I'm a huge fan of Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King.
I've been reading his stuff for years in the magazine and his Monday Morning Quarterback with Peter King column online.
This week, he writes about the impending punishment that will be meted out by NFL Comish Roger Goodell against New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for Brady's role in "Deflategate".
Talking heads and Patriots haters are speculating what Brady will receive (some say he should be suspended for a game and fined, others feel he should be suspended for the entire 2015 - 2016 season).
Others wonder if how much (if at all) Goodell will be influenced by the fact that Brady is one of the best players in the league and that the comish is very good friends with Patriots owner Bob Kraft, who has helped build the NFL into the multi-billion dollar juggernaut that it is today.
This is a really complicated and messed up situation.
Goodell can't appear as though he is favoring the NFL's golden boy or his team's owner. But, the comish can't overreach, either, and try to make up for the mistakes he and the NFL made in the very recent past (read: Ray Rice, et. al.).
So what does he do?
Look, I'm not writing here in defense of Brady because I'm a Pats fan. I believe Brady knew what was going on with the footballs but as stated in the report that was released by the NFL's investigators, there's no actual proof that he knew or did anything. There's no "smoking gun" ... just a lot of circumstantial evidence.
Also, as pointed out by King, even if the footballs were deflated to just under the legal limit, Brady's career stats for home games (in which he could use altered balls) vs. road games (in which he can't use altered footballs) don't support the idea that he benefited from the alteration.
And let's not lose sight of the fact that blame for this whole issue even getting to this point lies squarely on Brady's shoulders. As soon as this BS started after the AFC Championship game, Brady should've stood up and said, "Yup, I like the footballs under-inflated but I didn't realize the PSI I like violated the rules. I thought we were operating within the rules by inflating the balls to the lowest allowable PSI. Therefore, going forward, we will make sure all rules are followed. And besides, as you can see from the stats of the game, it didn't matter what the PSI of the footballs was." (Brady had better stats in the second half of the game after he was using balls that were inflated to NFL legal standards.)
If Brady has just said something to that affect in January, this issue wouldn't have blown out of control that way it did.
IMO, the only way Goodell even remotely saves face here is to punish Brady because the QB didn't fully cooperate with investigators (Brady wouldn't turn over his personal cell phone), not because Brady himself doctored footballs, ordered someone to do it, or at least knew it was being done.
You can't punish someone based on circumstantial evidence. Period.
Goodell and the NFL will look even more foolish than they already do if the comish tries to make an example of Brady and overreaches so that he doesn't want to appear to be showing Brady or the Pats any favoritism.
Citing Brady's lack of cooperation is the only way the NFL retains a scintilla of credibility here ... if that's even possible.