By Shayna Pirreca
There was a major controversy during the 2014-2015 NFL season about the apparent deflating of footballs from the New England Patriots. The controversy was centered around New England quarterback Tom Brady after their 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts. With the Super Bowl on the horizon for the Patriots, a huge question came up. Did the Patriots cheat? Did the deflated footballs give Tom Brady an advantage?
While the NFL used the scientific community to help crack the case, the final verdict was based off of indirect and speculative evidence. The ideal gas law as well as other basic principles of science tell a different story. Although they concluded that that the air pressure of the footballs were similar to what they had predicted, the NFL took action against New England.
The cheating allegations were directly related to an interception. The footballs were first brought to attention when Colts linebacker D’Quell Jackson caught an interception thrown by Tom Brady. Jackson said that when he caught the ball, it seemed lighter and different than a football normally feels. According to NFL rules and regulations, a football’s air pressure must fall between the range of 12.5 and 13.5 PSI (basic unit of pressure).
The balls used by the Patriots did not fall between this range. Immediately after the interception, the Colts alerted the referees about the footballs and the referees in turn alerted the NFL.
The big question that comes from this is does it really matter? Does .5 PSI really make it easier to catch the ball? Did the Patriots do this on purpose? Controversy about the intentions with the Patriots footballs came about when the balls were tested. While all eleven of the Patriots footballs were under 12.5 PSI, three out of the four Colts footballs were below the range as well.
Another factor that comes into play is the weather. On the day that the footballs were tested, it was cold and rainy. According to John Leonard from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, it is common for footballs to lose pressure more quickly under these types of conditions. Another huge factor in the case is the fact that Tom Brady actually played better, completing twelve of fourteen passes after the balls were re-inflated. This supports the Patriots and Brady’s claim that the balls were not deflated on purpose.
Bill Belichick on the Accusations
When Belichick finally spoke about the issue to the public, he said how shocked he was to learn about the deflated balls and that he has learned a lot in the days following the scandal. He says that “I’ve learned more about this process the last three days than I knew, or had talked about, in the last 40 years that I’ve coached in this league.” He also stated, “I had no knowledge of the steps involved in the game balls, and the process that happened between when that were prepared and went to the officials, and went to the game, so I’ve learned a lot about that.”
An important detail that he adds during his interview is that during practice, he gives his players the worst footballs possible to use. He does this so that it is harder to play in practice than in games. He wants the hardest situations that his players face to be during practice time. He also said that the team is cooperating fully and quickly with the NFL investigation. From this one can assume that the whole situation was an accident or a misunderstanding, but the NFL wouldn’t let them get off that easy.
The NFL had a full investigation which included reviews of player equipment as well as security footage, text messages, call logs, and press conferences looking for any red flags. They also interviewed sixty-six New England players and other NFL personnel. From this investigation they concluded that prior to the game, it is more likely than not that there were deliberate violations of the playing rules. They also stated that the people in charge of equipment for the New England Patriots made a deliberate effort to release air from the balls after they were evaluated by NFL officials. They also state that it is likely that quarterback Tom Brady was aware of the tampering of the footballs before the AFC Championship game and that it is unlikely that the equipment assistants would not deflate the balls without his permission.
Even with this information however, there was not enough direct evidence linking Brady to the tampering. Although there wasn’t enough evidence to link Brady to the case, both of the equipment managers were suspended from the Patriots without pay.
Vincent on the Patriots
NFL senior Vice President Troy Vincent wrote to Patriots owner Robert Kraft stating that they did not satisfy the standard set forth in the NFL’s official playing rules and that the actions taken to deflate the footballs was deliberate. He also stated that the NFL determined that the Patriots violated the NFL’s policy of Integrity of the Game and Enforcement of Competitive Rules. He also says that there are factors that they will take disciplinary action against. The decision became that the Patriots would be fined 1,000,000 as well as a forfeit in a first round selection in the 2016 NFL draft and a fourth round selection in the 2017 draft.
Vincent on Brady
Vincent also took disciplinary Action on Brady himself. He says that Brady had violated the playing rules and fairness in the game of football. He also concluded that Brady was generally aware of what was going on in the deflation of footballs prior to the AFC Championship game. The final verdict was that Brady would be suspended for the teams first four games of the regular season.
In September of 2015, Judge Berman appealed the claims on Tom Brady. With no hard evidence of wrongdoing, Berman accepted the argument made by the Patriots that Brady had no notice that a “general awareness” could lead to disciplinary action. He also stated that a general awareness in any situation shouldn’t be the means for suspension or any disciplinary action to that extent. With the verdict of Judge Berman, Brady’s suspension was lifted and he was eligible to participate in the first game of the 2015 season against the Pittsburg Steelers.