Fran Tarkenton: ‘The Patriots Mishandled It Badly’

So, just to review: The New England Patriots cheated, said they didn’t cheat, demanded a future apology just for being accused of cheating, were found to have cheated (more probable than not, anyway), said they would accept whatever punishment the league handed down, got their punishment and are now appealing it.

Yup.

“I think the Patriots have mishandled it as bad as you can mishandle anything,” NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “First of all, nobody hates Tom Brady, right? I don’t. I think he’s great. He’s got a great following. He’s loved by all people. But we’re talking about an AFC Championship Game. And what he did, he directed it. I knew it at the time. Everybody that’s in football (knew) it at the time. They deflated the balls because he thought that gave him an advantage. That’s why he did it. He wouldn’t have done it (if he thought otherwise). But he did it. This was not his first rodeo.

“I’ve talked to people up and down the line,” Tarkenton continued. “The quarterback has to control the balls. This has been going on a long time. These are part-time guys. They’re not going to do anything to the ball without him directing (and saying), ‘I need more air out of it. I need it at this level.’ He directed that. He’s been doing this for a long, long time. People in the Patriots’ (organization) have told me that. I know that. And it all makes sense. When he went on and did the interview at the Super Bowl – this is the AFC Championship Game – you’re cheating to get an advantage. And he goes on, and even Cris Collinsworth said after he heard the interview, ‘He’s lying’ – before the Super Bowl game.”

The Patriots, however, seem to want the public to think that Ted Wells is the one lying, not Brady.

Good luck with that.

“This is an ethical, good guy,” Tarkenton said of Wells. “Four months, he goes and does an investigation, and he was very gentle with the investigation. But as he says, Kraft (was okay with it) until I came out and said I thought (it was more probable than not that Brady did it). But now they’re attacking him because he didn’t have the answer (they wanted). They have botched this. They should have come out (and said), ‘We did it. We were wrong. We apologize. It didn’t make a difference in the game, but that’s not the point. It’s the integrity of the game, and we cheated and we’ll take the punishment, whatever it might be.’ It would have been less punishment.”

Maybe, but what if the Patriots had admitted guilt as soon as the report surfaced? Tom Brady might have been suspended for the Super Bowl.

“I don’t think that would have happened,” Tarkenton said. “But here’s the deal. It’s been handled horribly. They cheated and then they lied, and now after the investigation, they’re going to go and appeal and drag it out even longer. It’s a big debacle. It didn’t have to be this bad. It is this bad. And I think Roger Goodell did the right thing. He didn’t suspend him for the Super Bowl. That would have been devastating. He had the guy come in to do the investigation, they do the punishment, and (the Patriots) couldn’t have been more arrogant.”

That includes Brady.

“It’s really hurting him,” Tarkenton said. “It’s going to hurt him today. It’s going to hurt him more tomorrow. It’s going to hurt him more 10 years from now because this is going to be a blight on a terrific career.”

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