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Deny strategy can blow up in faces of Brady, Belichick

(by Mike Vaccaro, NY Post) -- What, you expected a dramatic confession?

Or two?

Perry Mason hasn’t been practicing law for decades. And while confession might be good for the soul, it isn’t the best pathway toward winning a Super Bowl. So we know the first part of the Patriots’ game plan for dealing with what will surely be one of the more surreal run-ups to any Super Bowl ever played:

Deny. Deny. Deny.

And look, if nothing else, both Bill Belichick and Tom Brady laid down an inescapable gauntlet Thursday. Asked repeatedly if they’d had anything to do with 11 of their 12 game-day footballs being deflated in the AFC Championship Game, given repeated opportunity to fess up — which was never going to happen — or at least be vague, both coach and quarterback opted for another path.

“I was shocked to learn of the footballs on Monday,” Belichick said early Thursday. “I had no knowledge until Monday morning.”

Said Brady, in his own moved-up press conference seven hours later: “I feel like I have always played within the rules. I would never break the rules.”

And then: “I didn’t alter the ball in any way.”

So we have them on the record now, and this can only lead to two conclusions:

1) They are telling the truth, they had no knowledge of what happened Sunday (despite an existing rap sheet for playing outside other rules), and they were either set up by an over-efficient ball boy or equipment manager or by a nefarious outside element who wanted to make the Patriots look guilty.

2) They are lying through their teeth but believe without reservation there is no way the NFL investigators will ever lay a hand on them.

So what the NFL gets now is the kind of three-ring circus it wants no part of. The league’s official investigation is ongoing — and who knows when those conclusions ever will be reached — but more to the point, there will now be around 6,000 separate mini-investigations being carried on simultaneously in Phoenix next week, a feeding frenzy of credentialed media armed with notebooks and tape recorders and endless oodles of access every day next week.

Belichick handed the question off to Brady in the morning. In the afternoon Brady — sounding significantly more serious than he did the other day when these charges were first brought up — then handed it off as well. He handed it off to the league at large, whose showcase event now will be dominated by one issue and one issue alone next week.

He handed it off to his owner, Robert Kraft, whose pristine reputation allowed him to blunt much of the criticism during SpyGate, but who must now assume responsibility for everything that has happened on his watch in this instance. This is as much a test of his leadership as Roger Goodell’s now. If his team has somehow been wronged here, tell us why.

If not?

He’d better be ready for fallout of epic proportions. Because his coach and his quarterback are on the record now, and their reputations are on the clock, and so is the very essence of who the Patriots are. They both declared they had no earthly idea how those footballs got deflated. Etch that in stone now.

And ask yourself this:

Did those footballs all lose two pounds of air on their own? Is there a magic-bullet theory at work now, something that can explain away how this remarkable coincidence could have been born? Because nobody ever wants to call someone a liar, not without the proof in your hands.

But do you believe Belichick?

Do you believe Brady?

Do you believe the Patriots could possibly have been victimized by saboteurs to such a degree that they really can be as innocent as they claim to be?

More important: Does Roger Goodell, and all of the commissioner’s men, really believe that, too? Or are they hoping against hope that come Monday, the magic of the Super Bowl and the antidote of the desert air will make all of that go away?

Sure. Because THAT strategy has worked well before.

And you thought the circus left town when Rex Ryan was fired …

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