Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Goodell's Whispering Of Sweet Nothings Into Kraft's Ear Starting To Manifest?

"I have publicly expressed my appreciation to Mr. Wells and his colleagues for their thorough and independent work.  But that does not mean that I am wedded to their conclusions or to their assessment of the facts." Roger Goodell 
Shotgun weddings aren't as common as they used to be.

Even so, as late as the 1980's they were still an accepted practice in Europe, under the guise of the more subtle sounding "Arranged marriage" - though the differences between the two are subject to much conjecture and occasionally the laws pertaining to incestuous relations...
Kraft speaking at the NFL owners' meeting in San Francisco

...which is not to say that National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell were whispering sweet nothings into each other's ears last week in San Francisco, when they were spotted in a much-publicised embrace at a ritzy reception for the owners of the 32 NFL franchises, seated closely on a fine couch made of leather.

It is no secret that there is much bro-love between the two icons of American football, what with Kraft throwing his full weight and reputation behind Goodell in order for the Washington & Jefferson College Graduate with a degree in economics to become commissioner of the league when former commissioner Paul Tagliabue retired following the 2005 season.

That was no slam dunk for Goodell who, despite working for both Tagliabue and his predecessor, Pete Rozelle, in the NFL offices since the early 1980's (With a brief respite to work for the New York Jets front office in 1983), could not garner the votes of at least 21 of the franchise owners after four rounds of voting.  Before the fifth round, Kraft went to work pumping hands among his peers to gain the final vote needed to make Goodell the head man.

Kraft has stood behind Goodell in many struggles since, but that relationship seemed to have been permanently damaged at the onset of the so-called DeflateGate" scandal, when the NFL took it upon themselves to run a sting on the Patriots equipment managers to try and catch them in the act of deflating footballs instead of informing them of allegations against them, and telling them that if the deflation of footballs was occurring, it needed to stop.

Kraft angrily demanded an apology from Goodell if it were found that there was no evidence of the teams' wrongdoing, going so far as to build a website for the sole purpose of renouncing the Wells' Report when it finally hit the streets after four months of investigation that netted the Patriots' organization a record $1 million fine and the loss of two draft picks, and quarterback Tom Brady a four game suspension.

So, there was much intrigue and speculation as to what was actually said when Goodell and Kraft shared a hug and a quick word on the night before the NFL Owners meeting commenced in San Francisco...

...particularly in light of the fact that the next evening Kraft called an impromptu press conference, taking the podium to tell the world that he would not pursue an appellate course to gain redress of the stiff penalties handed down by the Commissioner's office in wake of the DeflateGate scandal.

Some saw this as Kraft and Goodell colluding to reduce a four-game suspension to Brady for his alleged passive role in the deflation of game used footballs prior to the AFC Championship game, while a few others saw it as just a good business decision by Kraft to just let it go and get back to football.

But most, including many Patriots' fans and almost every talking head in the Boston media, viewed this as nothing more than Kraft caving in to the far-reaching power of the commissioner's office.

But it would seem from the commissioner's words that he knows what an absolute fraud the Wells report actually is.  Maybe he felt obligated to accept those conclusions due to the fact that he had already paid Wells and his henchmen a five million dollar dowry, and that the wedding had to go on.

The Wells' Report looks like something a pre-Law student would put together in haste and half drunk in the wee hours before a graduate thesis was due, hoping to get a passing grade in order to keep his grade point average above the academic "Mendoza Line" of a solid "C" - the last 200 pages or so wrought with dribble that it would be routinely rejected by even the most liberal backwoods judge...

...yet Goodell signed off on it like he was a pig farmer armed with a shotgun and a fist full of notary seals, never taking into consideration that perhaps there were at least a few folks among the millions of football fans around the world that have been there with lawyers like Wells and understood all too well that the high-priced Madison Avenue attorney had twisted testimony from his investigation in order to give the general football public their desired outcome.

It was a high-style bag job all the way, and it could well be that the commissioner is now trying to distance himself from the $5 million man and his doomed graduate thesis, something that may have been the very thing that prompted Kraft to do his very public about-face at the owner's meeting.

In the wake of the Kraft bashing following his announcement, I wrote a well-received piece defending Kraft's decision in which was written that it was unlikely that Goodell would reduce the punishment handed down to Brady, but also that the punishment handed down to the team as a whole was not dependent on what happened with Brady's personal appeal, as it is solely tied to the language contained in the Wells' report.

Since that time, the NFLPA has petitioned Goodell to recuse himself as arbitrator in Brady's appeal of his suspension, a petition that Goodell has vigorously declined for reasons that are starting to become clear, and Patriots' fans - indeed, all of football - should take a step back far enough to read between the lines of his statement.

When Goodell stated in his letter to the NFLPA declining their petition that he was not wedded to the conclusions contained in the Wells' Report, for the first time since the debacle started after the AFC Championship game in January, the commissioner appears to be distancing himself from the mess that his own employees made of the sting, and also from the entirety of the Wells' Report, which has been examined by every two-bit lawyer in the country and found to be a fraud on its face.

To be clear, to distance himself from these things is the only way that the integrity of the NFL Shield can be preserved.  Fans don't care they he spent $5 million for his own personal ambulance chaser to conduct a fully biased investigation, its sole purpose to discredit the perpetually rule-skirting Patriots to cover the fact that the NFL's sting operation blew up in their faces...

...because once word was leaked to Indianapolis Star reporter Bob Kravitz that the NFL brass was in the locker room at halftime measuring the PSI of the Patriots' footballs and found them to be under-specification, he had no choice but to ride the wave.  But now that the document has been combed over more times than an insecure balding man's wispy locks and found to be just as disturbing, Goodell has discovered that the only way out of this mess is to put his foot down and get it right.

He can't just reverse the punishment, however.  The appellate process must be satisfied before any redress is granted - and that process started with Goodell stating that he isn't necessarily tied to the results of the Wells' Report, and that he's willing to finally be the commissioner and his own man to save the integrity of the sport of football.

So the shotgun wedding that Goodell was forced into by the actions of his lieutenants and by the doomed attorney Ted Wells looks to be on its way to annulment - and don't be surprised if the outcome of the proceedings is much more in line with what can deemed reasonable and fair.

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