So what do you have to do to get the death penalty?

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So what do you have to do to get the death penalty?

Today, everyone without a bathroom full of navy-and-white face paint was screaming for the Penn State football program to get the death penalty. There was no question it deserved it. The NCAA was fine with immolating a SMU football program for merely paying pocket money to students for playing football. It should have had zero remorse about leaving a mushroom cloud hanging over Beaver Stadium for the next four years. That would have been about a one-game ban for every crime for which that monster Sandusky was convicted. If the NCAA had imposed a ban like that, as well as the penalties levied this morning, it would have sent an earthshaking mandate that decency and humanity take precedent before college sports.

And if there was ever a time for a university to receive an Old Testament, wrath-of-God type punishment, this was it. You could practically hear Roger Goodell begging the NCAA to let him do it. Because quite honestly, the day former FBI Chief Louis Freeh published his finding on the Penn StateJerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal, the NCAA should have been plotting the path from Beaver Stadium to the gallows pole.

Unfortunately for every right-minded individual who follows college sports, the NCAA refused to do what was right and warranted. It chose to simply do what was, easy, expeditious and -- most dubiously -- what PSU itself almost instantly agreed to. Make no mistake, this wasnt an unprecedented set of penalties. This was plea agreement of convenience.

Why?

Because a governing body that needed the public to perceive its justice as swift and punitive, and a shamed and disgraced university that wanted to salvage its reviled football team, still shared one common interest: Making sure the football money kept flowing.

Look carefully at the penalties the NCAA actually imposed and rethink how severe the punishment actually was:

The four-year bowl ban was absolutely academic. What legitimate bowl wants Pedophile State? This is like banning Mel Gibson from hosting the Oscars for four years. Its a joke.

The 60 million fine? Im sure there were a slew of alumni with their checkbooks open before the NCAAs press conference was finished. Earlier, in the midst of one of the single most disgusting scandals to hit a major university, PSU raised over 200 million in donations. A Penn State representative said the donations "send a loud and distinct message". The message is that the navy-and-white zealots who support PSU care more about a football team then they do about abused children.

Who really cares about the vacated wins? Besides Bobby Bowden, that is. This is much more of a Paterno family sanction than it is a Penn State sanction. Joe loses all his records. And since even this wont get Jay Paterno to shut up, how effective is it, really? Telling Charles Jefferson that Penn State wrecked his Camaro would have been more punitive.

The scholarships hurt, no doubt about it. But they would hurt a lot more if they were limited after a long football exile.

Look, this wasn't just about crimes by a former coach on the football team. This was a moral failure of the university as a whole, from the president on down. A deliberate and concerted effort from 1998 on, which not only concealed Sandusky's existing crimes but allowed for more children to be victimized. And it was done in the name of preserving the football program and Joe Paterno's legacy. Institutional control wasnt used to protect children from a sexual predator. It was employed to protect both the legacy of a revered head coach, and the competitive advantage in recruiting and fundraising that such a prominent figurehead bestows.

A state university safeguarding the achievements and reputations of extracurricular activities at the expense of anyones well-being, and especially that of children's, is nothing less than a capital crime against the public trust. At a state-funded institution, it should be the public that this university exists to serve, not a sport or coach.

You would think that the public served by this institution would be up in arms.

But the irrational reverence of football above all else in Happy Valley still clouds the judgment of those well beyond Beaver Stadium and administrative offices of Penn State. It has infested the very fiber of the student body and the surrounding community. When the scandal first broke, Penn State closed ranks to protect its precious football program. This was when it should have been opening its arms to the facts, the truth and the victims of Sandusky. But the legend of Joe Pa was to be protected at all costs. The students even rioted after Paterno was rightly and deservedly fired.

I was at the PSU Art Fest riots of 1998, where students violently rampaged because local police closed the bars a few minutes early. Those kids were altruistic freedom fighters compared with the sycophantic cretins that took to the streets to protest their ousted rape enabler.

The punishment for having a university that aided and abetted a child molester, and a culture that couldn't set its football idolatry aside despite the gravity of the crimes, should have been apocalyptic . . . and that means no football for a long time. But TV schedules, stadium turnstiles, and advertising contracts took precedence over historic and monumentally deserved penance.

A complete cleansing was required to refocus Penn State University on what matters: Upholding the public trust. Repairing the damage done to the victims. And never again putting anything before the University motto it should have been paying attention to all along: "Making Life Better."

Unfortunately for the people who expected real justice today, they forgot the unofficial motto of college sports: Make More Money.

