If the Patriots did deflate, should Belichick coach the Super Bowl?

Winning with honor? (Matt Slocum/AP photo)

Winning with honor? (Matt Slocum/AP photo)

Winning with honor? (Matt Slocum/AP photo)

The season that began with the NFL not knowing what to do about Ray Rice will end with one Super Bowl participant being suspected, not for the first time, of cheating. Commissioner Roger Goodell likes to say his job is to Protect The Shield, meaning the longstanding NFL logo. We’re about to see if he means it.

You wouldn’t think the New England Patriots, winners of three Super Bowls this millennium, could be considered a rogue outfit, but they are. In 2007, they were found to have filmed other teams’ defensive signals in violation of the rules and their coach was fined $500,000, and it’s widely accepted in league circles that the Patriots and Bill Belichick aren’t above anything in their pursuit of victory.

Bob Kravitz of WHTR reported after Sunday’s AFC championship that the Indianapolis Colts believed the footballs had been underinflated. (The suspicion took wings after D’Qwell Jackson intercepted a pass thrown by Tom Brady, who has said he prefers underinflated footballs.) Late Tuesday, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that the NFL has found that 11 of the 12 footballs used in open play were inflated below league specifications — this after the balls were inspected by the officiating crew barely two hours before kickoff.

Apparently someone let air out of 11 (of 12) footballs over the interceding two hours. (Cold weather can have a deflating effect, as anyone who checks tire pressure knows, but still: On 11 of 12?) Nobody believes Belichick did it himself — well, nobody seriously believes it — but there’s no way a bunch of ball boys could have taken such unilateral action. (“I’m bored, Mikey. Let’s take a little air out of 11 of the 12 footballs and see what happens. It’ll be fun!”)

In the Ray Rice case, the NFL appeared not to know what was going on, which made it seem stupid. (And no, we’re not equating domestic violence with underinflated footballs.) This is different in that it directly involves the NFL’s principal product, meaning the games themselves. Which leads us to this:

The Super Bowl will be staged Feb. 1. What’s Goodell going to do?

This is the same Belichick who was docked a half-million dollars for what’s known as Spygate, so it’s not as if he has a clean slate. He’s about to coach in our nation’s showcase sporting event, and if there’s cause to believe he knew or should have known that improper measures were being taken in the effort to help his team reach that showcase, should he be allowed on the sideline come Feb. 1?

It would be unthinkable for the NFL to suspend the NFL’s most famous coach for its most famous game. Then again, it was pretty unthinkable that Sean Payton, who’d won a Super Bowl himself, was suspended for a season for presiding over a team that had affixed bounties to opposing players.

Goodell and his league have lost a ton of credibility over the past months, but there has been no reason to believe the games themselves weren’t on the up-and-up. There’s reason to believe the AFC championship might not have been. (Yes, the Patriots won 45-7, but knowledge of an outcome cannot override an attempt, assuming there was one, to influence that outcome.) Let’s see how serious this commissioner is about protecting the shield — or if he cares more about shielding one of his golden franchises and its coach.

Reader Comments 1

122 comments
Don Vanderpool
Don Vanderpool

Cheaters and liars, they should be banned from the NFL

RetiredParamedic
RetiredParamedic

Inflate the balls with nitrogen. The pressure won't be affected by temperature. Then apply a 'seal' that will be very evident if tampered with. Now, go play ball.

Goggy
Goggy

Fill a steel air tank (available at auto parts store). Heat it to 120 degrees. Use that hot air to inflate the footballs to legal pressure. Give them to the officials for measurement. When they cool to game temperature they will lose 2 lbs. Is that cheating or just clever?

PigIron
PigIron

As punishment for using 12 PSI balls versus 14 PSI balls, the Patriots should have their final score in the game reduced by half.

Everyone knows that it was Tom Brady's soft balls that caused Peyton Manning to play such a lousy game.

GT71
GT71

Who cares?  The real question is:

WHY CAN'T THE AJC FIX THE ONLINE SITE SO SPORTS CLICKS DON'T TAKE YOU TO THEIR INANE FRONT PAGE?

The sports site is bad enough, but the other parts of their Fisher-Price mostly-pics & ads 'news' paper is worse.

As for the balls - the Pats won 45-7: I'm pretty sure the balls had little to do with it.

And just to put in a vote - let both teams use the same balls - balls checked by an official of the Obama EPA so assure precise measurements with the balls kept in the same vault as our Social Security money.  So safe / so secure.

TOJacket
TOJacket

@GT71 GT...........for god sake, they are saying they have been doing it all year now...........if something you do illigeally gives you an advantage in a game...........that is Cheating..........the score does not matter then.

tneck
tneck

Major league teams do not rub up the balls the umpire does.  As far as the NFL they are going to have to go to a system where both teams use the same footballs provided by the league with a league hired ball boy.  This way the team can't touch the balls nor pick them out.  It's sad it has come to this.  I'm afraid the investigation will take longer than two weeks so there won't be anything done until next season or the draft.

