On Monday, the NFL sent out a press release detailing its discipline for Tom Brady the New England Patriots as the result of the DeflateGate scandal. Both player and team have been hit with sizable punishments for their respective roles in the illegal deflating of footballs during the AFC Championship game.
The news follows shortly after the Ted Wells-led investigation of the scandal concluded in a 243-page report last Wednesday. In it, Wells revealed text messages between Patriots locker room assistants Jim McNally and John Jastremski detailing the deflation of footballs as well as additional information regarding Brady's awareness of the game-day tampering.
So what exactly does all this mean for Brady and New England? How did the league arrive at these punishments? What is the potential fallout? Let's examine.
What is the punishment?
The NFL has decided to suspend Brady for the first four games of the 2015 regular season. Barring a successful appeal, the All-Pro quarterback will play his first game against the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 18. Brady also miss out on a quarter of his 2015 pay.
As for the Patriots, the team will be docked their first-round pick in 2016 as well as a fourth-rounder in 2017. The loss of draft picks is somewhat similar to what the team surrendered as the result of 2007's "Spygate" scandal.
Why were the NFL's punishments so severe?
While the Wells report could not prove conclusively that the footballs were deflated at Brady's behest, enough evidence surfaced to conclude that the All-Pro quarterback was aware that the violations were ongoing. Additionally, the fact that Brady refused to cooperate in the NFL's investigation played a significant role in the punishment according to the league. Wells noted in footnote 74 of his report that the exchanges between Jastremski and McNally concerning Brady "are in the nature of statements made by a co-conspirator during and in furtherance of conspiracy."
In a letter to the Patriots, the league mentioned several factors that helped determine their discipline. The first is the punishment the team previously received for "Spygate." The NFL also cited New England's refusal to make McNally available to Wells for additional interviews.
However, perhaps the most important factor was the league's perception that Brady, McNally and Jastremski "were not fully candid during the investigation."
What does this mean for Brady?
Following the announcement of the four-game suspension, Brady now has a three-day window to file an appeal, something he is widely expected to do. There is little precedent for this manner of punishment, and it is possible that it will not hold up under further scrutiny. Though he may win on his appeal, there is no guarantee that the entire suspension will be thrown out.
What does this mean for the Patriots?
Though the Patriots could conceivably reinstate McNally, the league has barred him from "serving as a locker room attendant for the game officials, or having any involvement with the preparation, supervision, or handling of footballs or any other equipment on game day." Jastremski faces similar sanctions, as he will no longer have "any role in the preparation, supervision, or handling of footballs to be used in NFL games during the 2015 season."
It's difficult to ascertain precisely what impact the loss of draft picks will have on the team. While first-round selections are generally valuable, the Patriots have proven that they can survive without them due to their strong scouting department and coaching staff.
As for what happens on the field in 2015, New England will actually go the first five weeks without Brady, barring a successful appeal. That includes the team's first four games against the Steelers, Bills, Jaguars and Cowboys as well as its bye week.
However, the long-term question is whether this impacts the Patriots' already tarnished legacy. This is a team with six Super Bowl appearances and four Lombardi Trophies, but the mention of multiple cheating allegations will always be a part of the conversation around them.