Brady, Harbaugh found common ground on plane ride back from Michigan

Brady, Harbaugh found common ground on plane ride back from Michigan

FOXBORO -- What could have been an awkward plane ride for Tom Brady and John Harbaugh was made less so thanks to a high school lacrosse player. 

Brady and Harbaugh shared a private plane back from Michigan where Jim Harbaugh and his University of Michigan program put on an event for National Signing Day. About a year earlier, Brady told a room full of reporters that Harbaugh and his coaching staff should study the rule book and "figure it out" after hearing that they were pretty upset about the unusual formations the Patriots ran during their AFC Divisional Round win over Baltimore. 

They may not have been on the best of terms.

"I was pissed off," he told ESPN's Ian O'Connor before the start of this season. "It was uncalled for. And the rules are deeper than that, and I know the rules, and I stand by why that play shouldn't have been allowed. ... So yeah, that should never have been said."

But on the flight was Harbaugh's daughter Alison, a high school lacrosse player. When Brady took some time to share a few thoughts on competitiveness with her, he and Harbaugh found common ground.

"We had a lot of fun," Harbaugh said of the flight. "I don't know if he's talked about that at all, but we ended up sharing a plane ride along with my daughter and a couple of his people, friends of his. We just had a chance to just talk for a couple hours. And really more than anything, Alison got a chance to listen to Tom Brady talk about competing and what it takes to be great at what you do.

"And one of the funny things about it was, he was so nice to her. He gets off and they go, and we get back on the plane and we're talking, and she says something like, 'Boy, Tom really is a nice guy.' And I look at here and go, 'Tom?' I'm thinking 'Mr. Brady' would have been more appropriate. She said, 'He said to call me Tom.' I got a kick out of that.

"It was good. Lot of respect for him and a lot of respect for what he's accomplished. He's very tough to compete against. The best quarterback that's played, certainly in this era, without question in my mind. That's how I would rank him. And it's just another tough challenge to have to play against him."

Friday Bag: What’s the Patriots' future at running back look like?

Friday Bag: What’s the Patriots' future at running back look like?

Every Friday Tom E. Curran, Mike Giardi and Phil Perry will take your Patriots questions (Curran is sitting this one out) on Twitter and answer them as a joint mailbag -- or a Friday Bag, as they call it. 

Got questions? Tweet the guys using the hashtag #FridayBag.

MG: Q leading off my portion of the always popular, always exciting, always (occasionally?) informative #FridayBag. I think it would be easy to think that way from the outside looking in, or knowing how callous some organizations can be, but I just don’t believe that to be the case here. Players talk. Agents talk. Hell, coaches talk. If the Pats were to operate that way, it would get around the league in a heartbeat. Then why would someone want to play here knowing they’ll be treated even more like a disposable commodity then normal? The flip side to this is actually protecting the player from himself. Guys in the last year of a deal sometimes feel compelled to play through every damn thing so they can at least say “look at me, I’m a warrior!” And on that note, I’d sit Marty Bennett next week in Denver and probably the following week against the Jets if that will help the ankle and whatever else is ailing him heal to the point where he’s a hell of a lot more effective than what we just saw versus the Rams (He was awful). Bennett’s too valuable going forward. 

MG: Lisa, my understanding is teams nominate their player and then it goes to a panel (one that includes the NFL Commish) to decide who wins for the league (It was Anquan Boldin in 2015). Can’t quibble with Rob Gronkowski being the team’s nominee this year. People have no idea how much he does for the community. Heck, we don’t even know the extent of it, but the great Don Rodman of Rodman Car Dealer fame and one of the most incredibly charitable individuals to ever grace this area said that there are few if any athletes who devote more time and effort to charitable works/foundations. I hope he wins. It would mean a lot to Gronk.

MG: You never figured you’d have to worry about the offense, did you Steve? But the season-ending injury to Gronk and now the injury to Danny Amendola does concern me. Both of those guys are incredibly reliable 3rd down targets, and in Gronk’s case, he’s usually the first or second option on 3rd down. Bennett hasn’t been able to pick up the slack because he’s clearly not healthy either. That means the Pats and Josh McDaniels will be going through a trial and error period here to best determine how to improve that number and become more efficient. I suspect more will fall on Julian Edelman, but also look for the continued evolution of the two back set with James White and Dion Lewis.

