Unfortunately Because I Have To: Part 2 – Deflategate
While I am glad we are staining the Patriots image yet again with talk of scandal, the Deflategate reaction has been absurd in a similar vein to Ebola. Much like Ebola, we will look back and wonder what everyone was talking about for so long. I talked with a friend this weekend about this, and alas, it is in our mission to inform no matter how trivial it is as long as you’re talking about it.
Deflategate, apparently also known as Ballghazi (which is hilarious) stems from an allegation that the Patriots and specifically quarterback Tom Brady used suspiciously underinflated footballs in the AFC Championship Game against the Colts last season.
AFC Championship Game
During the first half, Brady threw an interception to Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson. After the play was over, Jackson handed the ball to the Colts equipment manager for safekeeping as a souvenir. At halftime, league officials inspected the footballs. It was initially reported that eleven of the twelve balls used by the Patriots were measured to be two pounds per square inch below the minimum, but later reports refuted this allegation, citing only a single ball two pounds per square inch below the minimum, but the other 11 still below the 12.5 psi minimum.
Colts general manager Ryan Grigson, speaking at the 2015 NFL Combine, stated that “prior to the AFC Championship Game, we notified the league about our concerns that the Patriots might be using under-inflated footballs”. Grigson’s claim implied that the NFL had advance knowledge of the issue and was trying to run a sting operation, contradicting a Dean Blandino claim that it was an issue that “came up in the first half”. The claim also contradicts a NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent statement that Grigson notified the league “during the second quarter of the game”
Brady literally said all of this was “ridiculous”. He held a news conference on January 22, prepping his team with a talk beforehand where he denied any involvement and said the NFL had not contacted him yet. He also said that he was handling the situation before the Super Bowl and that this wasn’t “ISIS”.
On January 27, an anonymous league source stated that the investigation was focusing on a Patriots locker room attendant who was seen on surveillance video taking the 24 game footballs (12 from each team) into a restroom for approximately 90 seconds. This video was provided to the NFL by the New England Patriots the day after the 45-7 Patriots victory.
The investigation also found that officials noticed during the game that a game ball was missing, and two different officials handed replacement balls to a Patriots equipment manager. One of those officials was found to have been selling game balls for personal profit, and was fired by the NFL.
On February 17, 2015, it was reported that Patriots ball attendant, Jim McNally, had tried “to introduce an unauthorized football,” without the markings found on approved footballs, into the game during the first half. That initial report stated that NFL VP of Game Operations Mike Kensil went to the officials’ locker room at halftime to inspect the game balls, “in part because of the suspicions McNally’s actions raised.” An Indianapolis-based ex-referee has claimed that NFL officials had been “aware” of McNally for years and had raised concerns about him. This football was a “‘K’ ball”, one of the footballs used for special teams plays.
This report was immediately contradicted citing sources stating that a “K” ball had gone missing, and that an NFL employee in charge of collecting game footballs for charity had handed the unmarked ball to McNally. Those sources also claimed that that NFL employee was fired after the game, as he had been taking footballs intended for charity and selling them at a profit “over a period of time”.
On May 6, the NFL published a 243-page investigative report regarding the deflation of footballs used in the AFC Championship game. Named for its leading author, attorney Theodore V. Wells, Jr., of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, the investigation concluded that it was “more probable than not” that New England Patriots equipment personnel were deliberately circumventing the rules. Further, Brady was implicated as it being more probable than not that he was aware of the deflation. The report further stated that Belichick and other members of the coaching staff were not involved in the situation.
The report focuses on the communications and actions of locker-room attendant Jim McNally and equipment assistant John Jastremski. The report concludes it was “more probable than not” that the two deliberately released air from Patriot game balls after they were tested by game officials. In several texts between Jastremski and McNally, the two mention and joke about inflation, deflation, needles, and gifts from Tom Brady to McNally. Tom Brady was a constant reference point in these discussions. McNally referred to himself as “the deflator” in a text message to Jastremski as far back as May 2014.
The Patriots suspended James McNally and John Jastremski indefinitely on May 6, with the NFL indicating that the pair could not be rehired without the league’s approval. On May 11, 2015, the NFL announced that it has suspended Tom Brady without pay for four games of the upcoming season. The Patriots will also be fined $1 million and lose their first round pick in the 2016 NFL draft and their fourth round pick in the 2017 NFL draft. The NFL also announced a three-day appeal deadline for charges against Brady specifically according to the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, and a deadline of May 21 for charges against the team. Patriots owner Robert Kraft issued a statement stating the punishment “far exceeded” reasonable expectation, was based on circumstantial evidence, and that Tom Brady had his unconditional support.
On May 14, 2015, the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) filed an appeal of Tom Brady’s four-game suspension. The NFL also announced Roger Goodell will preside over Brady’s appeal, despite objections from the NFLPA, which requested a neutral arbitrator.
I Mean Really?
The Patriots tried to explain the nickname “Deflator” as pertaining to his weight loss. Really? I mean really? They should be embarassed. No legitimate person believes that outside of Pats nation. When your best defense in refuting probability or generality of awareness and involvement becomes a series of hypothetical “but what if” defense(s), you are on shaky ground.
An example is if Brady just said that he liked the balls to be at the minimum, but make sure it’s at the minimum. The texts say that he was on guys, making guys nervous, the ball boys were nervous, with them even threatening to go to ESPN. Really? I mean really? Read the texts.
Between the text messages, disappearance of footballs in moments before kickoff, similar incidents involving Brady, and Brady’s stonewalling, it’s clear that he was part of an effort to underinflate footballs. 4 game suspension. The question before the arbitrator will have to determine if Brady did it, got caught, tried to cover it up, and then lied about it.