From the beginning there’s been something fishy about the whole “Deflate-Gate” debacle, and the longer it’s dragged on the more it’s apparent that the NFL is going to have a big problem.
They’re not going to be able to penalize the Patriots, and if anyone is going to be owed anything it’s going to be the organization who had their reputation sullied unnecessarily while the NFL fumbled through an investigation that forced the Patriots to defend themselves far more voraciously than we’ve ever seen during Robert Kraft’s entire tenure as owner.
If you ever read a document from a representative pertaining to the NFL, the letter presents itself as representing the “National Football League and each one of its 32 member clubs.” Â They’re under one umbrella, although each team operates their businesses independently. Â But at the end of the day any bad publicity for an individual team hurts the entire league, so it makes sense to make sure that if there is an investigation done into any wrongdoing, the team should at least be supported publicly by the league until all the facts are explored and no stone is left unturned before it escalates beyond that.
What transpired over the course of the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl was beyond egregious, and if I’m Kraft I’m less than pleased with how the whole situation was handled. Â Regardless of the outcome, deflate gate will live on in the minds of the entire football world outside of New England who will pin this incident to them forever. Â This may quietly go away from the standpoint that there was no wrongdoing by the Patriots, but that won’t get any near the amount of air time that the initial accusations did.
And that’s completely unfair.
Especially given the fact that each report that came out was so ridiculous. Following the initial report by Bob Kravitz out of Indianapolis about the Patriots footballs potentially being under-inflated, Chris Mortensen followed it up with a report from a source within the league’s office that 11 of 12 footballs were “significantly” below the required level. The league then leaked another to Ian Rapoport that essentially debunked it by saying the balls were just “a tick” below. Also mixed in was the report by Fox Sports that said the league was zeroing in on a locker room attendant who took the balls somewhere on his way to the field, which we later learned ended up being the bathroom. Factor in that he was only in there for 90 seconds and the only rule seemingly broken may be the unspoken one that if he used the facilities, he might not have washed his hands.
Now a report by Adam Schefter on Wednesday further muddied the situation. Schefter revealed that an employee by the league gave a different football to Jim McNally, who is an employee of the Patriots that works the officials’ locker room at the team’s homeÂ games. An initial report by ESPN Tuesday night had said that McNally “tried to introduce an unapproved ball into the game”, but Schefter reported Wednesday that McNally had been handed the ball from someone else. According to Schefter, the league’s employee has also been fired for taking the football and selling it for personal gain. Â The NFL normally allocates those balls for charity.
Kraft’s team may have won a Lombardi Trophy, but he didn’t get to enjoy the road to getting there after the Patriots won the AFC Championship.
(USA TODAY Images)
That comes on the heels of the revelation by the officials during their press conference prior to the Super Bowl where they essentially admitted that they don’t actually log the psi of the footballs before each game, which makes it difficult to prove the Patriots had anything to do with the balls being below the minimum requirements by the league. Bill Belichick already dispelled any notion the Patriots did anything wrong after he came out firing on a Saturday afternoon and was visibly upset, leading off his statement by saying the team felt they “needed to say something” in response to the allegations. Â He conducted his own tests to get to the bottom of how the footballs could have fallen below the required level, with their findings revealing that the difference in temperature outside was the culprit given how aggressively they work on the exterior of each football to get the texture to where Tom Brady prefers it.
The fact that we’re now finding out a football was swapped out by one of the NFL’s own, that should only further infuriate those who saw what should have been able to enjoy the culmination of an incredible playoff run go down in flames after the allegations were made against them.
Roger Goodell deserves a lot of the blame after not coming out during the process and downplaying it while the investigation was going on. Instead the mishandling of the whole process subjected the team to further abuse in the media following repeated leaks from within his office, which left the Patriots in a tough situation as it played out through the national media and in many of the other markets. It’s inexcusable, and it’s not like this couldn’t have been figured out long before it ever reached this point. After all, for a league that has massive resources, there is absolutely no reason that any investigation, no matter how big or how small, can’t be conducted thoroughly and correctly.
Most fans in New England have seen all the articles calling for Bill Belichick to be fired, Tom Brady to be suspended, with some even going so far as saying the Patriots should have been forced to forfeit their appearance in Arizona. Everyone was waiting for the Patriots to be caught red-handed and for the evidence to come out that they did, in fact, break the rules. The vultures circled overhead jumping on each leak that came out, with one tipping it one way against them, while another tipped it back. It was completely ridiculous, and it really made this more of a mess than it needed to be and many seemed like they were done in an effort to wipe some of the egg off the NFL’s face throughout this entire debacle.
Fortunately for the Patriots, they got the last laugh with their championship win, and now the icing on the cake will be for the NFL being forced to admit they screwed up. Â Some believe the Patriots will receive a minor penalty and a slap on the wrist, but if I’m Kraft, any penalty should be deemed unacceptable. Â Accepting a penalty is an admission of guilt, and it’s pretty clear given how adamantly the Patriots have been about the accusations that they believe they did nothing wrong and didn’t intentionally break any rules.
Kraft demanded an apology if the investigation finishes and findsÂ they didn’t do anything wrong. Â It’s just too bad it won’t undo the damage it did to the Patriots reputation, and even if Kraft gets his wish, at the end of the day it certainly won’t be nearly enough.