MG: Ambrose, the Pats have remained incredibly committed to the run because they don’t want to find themselves in the same spot they were a year ago, when the run game was so pathetic that neither Miami in the regular season finale nor Denver in the AFC title game paid it one mind. That means rushers pinning their ears back and smashing into Tom Brady at rates no one is comfortable with. So while I won’t be surprise if Brady throws it 45 times, I don’t think they shelve the ground game, at least in the first half. 

MG: Ok Bunk, I stole a comment of yours for the mailbag. Trying to make you famous…yes, I stand by my tweet in which I stated the Ravens and Broncos are bigger threats than the Chiefs or Raiders. Oakland’s defense would give up 40 to Brady. 45 if the Pats needed it. Or 50. I’m dead serious. As for the Chiefs, Alex Smith is not coming into Foxboro and beating this team, even with some of it’s defensive issues. And Belichick will make damn sure that rookie Hill doesn’t get many cracks at touching the football in the return game. Oh, and now the Chiefs best linebacker, Johnson, is out for the year with an Achilles. Should I continue???

MG: History tells us no, David. Brady would throw a fit and argue that he needs to play to remain sharp or iron out this problem or that problem. There’s also the possibility of a bye week looming, meaning he’d go 3 weeks without actually playing in a game. Seems like a good idea in the sense that you don’t risk a 39-year old to a blindside shot, but neither he nor Belichick would ever go for it.

PP: The running back position might be the toughest to project moving forward because there are so many injuries there and there are so many backs who come from nowhere to earn significant roles. I'll say this though: The backs they have on the roster -- not including Brandon Bolden, who has turned into strictly a special teamer after having a difficult time holding onto the football this year -- don't seem to be slowing down. LeGarrette Blount just turned 30 but is in the middle of his best season. Dion Lewis looks strong after two surgeries. James White has taken his game to a new level in his third season. I could see the same group coming back next season, but given the volatility of the position, you know the Patriots will always be scouring for talent there. 

PP: Tom E. touched on this yesterday, Big Wally. Brandon Pettigrew, who was released by the Lions on Friday, might make sense. Otherwise, there's not a whole lot out there. Zach Sudfeld? He's available. Would be an unlikely reunion, but desperate times . . . I think the Patriots will continue to roll out Martellus Bennett at less than 100 percent. I think Matt Lengel could see more work as a blocking tight end as he becomes more familiar with the system. I think we'll see more Cameron Fleming, and we could see more two-back sets with no tight ends. In my opinion, Bennett could use a rest, but I don't think it's coming any time soon. As far as Sarge's question about the hurry-up, I'm not sure we'll start to see more that. It's possible, but one of the benefits with the hurry-up is to keep a defense from substituting to shift matchups in its favor. With Gronkowski or Bennett on the field in a hurry-up situation would have even further highlighted the matchup issues they present. If either one found himself with a slow linebacker on him, the Patriots could have rushed to the line and continued...to exploit...that matchup. Without Gronkowski and without Bennett at full strength, the advantage of the no-huddle is somewhat sapped.  

PP: It's so late into the season, I'm not sure there's much in the way of opportunity for a breakout game this week, Paul. I guess the obvious choice would be Griff Whalen. If he can give the Patriots a pair of sure hands as a punt-returner, that would be a significant enough add that I might qualify it as a "breakout." Bill Belichick made it clear this morning that the team views him as more than just a returner, though, so he could see some offensive snaps in four-receiver sets and provide the Patriots with a presence in the slot. I'd deem a four-catch, 50-yard performance as a "breakout" as well. To me, that's the range of his ceiling for this week. One other name as a potential "breakout" candidate? Justin Coleman. He could be used defensively after being inactive for the last three weeks due to Eric Rowe's hamstring injury. If he's able to help slow down the combination of Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman and Steve Smith, that'd be a breakout in my book. 

PP: The combined record of opponents they've beaten is actually 26-57-1, including the Browns 0-12 mark twice, but now it's out there. 'Preciate you, Dave!

PP:  There's still so much up for grabs in the AFC West that it's hard to determine the likelihood of Patriots playoff matchups and where those games will be. However, without getting into the nitty gritty details, I'll just point out that it's still possible that the Patriots end up on the road in either of these cities in the postseason. On the road, Denver is the tougher matchup. Always has been a brutal place for the Patriots to play, and Denver's defense is still good enough to cause them problems. At home? I'd say, of these two teams, Kansas City would be the one that would provide the Patriots with a slightly tougher test. In my mind, they're a little more balanced and I have more faith in Alex Smith to make plays than I do Trevor Siemien.