Guyon
Guyon

What was the pressure in the balls supplied by the Colys before the game and at halftime? There has been no mention of their balls in the media. We need to know all the facts.

DanJohn
DanJohn

@Guyon  I've only heard one report and that report said all 12 of the Colts balls passed the halftime inspection. If true and the Patriots failed then you can't use weather as an excuse.  

Guyon
Guyon

If the pressure of the balls were checked in a room at 72 degF, and the ambient temperature dropped to 35degF, the pressure in the balls would drop 0.8 psig. So if the initial pressure in the balls was near the minimum allowed, the ball would become under inflated because of the ambient temperature. We need to know the details of the checks before the game and at halftime to determine if there was tampering. If the determination is that tampering occurred, we need to know who did it and who knew about it. Only then can guilt be determined. Sport writers and others  should not rush to judgement. 

creegah
creegah

@Guyon Not important to know who did it nor who knew about it. The Pats are guilty and the Pats will be punished. You don't think that Belichick was operating the camera during SpyGate yet he was fined a half mill. Not exactly chump change.

Gov-waste
Gov-waste

Must of went to GT. Can you get a square peg into a round hole?

POV1948
POV1948

Goodell is a bully by instinct and in his heart he might want to show up Belichik just to show he can.  Also in his head, as serial cheating by NE puts a dent in the, ahem, shield.  What he lacks is the guts

Jabmc
Jabmc

To the Patriots " NO MORE " LOL

creegah
creegah

After watching a few hours of Sports-talk this AM and reading 100+ comments on this board, I am surprised that no one has mentioned the obvious...under-inflated balls had nothing to do with the Colts loss but it surely allowed the Pats  to beat the Ravens.

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

@creegah 

I must have missed the data on the balls used in the Ravens-Pats game.  Do you work for Roger Goodell?

MikeS777
MikeS777

I don't think he should coach the game.  The NFL has got to start getting on top of stuff like this.  If they are going to come down on Payton for the bounty scandal, then how can they let Belicheat get away with yet another cheating scandal.

Are we really supposed to believe this is the only time they have done it?  Yeah it probably didn't matter this game, but it I bet it did in others.  In fact, ESPN reported that the Colts complained about it during the regular season meeting too.  Just like Spygate, how stupid are we supposed to be to think that stealing signals gave them no competitive advantage all those years?  LOL

It's just bad at this point. No one outside of NE believes Belicheat is legit.

Also, to Rodney Harrison, lets skip the "us against the world" crap.  The only one doubting the Patriots is Belicheat when he keeps pulling this stuff.  He's the one undermining their hard work and putting it in jeopardy.  Everyone else is just not stupid enough to pretend it's not happening.


GeorgeSteele
GeorgeSteele

I'm tired of these sissies in the NFL complaining about how they lost.  In my day, if you lost you lost.  This game was not even respectable.  I used to B*tchSlap  these boys until they started crying or conceded.  Nobody worried about whether there was a plate of metal or brick inside the turnbuckle. Take it like a man!!

FarTrain
FarTrain

They should ban BeliCheat as soon as the Super Bowl is over.  It would cause too much turmoil and distraction right now.  Just keep a close eye on him for the game, AND LET HIM AND THE TEAM KNOW IT.  Hopefully Seattle will win it and it won't even matter.  That's what my friend, Miss Karma, would do.  She always evens things out.  Ask the Cowboys!

AlwaysReady
AlwaysReady

85 year old Don Shula was right about Bill Belicheat.

GeorgeSteele
GeorgeSteele

@AlwaysReady Don Shula needs to go drink some warm milk and take a walk with his grandchildren.  He couldn't carry the Patriots' jock straps!

patriotdog
patriotdog

Belichick's like Jim Harrick, the former UCLA,UGA basketball coach. Excellent Xs and Os coach, but addicted to cheating. Can't coach without it.

Whatever the NFL does, they should start using one set of footballs for the game. Both teams use the same ball,as in baseball, basketball, etc...

If I'm Goodell, and it's proven to have happened, I'd fine him 1 million, the organization 5 million and the next two first rounders. Then I'd retire...I mean, he's made 40 mil a year for several years. That'd be enough for me.

Lithoman53
Lithoman53

So each team uses there own footballs when on offense??...I never knew that....Is this in effect in college also?

nam51
nam51

Sounds like Beli-cheat wanted any advantage he could find. Suspend him; if he knew, he deserves it; if he didn't he should have. 


If Phil Mickelson used an illegal ball in competition and tried to get away with it, he'd be suspended from the tour for a long, long time. 


What's the difference with a football? None. The ball is the core element of the game. Altering that element should be a big, big deal. 

58Supersports
58Supersports

With over 1000's of  cameras there if it happen someone would have a picture.

58Supersports
58Supersports

I'm not a Patriot fan but it sounds like losers crying to me and referee screw up.

