with it until now.

Text messages obtained and revealed by the Wells' report show that Brady and Jastremski were in constant communication about DeflateGate with Brady saying to Jastremski "You didn't do anything wrong, bud." Not to mention the text messages between McNally and Jastremski date back to a Jets game in October of last year.

I find it hard to believe that the AFC Championship game was a first time event orchestrated by these three. I suspect, as has been the case with the Patriots in the past, that they have been deflating footballs for several seasons until they got caught. How can I support this? One word: SpyGate. The Patriots were caught red handed in 2007 for stealing signals only to have it be revealed they had been spying on people for years under Belichick. Who's to say deflating footballs hasn't been an established practice. Obviously McNally was pretty good at it since he took the air out of 11 balls in 90 seconds.

Since this story has broken Brady has acted like it's no big deal, while Brady's father and his agent do the dirty work taking pot-shots at the legitimacy of the allegations.

Now the question is what will the NFL do? Rumors are running rampant that Brady will face a suspension. Some say the entire 2015 season. Others say 6-8 weeks. Some say 2-4 weeks.

Now the pressure is on Roger Goodell to get this right. He screwed up big time last year when he should have thrown the book at wife abuser, Ray Rice and didn't do it. Rice was subsequently thrown off the team in Baltimore, and Goodell had egg on his face. In turn he suspended Adrian Peterson for the year after he was accused of beating his son.

While deflating footballs isn't as bad as hitting a wife or child, cheating is still a disgrace to the shield. Inspite of whatever feelings Goodell may have for the Patriots and his buddy, Robert Kraft he needs to drop a heavy penalty on the Patriots and make it count.

Remember this is the same Commish who dropped the bomb on the New Orleans Saints when their organization was found to be involved in a pay-to-injure scam known as BountyGate. Shouldn't the Patriots see similar treatment here?

Suspending Brady for the year is asking a lot, especially with Goodell calling the shots, although I am sure the Jets, Dolphins and Bills will all love it. At the very least Brady should be suspended the first four weeks of the regular season. He can still attend training camp, but can't play until late October. If Brady misses even a month of regular season action it could do severe damage to the Patriots chances to repeat. They likely will lose all of those games without him, and will have an uphill climb the rest of the way. The Patriots would also have to deal with the embarrassment of celebrating a Super Bowl title on Opening Night amid Brady missing his first game in prime time on national televison.

In turn, if I were Goodell, I would suspend Belichick the first four games of the year too. While Belichck wasn't found with any wrong doing, the fact that he allowed anything like this to happen on his watch makes him guilty by association. Suspending the man behind the true history of violence by the Patirots would be huge.

Fines and loss of draft picks will also be considered, and should be thrown in as well. Goodell might as well go all in. In addition to suspensions of Belichick and Brady, the Patriots should be fined double of what they were in 2007 when Spygate came out. In addition, they should have their first round picks for the next two seasons taken away from them.

While we won't know until this week what Goodell decides to do, he better get it right, and levy a penalty that satisfies the entire league and shows the country that the Patriots are not above the National Football League.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

From Williams to Petty, Wild Draft for NY Jets

For a better part of the off-season Jets General Manager Mike Maccagnan has made plenty of headlines with the bevy of moves he's transacted to change the face of the New York Jets. So far he is batting 1.000, at least in the eyes of Jets fans, and his hot streak didn't stop at the draft.

Maybe with a little bit of luck, or perhaps a result of the Titans decision to draft Marcus Mariota with the second pick, the Jets had the best defensive player in the draft fall to them at number six in USC defensive tackle Leonard Williams. No players was graded higher in the draft than Williams' who is said to have a combination of "length, athleticism and power," (NFL.com). He was named USC's MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, and was First Team All Pac-12 in 2014. Last season, Williams amassed 80 tackles, had seven sacks and a pick (yes, a defensive tackle with an interception). He is a truly gifted athlete and fits into a crowed, but talented front four for the Jets.

