Goodell should follow Kraft lead with goodwill gesture of own

New England owner Robert Kraft took the first step Tuesday toward taking the air out of "Deflategate" by agreeing not to oppose the punishment inflicted by the NFL on his franchise. Now, Goodell should return the gesture by offering to recuse himself from the Tom Brady appeal, thereby assuring an independent review of a case that has covered the Patriots, Brady and the league in ignominy.

Courtesy - The NFL

(Kraft photo courtesy of New England Patriots)

(Goodell photo courtesy of the NFL)

By Clark Judge

Talk of Fame Network

Now that New England owner Robert Kraft has made nice with commissioner Roger Goodell, I suggest the commissioner do the same and make nice with Kraft.

How? Simple: Recuse himself from the Tom Brady appeal. The NFL Players Association made a formal request on Tuesday, suggesting Goodell step aside in favor of a neutral party, and the commissioner should respond.

By saying yes.

I know, the league’s collective bargaining agreement grants him the power to serve as judge and jury … and that’s a CBA that NFL players signed off on long ago. So Goodell doesn’t have to do anything to satisfy the process, and the process says he acts as arbitrator.

But Kraft took the first step toward reconciliation with the commissioner, saying he won’t fight the punishment his team received – a step that could go a long way toward ending a nasty chapter that benefits nobody outside the writers at Saturday Night Live.

So Goodell should return the favor and step down from the appeals process.

Look, he did it in 2012 with “Bountygate,” asking former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue to intervene because, as Goodell said then, he wanted “to bring this matter to a prompt and fair conclusion.” Well, then, he should do it again.

Not because he must. But because he can.

As I said, there’s precedent here. So why not follow it when Kraft offers to put this thing away for good? There’s nothing to lose. I mean, if Brady deserves a four-game suspension … and Goodell believes the evidence is as convincing as it is overwhelming … then a neutral party should have no trouble connecting the dots.

Or, as the NFLPA said in a statement it released Tuesday, “if the NFL believes the Ted Wells report has credibility because it is independent, then the NFL should embrace our request for an independent review.”

Makes sense to me.

Appoint Harold Henderson or Paul Tagliabue, I don’t care. Just step aside and let someone else review the facts and make a decision. Because if he believes the Brady penalty is too harsh, as the Patriots’ quarterback and his organization insist, he can make this sordid episode go away by reducing the suspension, ending the appeal and, maybe, just maybe, preventing a Brady lawsuit.

And if he lines up behind Goodell? Well, then, the commissioner served everyone here by keeping the peace.

Look, there’s little question Brady should be punished for his failure to cooperate with the league. He is an NFL employee, and he didn’t turn over the documentation asked of him. I don’t know why, but I do know that when you have nothing to hide you don’t hide it.

Yet Brady did.

The sad thing is he could’ve made this go away a long time ago. When accusations of deflated footballs first surfaced, he should’ve copped to a mistake, said he didn’t understand it was a big deal, apologized and taken the punishment – and I guarantee NFL fans, as well as the NFL itself, would’ve been more forgiving.

Why? Well, there was a game last year where Minnesota and Carolina tampered with footballs by warming them with sideline jet heaters on a cold afternoon. So you know what happened?

Uh-huh. Squat.

So step aside, Roger, and let someone else examine the evidence and review the punishment. It doesn’t mean Brady’s sentence must be lessened. It just means you’re as interested “to bring this matter to a prompt and fair conclusion” as you were three years ago.

Furthermore, with Kraft saying he won’t fight you, why do you want to fight his quarterback? You’ve already said you think he did wrong. So let someone else examine the evidence and see if he agrees.

It doesn’t matter what he says. What matters is that you were willing to demonstrate your leadership to keep the peace. You stepped aside when you weren’t required to … maybe when your pride told you not to … to satisfy all parties and demonstrate what you already believe to be true – that the facts can and will speak for themselves.