It has been common to say from the beginning of the real Deflategate madness, the Wells Report and the fallout of that event, was that no one looked good. Then following two rounds of decisions, both the initial and the upholding, Bob Kraft fighting than giving up and fighting again, and now the fallout from the upholding, no one even looks bad - they look awful. This mess has not only smeared Roger Goodell, but I think it has started to smear the Patriots far more. Maybe I'm buying into the NFL's pr-game more than the Patriots one, and maybe I'm biased, but I fervently believe the Patriots side in both Tom Brady and Robert Kraft, are winning the race to the bottom.
First on the NFL. It is absolutely undeniable that they have turned what was likely a small-value infraction into a giant mess that spiraled out of control months ago. They could have nipped this in the bud. They could have swept this under the rug (and remember this point: given the Patriots were about to play in the Super Bowl and the status of the team and Tom Brady, it would have been more prudent to do so in this case). They didn't and then decided to go beserk when they felt the Patriots were not rising to their level of perceived seriousness of the transgression.
That is their right though. The counter is that they should have taken a perceived on-field cheating episode less seriously. They didn't; they decided to investigate a matter they deemed serious - it probably wasn't. They decided to take this as seriously as they had for a lot of also seemingly small offenses. The Patriots seemed either reluctant to engage them seriously, or to unwittingly not engage them.
The NFL looked foolish by ordering the Wells report, by spending money on that research assignment, by coming out with a giant suspension, and then by upholding it. They also look foolish by continuing to use this idea that Roger Goodell can be the guy handling the appeal of his own discipline (but remember, the NFLPA agreed to that). The NFL looked foolish a lot, but at least this time they are only guilty of caring too much. Isn't this what we all wanted when we cried foul at the punishments for Ray Rice, and Adrian Peterson, and Greg Hardy? Those were, as horrible as they were, off-field events. This was an on-the-field issue that questioned the integrity of the game - even if it was in a small way. This is something they can spend millions on investigating, and they did.
For all the NFL did wrong, Brady has now started to come off worse. Just as we complain that this is not that serious of an offense that the NFL should not investigate, this wasn't a serious offense that Brady could have admitted guilt, played down the seriousness and put this whole thing behind him. He didn't, he then compounded by not playing ball with the NFL, and is now suspended and fighting a losing PR battle and is looking more and more like someone emulating Lance Armstrong but for a far less serious crime.
Look, I am no Tom Brady fan. I'm reveling in this entire ordeal, just like I did during Spygate (when I wasn't burying my head in them going 18-and-almost-0). But I think I can at least talk about what he's done. What Tom Brady has done is basically take the same defense that steroid guys have taken: deny, deny, deny. And more then that, come up with creative ways to explain things that look bad. For steroid guys, it was saying what they actually were ordering, or why they were calling known dealers. For Brady, it is him always destroying phones, despite his previous phone not being destroyed, or not knowing the two guys, despite the texts with Jastremski the day following. He just comes across as a man who is now pot-committed, at a point where there is a 10% chance he gets out of it, and has put in too much to walk away.
I don't know if Robert Kraft comes off worse, but he definitely comes off the most pitiable. Either he was dumb for giving in to Roger Goodell, or he's dumb for believing Brady. Robert Kraft is a brilliant businessman, but he hasn't always seemed to be the best reader of people. He seemed to think him dropping any potential action against the league would help Brady's appeal, despite Goodell saying it will have no impact. He also has admitted in the past to being duped by Aaron Hernandez, who 'looked into eyes and swore he was innocent'. Robert Kraft may just be being duped again.
No one looks good. The NFL, the Brady camp, even the Patriots who tried to say that when McNally referred to himself as the 'deflator' he meant he was trying to lose weight, something they quietly removed from the website they put up for the sole purpose of picking holes in the Wells report. Even the fans don't look good for putting up with this stuff. It will end though, at some point it will be behind us, but for now we can marvel how all these different parties, with the best legal teams money can buy, can make mistake after arrogant mistake.