Will the most recent NFL scandal affect the result of Super Bowl XLIX? The league has experienced its most successful year financially, but also its worst year for public relations events. Is ‘Deflategate’ just another NFL offense, or will it reveal the culture that has existed inside the New England Patriots’ organization for over a decade?
I have always maintained the assumption that the League ordered officials to protect Tom Brady more than any other quarterback. I am an ardent football fan, (my wife calls me a fanatic), and years ago I labeled him ‘Saint Tom Brady,’ because in the eyes of the League he was untouchable. This second confirmed scandal committed by the Patriots may change the impression of NFL fans.
Press conferences by both Head Coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady on Thursday resulted in increased doubt about the veracity and ethics of New England. Patriots’ management hoped it would ‘deflate’ the sandal. The result was far different.
What is the big issue if the game balls were deflated? Fans must first of all understand that all NFL rules have a purpose. The intent is to eliminate an advantage for one team over another. Weather and injuries are out of league control, but many others can be manufactured by actions which are against the rules. Footballs used in an NFL game must be inflated to a minimum of 12.5 pounds per square inch. Officials examined the game balls after the Patriots defeated the Indianapolis Colts Sunday.
Eleven out of twelve balls were under minimum pressure. The final score was 45-7, and New England’s domination was not questioned. The accusation was relative to the well-known fact that Tom Brady prefers his footballs inflated to the bare minimum. A wet and cold football is much easier to throw and catch if it is ‘softer.’ The Patriots are a ‘pass first’ team. Presumption is not the reason why the NFL elite, both present and former players, are questioning the veracity of Belichick and Brady.
Reports claim that the Baltimore Ravens contacted Indianapolis Colts’ management questioning the footballs used in their Division Championship.
Earlier in the season when the Colts and Patriots played on November 16th, Indianapolis questioned the legality of the balls used in that contest.
Immediately after Tom Brady’s news conference related to ‘Deflategate,’ former NFL quarterback Mark Brunell spoke out on ESPN. Brunell was a quarterback for the New York Jets and the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was close to tears as he offered his opinion of Tom Brady and the accusations leveled directly at him and his alleged offense.
Brunell was blunt when he said that he did not believe Tom Brady’s claim of innocence. He said that there was undeniable proof that the balls were deflated, and that there was not an equipment manager in the league who would make the decision to remove pressure from the footballs without the insistence of the quarterback or Head Coach. He said that his disbelief of Brady’s defense was ‘hard to swallow.’
Troy Aikman, a three-time Super Bowl winner himself, pointed the finger directly at Brady. When he played the rules were slightly different. The home team provided all of the game balls, and were inflated according to league rules. Now each team brings their own footballs into the contest, twelve each. They are conditioned according to each team’s preference; but the minimum remains at 12.5 pounds of pressure. Aikman contends that Brady was directly responsible for the infraction and doubts that Belichick had no knowledge of the violation.
The ‘Spygate’ investigation was completed in 2007. New England was fined heavily and lost draft choices in 2008 for the illegal videotaping of opponent’s closed practices.
Last year the League offices, under the auspices of Commissioner Roger Goodell attempted to minimize the domestic violence incident of Ravens’ running back Ray Rice.
An overreaction by Goodell most likely ended the career of one of the greatest all-time running backs, Adrian Peterson.
The NFL has problems, and the core is Commissioner Roger Goodell. He has ‘looked the other way’ when his biggest supporters are involved in controversy, and is relentless when he decides actions by players on and off the field are unforgivable according to his standards.
The NFL world is anxious to see what action Goodell will take regarding ‘Deflatgate.’
If the Super Bowl was as great an event as the World Cup, the Patriots would be declared ineligible for the sport’s biggest game; the revenue created by the biggest game on earth would never allow that.
Commentary by James Turnage
Photo courtesy of Keith Allison