Lutz Blog

Bob Lutz: Free Tom Brady from the restraints of Deflategate

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, left, leaves Federal court Monday after settlement talks between Brady and lawyers for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell failed, leaving a judge to decide the fate of Deflategate.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, left, leaves Federal court Monday after settlement talks between Brady and lawyers for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell failed, leaving a judge to decide the fate of Deflategate. AP

There’s part of me that says if Tom Brady cheated, then he should have to sit out four games and the New England Patriots should lose their No. 1 draft pick in 2016 and Gilette Stadium should be torn down and . . . you get the idea.

But there’s another part of me, the more sensible part, that thinks this who brouhaha about Brady deflating footballs during the AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts in January is the most ridiculous scandal ever. All it’s missing is Kerry Washington sleeping with the president.

The latest is that Brady and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, or “Mr. Happy” as I call him, have been unable to reach a settlement in the quarterback’s appeal of his four-game suspension. U.S. District Court Judge Richard M. Berman now will announce a ruling, he says, no later than Friday and perhaps as early as Tuesday.

If the ruling is in favor of Brady, he could be behind center for New England’s regular-season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 10.

I’m guessing Judge Berman, who received his B.S. from Cornell University in 1964 and his J.D. from New York University School of Law in 1967, is thrilled to be in the middle of this rather elementary case.

Yes, I take cheating seriously. I don’t think people should cheat. It’s bad and you can get in trouble.

Brady got into trouble, although he continues to deny that he and the Patriots’ equipment staff colluded to deflate footballs before the 45-7 win over Indy. In that particular game, the Pats could have been playing with Nerf balls and it probably wouldn’t have made a difference.

But that’s really beside the point. Brady is alleged to have cheated. And even though it seems like a minor deal, there should be punishment if he indeed was complicit in letting the air out of the footballs.

Truth is, though, that I can barely keep from laughing as I write about this issue.

As a kid playing sandlot football, I was usually a quarterback because I had a good arm and couldn’t run a lick. Before taking on the immense responsibility of quarterbacking in a game of touch football, I would get a feel for the footballs that were on hand. Some were terrible. Some were bad. Some were just below par. I always went with the below par footballs because they felt better in my hand.

Football touch is an individual thing, I surmise. Not every quarterback likes his footballs to feel the same way. Footballs with too much air are more difficult to throw and control. Footballs with too little air feel like a pillow in a quarterback’s hand, I would think. The art is in finding just the right feel with just the right amount of air.

Yes, the NFL has strict rules for how much air is to be pumped into its footballs. Every quarterback, the theory goes, plays with the same football and the same amount of air.

Wink wink.

Do we really buy that? Do we really think quarterbacks don’t have an ounce or two taken out of a football here and there if the feel isn’t just right? Doesn’t logic force us to consider that all of this consternation over deflated footballs is something nobody really wants to deal with?

Maybe I’m wrong here. I listen as callers to sports-talk radio express outrage over what they deem to be Brady’s purposeful and habitual cheating. There’s not an NFL player alive who evokes more passion – positive and negative – than Brady.

Why is that? Is it the four Super Bowl wins? Is it his good looks and gorgeous wife? Is it simply his association with the Patriots?

I like Brady and that might contribute to my inclination to sweep this deflating footballs nonsense under the nearest rug. But I think I’d feel the same way if this involved Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, Alex Smith or the third-string quarterback with Tampa Bay.

It’s just not a big deal. It’s become a big deal, no question about it. But it shouldn’t be.

Quarterbacks should be allowed to throw a football they feel comfortable throwing. Isn’t that the way it’s always been?

But the Brady/NFL disagreement isn’t about that, I understand. It’s about whether Brady purposely cheated so that he could throw a more comfortable football against the Colts on a cold January day.

He says he didn’t. The NFL has stated, in vague terms, that he did.

Brady’s fate will be decided by a judge who must be wondering how this case ever landed in his lap.

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