Leading Off

Is Tom Brady’s legacy tarnished?

FILE - In a Thursday, May 7, 2015 file photo, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady gestures during an event at Salem State University in Salem, Mass.
FILE - In a Thursday, May 7, 2015 file photo, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady gestures during an event at Salem State University in Salem, Mass. AP

Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks of all time. He’s led the New England Patriots to four Super Bowl titles. And he’s a two-time NFL MVP and three-time Super Bowl MVP.

But now he’s also the public face of “Deflategate” after the league’s four-month investigation and a 243-page report by Ted Wells, the attorney who led the query into whether the Patriots deflated balls in their AFC championship victory against the Colts last season.

The NFL suspended Brady for four games, fined the Patriots $1 million and took away two of the team’s draft picks.

Even if Brady’s attorney, Don Yee, is successful in his appeal and correct when he said “there is no evidence that Tom directed footballs to be set at pressures below the allowable limits,” Brady forever will be linked to the scandal, considered by many to be a cheater.

Until the underinflated balls were discovered, no one had ever heard of John Jastremski and James McNally, the two low-level Patriots employees named as the main conspirators. And even now, if you ask 10 sports fans who they are, they would be clueless.

But they all know Brady. And they’ll always connect him to deflated footballs, viewing him as the guy holding the needle, even if he’s never touched one.

Some argue Brady and the Patriots should have been hit with tougher penalties, considering the team’s history (“Spygate”), with some tweets suggesting a full season suspension for the quarterback.

Others argue that his punishment was too severe, pointing to the league’s original two-game suspension of Ray Rice following the former Ravens running back’s domestic violence incident in a casino elevator.

Then there’s the rest of us who figure the punishment fit the crime, though we wonder why coach Bill Belichick wasn’t punished, too. Belichick has a reputation for his hands-on style and his control of every aspect of the operation. If he didn’t know, he’s probably angry that he didn’t.

Tom Couzens: (916) 321-1097, @tomcouzens

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