With seemingly everyone giving their opinion – solicited or not – on the Patriots’ punishment stemming from the Wells Report, why not ask somebody who’s actually been in New England’s locker room?
That was CBS Sports Radio’s thinking, at least, and Chris Simms was happy to oblige.
“I can’t say I grabbed (a ball) on game day ever, and I never noticed anything (out of the ordinary) in practice, I have to say that for sure,” the former NFL quarterback and Patriots coaching assistant said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “But this is the first thing I’ll say about Bill Belichick: Bill Belichick is the biggest rule follower I was ever around. That’s why a lot of this is crazy to me. Now, I totally think Tom Brady is guilty, and I’ll also preface it with Tom Brady was probably one of my favorite quarterbacks of all time, really, until this just about happened. I don’t have a lot of sports memorabilia, but I have a Tom Brady-autographed helmet. But Bill Belichick is the kind of guy that literally we weren’t allowed to bet $5 on the NCAA Final Four. He would have put the kibosh on it and said the CBA does not allow gambling within NFL premises. That’s the kind of guy I was around.”
If that is the case, then why did the NFL punish Belichick and Robert Kraft? The Wells Report essentially found no wrongdoing – or knowledge of wrongdoing – by Kraft, Belichick or any other coach, so why was anyone but Brady punished? How do you make sense of that?
“Well, listen, there’s not a lot of sense to be made there,” Simms said. “It’s not like I’m totally on the NFL’s side for the way they approach some of these and handle some of these situations. They’re certainly a little all over the place. But I think the big thing is the NFL backed them into a corner when they suspended Sean Payton basically for Bountygate, saying you not knowing is not an excuse. You’re the head coach. The organization, the owners – them not knowing was not an excuse. So by that standpoint, the NFL knew they had to hold everyone within the Patriots organization accountable, even though, yes, we all know this is a quarterback/ball boy issue.
“So yeah, if there’s one part where I looked at this whole thing (and) said, ‘Wow, that’s harsh,’ it was the team penalty,” Simms continued. “I looked at (that) and said, ‘Holy cow.’ I think they’re holding the higher-ups – all the bigwigs – accountable for what’s going on in their organization, in their facility. Then of course I do think – like you know and everybody else knows – they are paying attention and holding it into account to what happened with Spygate and what happened with that back in 2007.”
Asked why he is convinced that Brady cheated, Simms simply drew on his experience. He played in the NFL for eight years, and his father, Phil, played in it for 15. They know how the league works.
“That is a ball boy/quarterback conversation – hands down, right away,” Simms said. “Never have I heard a head coach coming over to the quarterback and saying, ‘What do you think about the PSI this Sunday? What are you going to do this week?’ That’s not a conversation that goes on. And yes, I do think Tom Brady is guilty. The evidence pretty much shows it, but the text messaging the day the story broke? He hasn’t text messaged (equipment assistant John Jastremski) in six months, but (then starts texting him that day)? And why would you not hand over the cell phone? So to me, it just doesn’t all add up.
“I look at it as Tom Brady cheated,” Simms continued. “He took the integrity of the game and the rules of the game into his own hands and basically said, ‘I don’t care about the last 90 or so years of the NFL. I’m going to make the balls the way I would like them made.’ And that, in itself, deserves a suspension.”