Earlier this week, the NFL made a big deal about accusing Tom Brady of destroying his physical cell phone as if that were a clear admission of guilt regarding Deflategate.
Yes, it doesn't look good that Brady replaced what he says was a broken Samsung with an Apple iPhone 6 on March 6, the very day he was interviewed by the league's investigator Ted Wells about his role in Deflategate.
But looking at that timing, while omitting several key pieces of information, makes the league look like it's trying to create another reason to affirm its initial four-game suspension.
Let's start with the idea of destroying a phone, which might be the most important piece of perspective that, not only fans, but league officials might want to study up on.
Although very few people in the general public destroy their phones, people in the limelight frequently are encouraged to do so.
Sure, information lives on the cloud and in virtual storage everywhere, but managers of high-profile people often have plans in place to make sure that when a phone is no longer to be used that the hardware is rendered completely useless.
"As someone who lost his phone and was threatened by the person who found it to take numbers celebrities and players public, I advise my players to destroy phones they are no longer using out of respect for people whose numbers are in there, whose conversations could perhaps be recovered," said NFL agent David Canter, who represents San Diego Chargers safety Eric Weddle, Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith and Miami Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon, among others.
Think about what you or I might have on our phones that possibly could be recovered even if a phone is so-called "wiped." Now think about the paranoia that surrounds celebrities and what is on their phones. With his supermodel wife Gisele Bundchen, combined with the profile that he has built himself, Tom Brady's rolodex is among the most valuable in the world. It makes sense that he protects it.
According to the league, Brady testified it's his practice to destroy his phone and SIM cards when he gets a new phone. Make fun of it all you want, but he'd be crazy not to do that.
In the affirmation of the appeal, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said that, despite Brady's words, the cell phone that Brady used prior to the phone that was destroyed was in fact not destroyed and that suggested a "deliberate effort to ensure that the investigators would never have access to information that he had been asked to produce." Perhaps another bad mistake by Brady.
But then there's the fact that while Brady did not provide Wells with the actual text messages, Wells himself has admitted he was never interested in the physical phone.
Upon appeal, with the phone destroyed and the league now doing the fact finding, Brady's agent, Don Yee, said that he attempted to go to Brady's provider AT&T to see if they could retrieve all the messages on that phone. Yee said he provided a note from the company's general counsel to the league reflecting that they could not do that. When contacted by ESPN, an AT&T spokesman said that "for privacy purposes, we don't comment on dealings with our individual customers."
Yee, who wouldn't comment to ESPN after Thursday's court order to "tone down the rhetoric," offered to provide the league with seven months full of phone records that had numbers from every call and text and that Brady would identify every number. Yee told CSN New England's Tom Curran that he and Brady figured out that there were 28 NFL employees and that the league could have asked them to see their text messages with Brady. In its official response confirming Brady's suspension, the NFL admits in a footnote in small print that the offer was made by Brady and his agent, but that going through this process was "not practical."
So to review: Ted Wells wanted the texts, not the phone. The league wanted the texts, but the phone was destroyed. When the league was offered a way to figure out if there was additional incriminating evidence through the people that Brady was in touch with, they felt that was work that didn't make sense for them to do.
That essentially means the confirmation of the appeal is mostly about the destroying of the phone, which makes me wonder what Roger Goodell did the last time he changed phones. Did he render it physically unusable like Brady apparently did? If Goodell didn't, he certainly should next time. You probably should, too.