The drafting of Williams might also spell trouble for Muhammad Wilkerson, who has been holding out in hopes of a new contract. Wilkerson is a free agent after this year, and wants a big contract. The Jets already gave out big money to get Darrelle Revis back in town, and eventually Sheldon Richardson will want a new deal too. In other words, someone is going to get left out. Wilkerson has been rumored in trades all week, but nothing was eminent.

For at least this year the Jets will have an unbelievable front with Wilkerson, Williams, Richardson and Damon Harrison, which is one of the best fronts in the league. Oh, and did I mention Revis Island and Antonio Cromartie are back in the Jets secondary too?

In the second round the Jets struck gold again, at least on paper, when the selected Devin Smith the wide receiver out of Ohio State. Smith is only 6'0" but he has the skills to be a good deep threat and underneath speedster that the Jets need to pair up with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Smith was a big offensive weapon for the Buckeyes the past few years. Think Jerhico Cotchery with this pick Jets fans.

In the third round, I felt the Jets dropped the ball a bit. They traded down with the Texans, receiving the 82nd pick and castaway receiver DeVeir Posey from Houston. With that pick the Jets selected linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin. Not saying that linebacker isn't important for the Jets, but offensive line and running back are much more pressing needs. Mauldin comes from a checkered childhood, but word is he overcame those issues to be a model citizen and hard worker. The Jets hope he develops into a solid edge rusher at linebacker, especially with Calvin Pace getting older by the minute.

Now for the pick that shook Geno Smith's shoes.

In the fourth round the Jets traded up with the Jaguars to select Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty. Petty has been talked about at times by scouts as the third best quarterback in this draft behind Mariota and Jamies Winston, however he slipped big time as Garrett Grayson and Sean Mannion saw their stocks increase in recent weeks. Petty is a developmental project. He is not ready to assume the starting job from Geno Smith right off the bat, if Smith even gives up the job.

Petty comes from the same spread offense that Robert Griffin III played in, and we all know about RGIII's struggles in the NFL. I find this a curious pick. 1) We don't know how Geno Smith will transition in Chan Gailey's offense. What if he plays well? Does this make Petty expendable? Does it make this pick a waste? 2) What happens if Petty plays and doesn't impress, are the Jets going into 2016 looking for another quarterback in the draft?

Very curious move here by the Jets, and a gamble. The Jets had other needs they needed to address sooner in this draft and didn't do it. Keep in mind no quarterback taken in the fourth or fifth round has started or won a Super Bowl. The last time the Jets selected a QB in the fourth round, it was Jeff Blake in 1992 -- yeah, nothing to go crazy about.

So expect fans to go nuts on the Bryce Petty bandwagon, hoping he takes the job and becomes their version of Tom Brady -- but let's wait and see how this plays out in training camp at the very least.

Draft Grade: B- The Jets hit two home runs on Williams and Smith, but their picks in the third and fourth round are head scratchers at best. They also selected a guard in the fifth round -- but they could have gotten some better O-linemen earlier in the draft.

Giants play it safe with a solid draft

The New York Giants have plenty of needs in 2015. They have an offensive line that is in tatters, have no running game, and have seen their secondary get thinner and thinner thanks to free agency. The obvious answer for Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin is to try to supplement those needs in the draft, and the Giants have done that to the best of their ability.

In the first round, New York selected Ereck Flowers, a monstrous offensive lineman from the University of Miami who is going to slide into the Giants need at right tackle. The past two seasons, the Giants have started 2013 first round pick Justin Pugh at tackle, but he was always a better fit at guard. Big Blue can now move him inside, and put the 330 pound Flowers at tackle. They say he's a better run blocking tackle than a passing blocking tackle, but in a honesty what's the difference? The Giants have been horrible at running the football the past few years, and need to run the ball better to take the load of pressure that is on Eli Manning's shoulders. This is a great pick, and I am sure Flowers will develop better pass blocking skills as he gets older.

