It’s not like Tom Brady to take a knee with a big game on the line.
In Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans in February 2002, Brady and the Patriots had the ball with a minute and a half left and no timeouts in a 17-17 game against the supposedly unbeatable St. Louis Rams.
TV commentator John Madden famously said Brady should take a knee, settle for a tie in regulation time and try to win in overtime. Instead Brady drove his team down the field to set up Adam Vinatieri’s Super Bowl-winning field goal. Brady was the MVP.
On Friday, Tom Brady took a knee.
Brady said he will drop efforts to overturn the 4-game suspension handed down by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after kangaroo court proceedings in the trumped-up “cheating” scandal known as Deflategate.
On Wednesday, a federal appeals court declined to rehear the case. Brady had the option of appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court but chose not to, ending for now a contest that began in early 2015.
He announced the decision on Facebook, thanking team owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick and others for believing in him.
“I’m very grateful for the overwhelming support I’ve received from Mr. Kraft, the Kraft family, coach Belichick, my coaches and teammates, the NFLPA, my agents, my loving family and most of all, our fans. It has been a challenging 18 months and I have made the difficult decision to no longer proceed with the legal process. I’m going to work hard to be the best player I can be for the New England Patriots and I look forward to having the opportunity to return to the field this fall.”
The decision means Brady, the best quarterback in the NFL, will sit out the first four games this fall — a quarter of the 16-game season — and turn over the QB role to backup Jimmy Garoppolo.
There is an upside to this. Garoppolo gets to show what he can do. The Patriots enter the 2016-17 season motivated by the old us-against-them mentality that helped them win their first Superbowl. They’ll be primed to show the rest of the league and jealous Patriot haters across the land just how great they are.
The biggest downside is that an unjust decision is allowed to stand. Even if you believe that Brady did more than indicate a preference for footballs on the softer side of the legal inflation standards — and we don’t believe he did anything more than that — a four-game suspension was excessive.
It was a display of arrogance and pique by Goodell that will damage his reputation more than Brady’s in the long run. To satisfy his own ego, and just to show that he could, the commissioner of football deprived fans of the joy of watching the greatest quarterback in the history of the league performing in his prime.
Still, painful as it was, we believe that Brady made the right decision, and the smart one, in choosing not to pursue his appeal to the Supreme Court.
Not because the high court is too busy to be bothered by such pedestrian matters, as the usual anti-Patriots pundits argue. The case raises serious issues about the governance of a professional sports league that routinely puts players at risk of concussions and other debilitating injuries with no guarantee they will be paid if hurt while enriching a handful of wealthy owners and league grandees like Goodell.
Brady realized that he might delay the 4-game suspension only to have the high court reject his appeal, forcing him to sit out more decisive games at the end of the season.
So he took a knee. And lives to fight another day, perhaps next February in Houston.
As always, Brady chose to put winning, his team and his fans ahead of himself.
That’s what has made him great.