“Deflategate” – The story so far….

So “Deflategate” is a thing now. Don’t know what it is?

The New England Patriots beat the Indianapolis Colt 45-7 in the AFC Championship game in January before going on to win the Superbowl against the Seattle Seahawks in dramatic fashion just 2 weeks later in Arizona.

However before that game, the league found that 11 out of the 12 balls that they used were “underinflated” meaning that the balls were blown up less than they should have been. This is supposed to give the Quarterback an advantage by making the ball easier to throw and easier for the receivers to catch and not fumble. All teams are allows to mess with their footballs prior to the game as per the ruling which Messrs Brady and Manning championed in 2006. The NFL wants to see more touchdowns which will mean more viewers which in turn leads to higher TV revenue. Makes sense to me.

There are however rules as to what you can and can’t do to affect the footballs after they have been approved by the referees. For instance, you cannot heat the balls up to soften them a la Vikings and Panthers during their game in December where the temperature went as low as -7 degrees. Brrrrrr.

So back to the Patriots (which I will state are my team of choice, I’ll try and not to be too biased). The NFL held an investigation into what happened with the football and whether this was entirely an effect which happened naturally during the course of the game or whether they deflated them on purpose. The report came out just over a week ago and to be honest (and not biased at all…I think), the paper written by Ted Wells has a lot of holes.
In essence, it says that it is probable that the New England Patriots personnel deliberately deflated balls during the AFC Championship game in January and that quarterback Tom Brady was probably “at least generally aware” of the rules violations. If that sounds vague, that’s because it is.

The 243 page document released on the 6th May says “In particular, we have concluded that it is more probable than not that Jim McNally [the Officials Locker Room attendant for the Patriots] and John Jastremski [an equipment assistant for the Patriots] participated in a deliberate effort to release air from Patriots game balls after the balls were examined by the referee. Based on the evidence, it also is our view that it is more probable than not that Tom Brady [the quarterback for the Patriots] was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls.”.

The report also includes text messages between McNally and Jastremski which were sent in October and January, implying that Brady was requested his footballs deflated below the minimum of 12.5 pounds per square inch. They also imply that Brady had previously not been happy with the quality of the game balls.

The report went to say that it found no wrongdoing by Patriots ownership, coach Bill Belichick and his assistants, or equipment manager Dave Schoenfeld absolving the organisation from any blame.
Brady happened to be speaking at Salem State University the day after the report was released but when asked for a response he stated ““I don’t have any reaction. Our owner [Robert Kraft] commented on it yesterday, and it’s only been 30 hours, so I haven’t had much time to digest it fully. But when I do, I’ll be sure to let you know how I feel about it. And everybody else.”.

He was also asked whether “Deflategate” detracted from their Superbowl 49 victory. ““Absolutely not, we earned everything we achieved as a team this year.” Said Brady to rapturous applause. It seems Bostonians are behind their team.

So after the report, it was passed on to Troy Vincent, NFL’s executive vice president to preside over the punishment. Speculation was of course rife around the globe with most of what I read expecting either a suspension of a couple of games or nothing at all as the Wells report was based upon opinion and circumstantial evidence.
Then on Monday in the middle of the day in America, the news broke. Brady suspended for 4 games, Patriots fined $1m and lose 1st round draft pick in 2016 and 4th round in 2017.
Remember when I said the report which the NFL commissioned “absolves the organisation from any blame”? Well Vincent seemed to see it another way.

The NFL have not punished the Brady and the Patriots not just for cheating but for lying about it. The punishment for the Patriots was “For the violation of the playing rules and the failure to cooperate in the subsequent investigation, the New England Patriots are fined $1 million and will forfeit the club’s first-round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft and the club’s fourth-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft.” And “Quarterback Tom Brady will be suspended without pay for the first four games of the 2015 regular season for conduct detrimental to the integrity of the NFL. Brady may participate in all off-season, training camp and pre-season activities, including pre-season games.”. Ouch.

Things have only gotten worse with responses from various people involved with the organisation and rebuttals from Wells when his independence was questions by Brady’s agent Don Yee.

Even better has been the Patriots dissection of the Wells report which was released today and can be found here calling the report “incomplete” and “incorrect”.

I don’t know what to make of all the comments and the latest report from the Patriots is c. 20,000 words so I have a lot of reading to do. What I do know is that this isn’t the last we’ll be hearing about this in the coming months and I better start researching Jimmy Garoppolo.