Defelategate is nothing new; in fact QB’s such as the Tampa Bay’s Brad Johnson have been tampering with footballs for the past decade. Brad Johnson took Tampa Bay to Super Bowl XXXVII and beat the feisty Oakland Raiders 48-21. Nearly 10 years later in 2012, Johnson admitted to paying ball handlers to doctor all footballs he was given. “I paid some guys off to get the balls right” said Johnson in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times in 2012. Despite what Johnson did in 2002, the Patriots are still at the mercy of the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell. Despite what the Patriots have allegedly done, Brad Johnson’s piece in the Tampa Bay Times does prove one thing: tampering with footballs is nothing new. On top of that, this is not the only time that the Patriots have been caught cheating, or attempting to cheat. This is the second –gate for the Patriots, as they were caught for videotaping the New York Jets in 2007. Spygate, as it is more commonly known, has tattooed a large target on both Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Today, Roger Goodell and the NFL finally have a chance to take advantage of it.
THE EVIDENCE: Tom Brady’s only interception of the AFC Championship Game jumpstarted the initial investigation by the NFL. Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson intercepted Tom Brady with 9:21 remaining in the 2nd quarter. Jackson, who intended to keep the ball as a souvenir, gave it to one of the employees on the Colts equipment staff. Shortly thereafter, the equipment manager noticed something odd with the ball that Jackson intercepted and at halftime, he had the referees look into it.
The referees took 24 balls, 12 from the Pats and 12 from Colts and inspected them thoroughly during the 12 minute halftime. 11 of 12 of the Patriots balls were found to be underinflated and a few of the Colts balls were a smidge under regulation pressure. According the Wells Report the Patriots balls were inflated between 10.50 psi and 11.80 psi. The two referees, Blakeman and Prioleau, both took measurements of the balls.
In each measurement there is a difference between both referees measurements. For example, in the halftime measurement of Patriots Ball #1 Blakeman measured 11.50 psi and Prioleau measured 11.80 psi. .30 psi is a large difference, especially over the course of a 12-minute halftime. It is hard to trust the accuracy of each measurement. Furthermore, the officials only had time to gauge 4 Colts balls due to the lack of time left in halftime, while they measured 11 from the Patriots. Therefore the evidence is lopsided in favor of the Colts, as they had the fewest balls inspected.
The balls weren’t the only cause for concern during the entirety of Deflategate. Text messages sent between Patriots equipment manager John Jastremski and ball attendant Jim McNally were also factors studied in the investigation by Ted Wells, who was hired by Roger Goodell.
The Wells Report mainly focuses on text messages exchanged between ball attendant Jim McNally and the Patriots equipment manager, John Jastremski. McNally and Jastremski exchanged messages throughout the season but most notably, after the AFC Championship Game against the Colts but also on October 17, 2014 when the Patriots played the New York Jets. Messages between Jastremski and McNally indicate that Brady was not happy with the inflation level of the balls throughout the Jets game, even though the Pats managed to escape with a win. After the game Jastremski and McNally joked about “mak(ing) the next ball(s) into a fuckin balloon(s)” for the following week. Despite the joking and hee-hawing between McNally and Jastremski, McNally seemed to have an ulterior motive. McNally wanted autographed shoes and footballs for another man mentioned (named Jimmy) and he wanted to use his relationship with Tom Brady to get them.
Directly following the citation of the text messages in the Wells Report, there are direct observations from Ted Wells. In other words Wells is doing his due diligence to analyze the text messages but in the process he takes aim at Brady in what he believes to be the correct interpretation of each message. McNally and Jastremski could be joking around and giving Brady a hard time for being difficult throughout the season. Simply put, there is no way to determine what these text messages truly mean. Furthermore, there is not enough evidence to make an assumption based on hearing the word Deflator once in a conversation between two Patriots employees. Granted, McNally and Jastremski did talk to each other and Brady a lot following the AFC Championship Game but that still does not prove that Brady did anything wrong. Taking into account the messages, inflation pressure, and the fact that Jastremski took a detour to the bathroom before bringing the balls out to the game, does the punishment really fit the crime given the evidence against Tom Brady?
THE PUNISHMENT: The NFL suspended Tom Brady four games, fined the Patriots 1 million dollars, and also took away a first round pick in 2016 and a fourth round pick in 2017 in response to Deflategate. Anybody, Patriots fans, football fans, has to realize that the punishment does not fit the crime. Four games is a quarter of the season and with the Patriots nothing is certain until nearly mid-season.
Four games without Brady in 2015 will not be the end of the world. In 2014 the Patriots went 2-2 in their first four games with a fairly inconsistent offense and defense. In fact, Jimmy Garoppolo got to see some playing time early in the season, especially against the Chiefs. Garoppolo went 6-7, threw for 70 yards, and had a nice slant completion to Gronk for a touchdown in the 4th quarter. Although one game, one series, does not make or break a QB, Garoppolo may need to take over the starting job from Tom Brady. Also, the Patriots are a team that does not peak until mid-season, so having a losing record going into game 5 is not that big of a deal. The Patriots have the ability to adapt to each opponent, so even with Tom Brady on the sidelines the Patriots have a chance to win. On the other hand, Tom Brady’s punishment is extremely harsh given the circumstances of several other NFL players who have been involved in assault charges, such as Ray Rice.
Ray Rice was arrested for assaulting his wife on February 15, 2014 in Atlantic City. Granted, assault and the deflation of leather footballs are two totally different ends of the spectrum with regards to the severity of transgressions against the game and society. Rice was only suspended two games for assaulting his wife and nearly being indicted on aggravated assault charges. Two games is nothing, especially for a team that has a lot of depth at running back with Bernard Pierce. Tom Brady, on the other hand, is the face of the Patriots franchise, and as many commentators call him, Roger Goodell’s Golden Boy. Goodell put the hammer down on Brady and the Patriots this time. Maybe it was in revenge for Spygate, maybe it was due to the fact that Goodell had not levied any serious punishments to any other significant NFL players. Whatever the reason may be, the league pummeled Brady and the Patriots. As always the Patriots will find a way to fight on and use Deflategate as motivation for next season.