Tuesday Patriots Notebook: So Much For ‘Integrity Of the Game’
1) A report this week indicates that the league covered up the PSI numbers during the infamous Deflategate saga, which anyone who followed that fiasco shouldn’t be surprised by.
According to ProFootballTalk.com’s Mike Florio, the numbers obtained by the league in 2015 apparently returned numbers similar to what happened on that fateful night when the Patriots faced the Colts, which led to the initial report from ESPN’s Chris Mortenson about 11 of the Patriots’ 12 footballs in that game each being underinflated by at least 2 pounds each. While his report ended up being inaccurate, it didn’t change the fact that the wheels were set in motion for one of the most ridiculous episodes in league history.
The NFL ultimately suspended Tom Brady for four games and docked New England a first-round pick in 2016, as well as a fourth-round draft pick in 2017. That punishment came not from facts, but by a “more probable than not” determination from the Wells Report and the league still hasn’t provided any real evidence despite doing their own tests the following season.
And it doesn’t sound like we’ll be finding out those results. Ever.
Goodell already hinted years ago that they weren’t going to release the data. When pressed on trying to get information about what the league found in 2015 during what Roger Goodell said were “spot checks”, he deflected and said that they were done to make sure teams were staying within the guidelines to protect the, say it with me now, “integrity of the game”.
“What the league did this year was what we do with a lot of rules and policies designed to protect the integrity of the game, and that’s to create a deterrent effect,” Goodell said during an appearance on “The Rich Eisen Show” at the time.
“We do spot checks to prevent and make sure the clubs understand that we’re watching these issues. It wasn’t a research study. They simply were spot checks.”
While the league refused to do a “research study”, Bill Belichick did one of his own at the time, putting the quarterbacks and the equipment managers through a game day simulation where they went through their normal football preparations along with bringing the footballs outdoors as they normally do in-game situations.
They then tested the footballs, which returned numbers similar to what the league found the night it happened. Belichick explained all of this in what ended up being one of the most epic press conferences during his tenure as head coach. They wasted time leading up to their most important game of the year, with Belichick expressing his anger and frustration over the accusations, saying “I’m embarrassed to talk about the amount of time that I’ve put into this”.
However, the league ignored the facts he presented which should have shut down the accusations. As for their own tests the following season, Florio reports that despite the data, the league never released the numbers and NFL general counsel, Jeff Pash, issued a “direct order” for the league to delete their findings.
That’s sort of unbelievable, as the NFL still refuses to knowledge a mistake that was obviously costly to the Patriots and saw Brady miss four games without cause. They still refuse to admit they may have been wrong, despite all the damage it did to both Brady and the team’s reputation.
It remains one of the most frustrating periods in team history, with Brady unable to ever get that time back and the Patriots being cost draft picks that should never have been taken away.
So much for “integrity”.
2) Meanwhile, one thing that would have been interesting might have been whether or not Josh McDaniels might have helped out his former colleague, Brian Flores, by adding him to his staff, but it appears that possibility has been removed.
McDaniels reportedly hired former Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, who also spent time with McDaniels in New England. He was originally a coaching assistant with the team starting in 2009, before being promoted to position coach for both the linebackers and defensive line. He left the Patriots in 2016, spending time with the Giants and Packers, before joining up with Flores for one season in 2019 in Miami. He left the Dolphins after one season and was hired as both an assistant head coach and defensive coordinator under Joe Judge last season during his second stint with the Giants.
Flores joining up with McDaniels certainly would have united two dynamic minds with a team that’s looking to turn heads in the coming years after what has been several disappointing seasons under John Gruden. McDaniels already has his work cut out for him, as he’s in a division against arguably the toughest team in the AFC in Kansas City, with the Chargers joining the Chiefs as another difficult rival. The rumors continue to swirl about Aaron Rodgers potentially being on Denver’s radar this offseason, which would immediately make things that much more difficult.
For now, former Patriots Director of player personnel Dave Ziegler and McDaniels will get to work on trying to establish their own legacy after quite an incredible run in New England. Quarterback Derek Carr’s future will be another interesting storyline to follow as he has one year left on his deal and McDaniels and Ziegler will have to decide whether or not Carr is their future QB, or if they’ll move in a different direction. Reports so far seem to indicate they’re not necessarily 100% on board with that idea, which will definitely be something to keep an eye on.
3) One thought that was interesting on that came from The Athletic’s Vic Tafur, who talked about that very topic in his most recent mailbag.
Tafur wonders if, given McDaniels’ success with players like Matt Cassel and others (obviously we saw it with Mac Jones this season), whether or not they can find a viable replacement should they part with Carr. If they move on from Carr, Tafur believes it would definitely need to be a change toward someone who will be better in the coming years.
“There’s plenty of time to talk about all the Carr stuff,” wrote Tafur. “But I think this is the question: Who can you replace him with who could be better in a couple of years? And I don’t think Mark Davis would mind taking a step back next season if it meant they had a better job of winning big in the future. He mentioned McDaniels’ work with Matt Cassel, among others, so maybe there is a thought that the Raiders don’t need to spend $150 million-plus RIGHT NOW. (Look at me and the all-caps.)”
He went on to say that how McDaniels handles the roster is going to be interesting because the team is already coming off of a teardown under Gruden, which he believes wasn’t necessary and that Mark Davis doesn’t seem to believe this current group is bad enough where they’d have to go down that road again.
“With the publication of Gruden’s emails, his era was a failure,” wrote Tafur. “He tore down the roster — when maybe it wasn’t necessary — and rebuilt it in his image and then he was gone. Davis said this wasn’t a rebuild on Monday, but it’s definitely a reset.”
4) Getting back to the topic of Flores, one other opportunity that came off the board was the head coach job in Houston, which saw the Texans hire Lovie Smith.
Flores apparently wasn’t thrilled with the news, with a statement released by his legal team suggesting that the reason he was turned down was due to his impending legal suit against the NFL.
“Mr. Flores is happy to hear that the Texans have hired a Black head coach, Lovie Smith, as Mr. Flores’ goal in bringing his case is to provide real opportunities for Black and minority candidates to be considered for coaching and executive positions within the NFL,” his attorneys wrote via CBS Sports. “However, we would be remiss not to mention that Mr. Flores was one of three finalists for the Texans’ head coach position and, after a great interview and mutual interest, it is obvious that the only reason Mr. Flores was not selected was his decision to stand up against racial inequality across the NFL.”
Prior to Smith’s hiring, Flores was believed to still be a candidate despite the lawsuit, with Flores having previously worked with GM Nick Caserio during their time together in New England. Instead, the Texans shifted course and opted for Smith, closing the door on another coaching opportunity.
As it currently stands, all 32 teams are included as potential defendants in his lawsuit, which likely didn’t help the situation as he remains without a coaching job heading into 2022.
5) According to reports, it sounds like Judge could potentially be on his way back to New England.
After a rough season with arguably one of the worst special teams performances during his tenure as head coach, Belichick bringing Judge back would certainly be a step in the right direction. However, it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be in that capacity. Albert Breer of SI.com reports that Judge’s role here in New England is expected to be as an offensive assistant.
Judge served as the club’s special teams coordinator during his final five years with the Patriots, which also saw him move on to become the wide receivers coach in 2019 prior to his departure following that season after taking the job as the head coach of the Giants. He finished 10-23 during his two seasons there. He originally joined the Patriots as a special teams assistant back in 2012 before eventually being promoted.
Breer reports that the two sides are working on a deal, which is expected to get done in the coming days.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary