There isn't — and shouldn't be — a way to generate a public relations "win" from the resolution of a situation as layered and disturbing as the one involving Browns QB Deshaun Watson, who was accused of sexual misconduct by two dozen women.
But there is certainly a way to make it a bigger "loss," which is what happened Thursday when both the NFL and Watson himself fumbled the situation.
I discussed the situation on Friday's Daily Delivery podcast.
Let's start with the NFL, which reportedly was seeking at least a one-year ban for Watson.
One could give the league the benefit of the doubt and note that Thursday's settlement between the sides, which includes an 11-game unpaid suspension and a $5 million fine, represents a stiffer penalty than the six-game ban originally handed down by an arbitrator earlier this month. It also represents a relative midpoint between the original suspension and the length of a full season (17 games).
But if you want to look at it through a more skeptical lens, the numbers are a little too convenient. If the NFL was serious about pursuing a one-year ban, then why settle?
And more disturbingly, why settle on a length of punishment that makes it look like nothing short of a gross manufactured storyline. Including the Browns' bye week, Watson will be eligible to return in Week 13. Guess who is on Cleveland's schedule that week? A road game at Houston, Watson's old team.
If you think it's just a coincidence, you don't know the NFL. The league loves drama. If it's a matchup of recent Super Bowl foes or merely a player facing an old team without controversy attached, creating those matchups is fine. In this case, it feels cheap.
As for Watson, he's trying to have it both ways.
He released a statement that read in part, "I take accountability for the decisions I made." But later Thursday, he told reporters, "I'm going to continue to stand on my innocence and keep pushing forward, and I've always stood on not disrespecting or sexually assaulting anyone.
It sounds like not even his current employer is sure about that contradiction. When asked about that "innocence" quote, team co-owner Dee Haslam said: "We respect his opinion. I do think in counseling Deshaun will learn a lot more about himself."
Let's hope so. Because right not, it doesn't seem like anyone has really learned anything.