With Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy’s 10-game suspension reduced to four games, what does that mean for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension?
As a practical matter, arbitrator Harold Henderson’s decision to cut Hardy’s suspension from 10 games to four games makes it very difficult for Commissioner Roger Goodell to keep Brady’s suspension at four. Keeping Brady at four would invite the wrath of Patriots fans who believe Goodell has equated Brady’s conduct (whatever it was) to domestic violence, and it also would invite the wrath of those who believe Goodell has equated domestic violence to Brady’s conduct (whatever it was).
So Goodell now has no real choice but to reduce the suspension, most likely to two games. It still won’t be easy to do; ideally, Goodell needs to find a way to shorten the suspension without undermining the multi-million-dollar efforts of Ted Wells, the man Goodell hired to spend multiple millions of dollars investigating #DeflateGate.
Complicating matters is the disconnect between public reaction to Goodell being perceived as punishing a player too aggressively and Goodell being perceived as punishing a player too leniently. Goodell has now had four straight high-profile disciplinary decisions (the 2012 bounty scandal, Ray Rice’s indefinite suspension, Adrian Peterson’s suspension, and Greg Hardy’s suspension) overturned by a higher authority. And no one has ever suggested that this chronic inability to make appropriate decisions renders him in any way unfit for the job he holds.
Conversely, the failure to impose enough of a suspension on Rice nearly cost Goodell his job less than a year ago. Can he reduce Brady’s game to two games on his own, or does Goodell need to run his record to 0-5 by holding firm and forcing Brady to go to court?
Some will suggest that Hardy’s reduced penalty resulted from coordination between the league office and Henderson, a former league-office employee. But that type of coordination could result in a decidedly uncoordinated attempt by Goodell to tiptoe through the next — and perhaps most important — minefield he faces.