What a last couple of days it has been. Unless you haven’t watched television, read the paper, or listened to the radio this week then you by now have heard all about Deflate Gate, leading up to today’s crescendo of the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady press conferences. While the NFL is still currently doing their “investigation” what we do know at this point is that the Patriots footballs on Sunday weighed in 2.0 pounds per square inch less than the minimum required by the NFL.
Let me again address two points that keep being brought up. First, no the cold did not affect the balls. The Colts footballs in that game did not change in weight or pressure. Secondly, no I do not think that the deflated ball meant the Patriots won the game. So stop saying, well after the balls were inflated back up at halftime the Patriots ran away with the game. That is a moot point and does not matter. What is at issue is that the Patriots yet again broke rules set by the NFL. This would be similar to a college student taking an exam. The student is flying through the test but gets stuck on one question. So they look over at another students paper for the answer but gets caught. The teacher checks out the original students paper and they would have gotten a 90-percent even without that one answer. But guess what the teacher is going to do? You cheated, that’s the final answer.
Obviously there is a history of the Patriots skirting the rules (Spy Gate). And it is a long history dating back to the start of their dynasty in the 2000 season when they faced the Rams in the Super Bowl. Now they once again are making headlines. I have heard some people say, well I am sure other teams were doing it and they just have it out for the Patriots. Maybe other teams were but guess what, they weren’t caught. Same goes for Spy Gate or Bounty Gate, maybe other teams were doing it….but if they were, why was there never any evidence or accusations of those other teams breaking rules? So let’s instead focus on those who have been caught, again….the Patriots.
Roger Goodell and the NFL are in an extremely tough position. This has been a horrid public relations year for the NFL. Beginning with the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson incidents to start the season and now concluding the year with the latest Patriots issue. Obviously the NFL screwed up the Ray Rice issue and even going further back many felt Goodell let the Patriots off easy with Spy Gate. So now where does the league go? During Bounty Gate Roger Goodell said that ignorance of an issue is not an excuse. He overlooked that comment when investigating Ray Rice (conveniently when it applied to him). Will he overlook the issue now again or will he hold Bill Belichick accountable?
Too many times the NFL has glazed over their problems. From Ray Rice to Rodney Harrison and steroids. The NFL for years hedged on HGH testing. In fact while baseball gets most of the attention in PED’s, it is the NFL which should be focused on. MLB actually has the strictest guidelines while the NFL probably the least. In fact did you know that a player’s slate is wiped clean every two years in the NFL? The NFL hopes that the league’s exploding popularity will cover up any miscues. But when you start ignoring the actual game; putting an emphasis on offense, focusing on fantasy players, and worrying only about league’s standing in society…well you are now a TMZ league.
I watched the press conferences for both Belichick and Brady today. I have heard people say that Belichick looked believable and Brady was shaky. This much I do know is that Brady contradicted himself in his own presser. After saying that he told his equipment guys he prefers the balls at 12.5 psi, he moments later said he couldn’t tell the difference on Sunday in the game. Well how is it you know exactly how you like the balls to be inflated, down to the number, but you don’t find it noticeable? And I also find it hard to believe that Belichick, one the NFL’s all-time detail oriented coaches, to not know anything at all but yet admits he does know he likes to keep footballs at low end of the requirement. The unfortunate thing is that unless someone has an audio or video of either Brady or Belichick saying hey we like it at 12.5 psi but when it’s cold we want an even better grip so lower it, then it will be near impossible to directly link them.
So the NFL finds itself at a crossroads. Do they punish one of their premier organizations, coaches, and quarterbacks or do they slap them on the wrist yet again? Without that audio or video clip directly linking Brady and Belichick it makes the punishment that much harder. I am glad that former players like Troy Aikman, Mark Brunnell, and Jerome Bettis have expressed their displeasure with the Patriots. Too often former players fail to call out their own kind. I doubt this was the first time the Patriots played with deflated balls but the notion that they should be booted from the Super Bowl is silly without direct evidence. So what should Goodell do? In my opinion what Goodell should do in response is suspend Belichick for the Super Bowl, fine the Patriots a heavy amount, and take away their next two first-round picks. Tom Brady is culpable, probably more so than Belichick, but can’t directly be linked. However today’s press conference and his response I think will be punishment enough as his legacy, I feel, will forever be tarnished.
The NFL wants to show their league has integrity and will treat rule breakers properly. They routinely fine players that break uniform rules and that do not do interviews. What about addressing those that break rules of the actual game? In a year with Rice and Peterson, after letting up on the Patriots the first time in Spy Gate; now is the time to show people the NFL is even-handed and will handle rule breakers with conviction. So Roger Goodell you wanted the power, you have it. The deflated ball is in your court, what’s your move?