CLNewton
CLNewton

Wouldn't expect any of the broadcast producers to be focusing on the equipment managers. And it would be the work of an instant to put an inflation needle into a 12-13 psi ball, let it hiss a couple seconds (practice practice practice, to get just the right effect), and voila. But how dumb of a coach or QB to set that up, knowing how easily it could be exposed with one INT or one alert ref - someone else handling one of those doctored footballs.

And as to "The cold temp must've lowered the pressures" - sorry, but no. If that happened to the Patriots' pressures, it would've happened across the field, where apparently the equipment remained legitimate.

This needs a prompt, solid inquiry and if the accusations stand, suspensions & big fines for the coach and the QB, Stupor Bowl or not. Otherwise the game is a sham, and cheaters are encouraged to keep on, instead of growing up, staying in the rules. Got to root out such lowlife stuff, and that work is never really finished in this life.

aon
aon

Belichick should be suspended and so should Tom Brady. Rules are rules, boys.  Let's not forget that.

oledawg
oledawg

@aon @58Supersports  Uh yeah... the balls were checked before the game and they were in compliance.  Why do I keep getting this vision of Obama riding his bicycle with his official rule compliant helmet on every time I read your above post?

DanJohn
DanJohn

@aon @58Supersports  They don't have to prove who did it or who ordered it. Only that it was done. If that is the case then they can penalize the organization.

BooBooBear
BooBooBear

The air in the football is a rainy day game day decision, ordered by Belichick.  It was a "minor" cheat that paid off big ... for Brady's passing.  Still, it makes for plausible deniability and masks the real reason the New England Patriots have rarely won less than 10 games a year since 2001.  The Patriot Act allows CIA intelligence to supply Billy boy with the opponent's plays, almost as soon as the opponent knows the plays.  Radios in the helmets means they can change their defense and audible at the line of scrimmage.  Tom Brady tore his knee up in 2008, missing all but the first game, with Matt Cassel leading them to an 11-5 record.  Matt Cassel!!!  The funny thing about that is the Patriots missed the playoffs at 11-5.

DanJohn
DanJohn

@BooBooBear  If players wear the wrong socks, wear the wrong headphones they get fined. There's no such thing as a minor cheat or violation in Roger's eyes.

PITTFAN
PITTFAN

@BooBooBear 

If there are guideline to how much PSI can be in the ball, how can the coach unilaterally decide how much he wants in it?  These balls were 2 lbs below PSI.  That's significant.

BooBooBear
BooBooBear

@DanJohn @BooBooBear Roger hires the officials that sometimes make the referee for a professional wrestling match look more legitimate.  They make calls as bad as the "replacement refs" would make, but it is like when someone calls the wrestling ref over to the ropes to complain about something, while someone else gets in the ring with a folding chair and hits a wrestler in the head and then jumps back out before the ref sees it.  The crowd all roars because they saw it ... but ... 


Pass interference?  Nope.  Play on.  Didn't see it.

BooBooBear
BooBooBear

@PITTFAN @BooBooBear A "guideline" or a "rule"?  Whatever it is, it was broken.  However, the 45-7 outcome makes that slight edge an under-inflated football gave Tom Brady not enough to overturn the game result.  It is not the true reason the Patriots won, but it does reflect that the football air was just one thing of many.  The more you focus on the little thing, the less you see the forest for that one tree.  Bill Belichick is a Cheat Master and balls are just one of his tricks.

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

A 2 psi drop in pressure from 12 psi is huge but so far this looks like a classic rush to judgement.

Some of the factors that any halfway decent Patriots lawyer will bring up - did the same person measure the pressures before and after?  Did they use the same instrument?  Was the instrument calibrated?  What is the precision and the accuracy of the test?  What were the temperatures when the balls were tested?

Oh yea - What did testing show on the Colts' balls?

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

@goblue86 

It won't matter about lawyers???  Excuse me while I stop laughing and pick myself up off the floor.

If the NFL is going to penalize the Pats in any way ($, draft picks, suspensions, etc.) you can bet that both sides will be lawyered up to the max.

Was "BountyGate" a criminal case?  Were lawyers all over that one?


goblue86
goblue86

@PaulinNH This is NOT a criminal case, so it won't matter about Lawyers.  Try to keep up


PaulinNH
PaulinNH

@DanJohn 

What does "proper psi" mean?  What were the values? 

If they started at the top of the range and then dropped to the bottom of the range they would still have "proper psi" even though the values had changed.

DanJohn
DanJohn

@PaulinNH  From Mike & Mike this morning the Colts balls were tested and had proper PSI. Also the refs keep the balls until 10 minutes before game-time so any needling happened after that.

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  1. […] Mark Bradley says that didn’t stop the league from taking drastic measures in the past. Bradley writes, “It was pretty unthinkable that Sean Payton, who’d won a Super Bowl himself, was suspended for […]