If initially it seemed like the controversy surrounding the deflated balls was just a way to pass the time until the Super Bowl, as the NFL digs deeper into the incident, it might indicate that the New England Patriots are in a bit more trouble than presumed, as cheating once again seems to taint this franchise and its achievements.
First there are the facts, which haven’t shown the Patriots are guilty of anything. There are just suspicions and allegations. The NFL has found that 11 of the 12 balls that the Patriots were using on offense in the AFC championship game were inflated significantly less than the rule book says (each team uses their own set of balls). By how much? By 2 pounds per square inch, which is about 16% less than the requirements, suggesting it wasn’t something negligible as far as these things go.
So now what? The league is trying to determine who such a huge difference in air pressure came to be between the initial measurements, two hours before the game, and later on. The cold weather might explain it, but there wasn’t a significant drop in temperature during the game, which means it’s something else. Did the referees measure it incorrectly before the game? Did someone on the sidelines tamper with the balls, which is against the rules? Was it something from high above, aka Belichick? Or was it some ball boy or junior staff member doing something of his own accord?
The issue first came to light when D’Qwell Jackson intercepted a Tom Brady pass and let someone on the Colts sideline know that the ball felt deflated. That member of staff passes it on to head coach Chuck Pagano, moving on to Colts’ general manager Ryan Grigson and NFL director of football operations Make Kensil. They informed the officials at half time, and then the balls were inspected by NFL personnel and an alternate official, which is when they probably found out almost all of them were below regulations in terms of mass and air pressure.
This leads to a few questions: Were the balls checked correctly before the game? And if they were, at what point where they, if at all, tampered with? It also raises the issue of when did the referees tell this to the NFL? Was it during half time or after the game? And if the balls were found to be deflated, why didn’t they go by the league rules which say the Patriots need to play with the Colts’ balls in the second half? Tom Brady and Bill Belichick were both stunned by the questions about the subject on the day after, which means they weren’t made aware of the findings, or they’re simply using excellent poker faces.
The league isn’t saying anything right now, but sources suggest there’s a lot of anger and disappointment regarding the Patriots. It’s also worth noting that owner Robert Kraft was one of Roger Goodell’s biggest backers during the violence scandals earlier this season, which could become a factor if and when a decision has to be made. And then there’s the history of the Patriots and cheating, but that takes us to assumptions.
Are the Patriots cheaters? They were caught in 2007, and it’s known that they taped a lot more than just the Jets game. The Rams Super Bowl and how know how many other games. It doesn’t matter because Goodell destroyed the tapes. Why? We’ll never know, but it doesn’t really help the Patriots look innocent in all of this. It put an asterisk on their achievements back then, Just like their Super Bowl teams were very good, even without doing anything illegal by NFL standards.
But if this whole allegation scandal turns out to be true, this casts a huge blow on the reputation of Belichick, this organization and Tom Brady himself. It’ll show the league didn’t handle the situation harshly enough seven years ago. It’ll show that fines and taking away draft picks isn’t enough. It might suggest that removing wins and overturning results in games that were fraudulent in nature, even through a minor case of cheating, might be something they need to consider a bit more seriously.