By DARREN SMITH
OK, I’ll admit to being underwhelmed by the Patriots deflated football “scandal” on Monday. It seemed like a waste of breath and irrelevant in the grand scheme of a 45-7 beat down.
Then Tuesday night’s reports that the NFL has determined that 11 footballs that the Patriots were using had been tested and – SURPRISE! – were significantly underinflated. From ESPN’s Chris Mortensen:
- “NFL has found that 11 of the Patriots footballs used in Sunday’s AFC title game were underinflated by 2 lbs. each, per league sources.”
It would be one thing if a football or two was under-inflated…but eleven? You can pretty much kiss benefit of the doubt goodbye (if it existed here, given that it is the Patriots) and say “hello” to the second major scandal of Bill Belichick’s coaching career.
There will be no downplaying of this scandal if Mortensen’s report is true, just like there will be no justification or claims that “everyone does it”.
Maybe they do and maybe they don’t.
But this is the Patriots and he is Bill Belichick and these things matter more because it’s HIM than they would have this had been anyone else in the league.
Of course, this is just the beginning and guaranteed to lead to more questions, likely producing embarrassing answers for a lot of people besides Belichick.
If Mortensen’s report is true, are we supposed to believe that Tom Brady didn’t know what was happening? He’s the one throwing the footballs and it would make perfect sense that the balls were deflated to his liking.
If you tell me Rob Gronkowski doesn’t know what’s going on, I’ll buy it.
No matter what this investigation turns up, Brady is one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play the game but something like this isn’t happening without his knowledge.
If this is true, his reputation probably gets dinged a touch.
How about the officials?
They’re in charge of making sure the footballs are properly inflated in the first place and handle the balls aplenty during the game.
A report from Newsday claims that Colts LB D’Qwell Jackson, who intercepted a Brady pass in the second quarter, noticed something screwy with the football he caught and took it to the Colts’ sideline to have it examined.
A defensive player with one touch in a playoff game, adrenaline coursing through his veins and HE notices what the referees didn’t?
Not a good look for the league.
Then there’s this from Ben Volin of the Boston Globe:
- “Globe confirms that game officials discovered at halftime that game balls were underinflated. Tested each ball twice with different gauges.”
Again, more questions.
New England led 17-7 at the half and the final score was 45-7. Did the refs adjust the balls at the half? Did the Patriots readjust? Who knows if we’ll ever know what actually happened.
One very important thing to remember…when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was at his lowest this season, one of his most vocal supporters was New England owner Robert Kraft. He publicly backed Goodell and you know he privately did so with his fellow owners.
It will be very interesting to see how punishment is handed down, assuming there is any.
Because Belichick has a prior on his record –- Spygate — would the league actually do something heavy-handed before the Super Bowl?
I can’t think of any reason why this investigation shouldn’t be completed before the game, meaning that the Patriots should be sanctioned — barring some hard-to-see explanation of why 11 footballs were underinflated — before the Super Bowl.
To me, it’s so ridiculous for the Patriots to get caught up in this and it’s debatable if deflated footballs even made a bit of difference in the AFC Championship Game.
Yet, here we are with all eyes on the league office again.
+ Contact Darren Smith at email@example.com