In the second round, the Giants didn't wait long to make a splash when they traded the 40th pick in the draft and two late round picks to Houston to jump up to the top of the second round to nab safety Landon Collins.

The Giants desperately needed safety help after Antrelle Rolle, Quentin Demps and Stevie Brown all left the team in the off-season, creating a huge hole at the position. Not to mention New York was the worst in the NFL in yards allowed per rush, and worst in the league in yards after first contact. That is as much  condemnation on the front seven as it is the safety help over top. Most teams need that safety in the box who can deliver a big blow to a running back to shut him down. The Giants believe Collins, who led Alabama with 103 tackles, can be that player at free safety.

New York wasn't done adding to their secondary. In the fifth round the Giants drafted former Texas safety Mykkele (Yes, that's how it's spelled) Thompson to add depth the secondary. Not much is available on him, other than he played 52 games in four years in Texas.

Before the drafting of Thompson the Giants also drafted Owamagbe Odighizuwa (say that 5 times fast), a pass rushing defensive end out of UCLA. The Giants were in need of a pass rusher for some time now as they have seen the likes of Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora move on with their NFL careers. The Giants needed someone to pair up with Justin Pierre-Paul who can take some of the double-teams he faces away. Last season Odighizuwa had 11.5 tackles for loss and six sacks for the Bruins. This will be a developmental project the Giants hope pays off big time.

Draft Grade: A- The Giants answered some major needs by getting some help at safety and the offensive line. They could still use another running back, a receiver and a cornerback, but you can't get everything in one draft.

A-Rod hits 660 to Mays ... and why nobody cares, except A-Rod

Alex Rodriguez is in the history books and the Yankees wish he weren't.

In a game the Yankees needed against the rival Red Sox, Rodriguez came up with a clutch solo-homer in the eighth inning to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead, which just so happened to be the 660th of Rodriguez's career, tying him with Willie Mays.

Most hits of that magnitude would be celebrated by not just the Yankees, but baseball. How often is it that a hitter ties a historical marker in a big game, on the big stage with all the attention on him? Almost never. Take away the steroids, its a moment for the ages. Again, that is if you take away the steroids.

Hence the problem. It is nearly impossible to separate Rodriguez from the steroids, and in turn it makes even harder to accept him as the fourth best home run hitter in baseball history, much the same way it's impossible to accept Barry Bonds and 762 as the gold standard of career home runs. Rodriguez's 660 is tainted. It means nothing. He spat on the record books years ago, and the fact that he is taking bows now is a total disgrace in of itself.

Now the real battle begins between A-Rod and the Yankees.

Rodriguez and the Yankees have a $30 million marketing agreement that calls for payments of $6 million each for up to five accomplishments, payable within 15 days of designation by the team. The accomplishments were contemplated to be home runs 660, 714, 755, 762 and 763. (ESPN). 

The Yankees have made it be known they have no interest in paying A-Rod. They have pushed his accomplishments to the side, have removed any mention of his records from their media books, and don't see any marketable value in any Rodriguez milestone because of his cheating past. The Yankees have already said they will not pay Rodriguez his $6 million when he hits number 660. We'll see if they stay true to that sentiment. If the Yankees do not pay Rodriguez his money expect a drawn out legal battle that pits the troubled star and the players union against the Yankees. 

This is going to get ugly. 

Now the question do baseball fans care? Let's be honest most baseball fans are sick and tired of hearing about steroids, and probably could care less about what records are tainted or not. However let's be real, nobody cares about Rodriguez anymore. Nobody cares about his records. He has made himself in a comic strip with his constant antics, his lies and excuses. If A-Rod thinks he can garner admiration from the fans by going on a once "historical" run, and regain the kind of fanfare that he once had, he can forget it. Other than a number of Yankees fans, the cheers will not exist. 

Enjoy the win Yankee fans, but in truth, how can you be happy for a cheater who is about to take your franchise for another long ride into baseball hell?