FOXBORO, Mass. — Just one more footnote will come from all the Deflategate nonsense, when the New England Patriots forfeit their fourth-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft over the alleged cheating scandal. But it’s safe to put the entire controversy to bed now that Tom Brady will return to the Patriots on Monday.
Since Deflategate began in January 2015, the Patriots won a Super Bowl, lost a conference championship game, went 17-6 and underwent as much quarterback turmoil as they’ve experienced in the past 15 years.
They went 3-1 without Brady at the helm, which is slightly better than anyone expected in July, when the quarterback accepted his four-game punishment. Most expected the Patriots to come out of the first four weeks with a 1-3 or 2-2 record.
Considering Jimmy Garoppolo went down with a shoulder injury five-plus quarters into the season, Rob Gronkowski was held to one catch with 11 yards in four games, rookie Jacoby Brissett started at quarterback in the final two games, and the team did it all without Dion Lewis (injury) or Rob Ninkovich (suspension), it’s safe to say the Patriots squeaked out a victory over NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
The Patriots lost a first-round pick in the whole mess, but they also might have gained one or more by showing the league what Garoppolo could do under center. The Patriots should be able to trade Garoppolo for a haul of picks, and if they choose not to, that means they want him as their future franchise quarterback.
There’s no way to make that kind of decision without first seeing Garoppolo in regular-season game action, though. He went 42-of-59 passing for 496 yards with four touchdowns in two games, and he led the NFL in completion percentage, passer rating and ESPN’s QBR metric going into Week 4.
Patriots fans understandably are upset after seeing their team lose 16-0 at home to Rex Ryan’s Buffalo Bills on Sunday, but average New England’s performance over the first four games of the season, and it all comes out positive. And a silver lining to the 16-0 shellacking? No sane person will talk about Brady being a system quarterback after seeing the Bills beat the Patriots.
The Patriots unexpectedly beat the Arizona Cardinals, held on to top the Miami Dolphins, shut out the Houston Texans, then were shut out to the Bills. The Patriots were supposed to suffer for their alleged role in Deflategate. There are worse ways to suffer than going 3-1.
And most importantly? The worst of Deflategate is over. The Patriots lost a first-round pick, lost their quarterback for four games and publicly fought with the NFL, and they’re still on pace for their normal 12-4 record and another AFC East title.
It makes one wonder why we wasted a year and a half of our lives obsessing over deflated footballs in the first place.
Thumbnail photo via Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports Images