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Everybody Relax: Patriots deflating footballs didn't matter

New England Patriots

New England Patriots

A headline from a well-respected columnist about the New England Patriots' latest scandal reads: “On scale of 1-10, it’s 11 for Patriots in deflate-gate mess.”

For an organization that once gave a multi-million dollar contract extension to an alleged murderer, I’d say that’s a bit of an overreaction.

Like most, Yahoo!’s Dan Wetzel needs to take a deep breath and step back from “ballghazi” for a moment before breathing fire.

Eleven of the 12 official footballs used by the Patriots in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game win over Indianapolis were under-inflated by about two pounds — roughly 16 percent of the league minimum.

It’s illegal and Roger Goodell is well within his right to punish Bill Belichick and company with appropriate force. But the hand-wringing and finger-pointing reeks of jealousy.

Should we be quick to criticize and over-analyze an organization with a questionable track record when it comes to the rules of the game? Certainly, but did the Patriots defeat the Colts by more than five touchdowns because the balls were slightly softer? Have the Patriots been the best team in the AFC for more than a decade because of slightly less air in their footballs?

That seems as ludicrous as employing someone accused of multiple homicides.

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Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, a Super Bowl champion and this season's likely MVP, claims that he prefers an overinflated ball. In fact, before the Packers Week 13 game with New England, the star quarterback casually admitted to Phil Simms that he “likes to push the limits of how much air we can put in the football, even over what they allow you to do.” (Simms was paraphrasing during the broadcast.)

Former Tampa Bay Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson admitted to spending $7,500 to “get the balls right” before Super Bowl XXXVII. Again, does anyone really believe that the amount of air in the football caused the Raiders to enter the fourth quarter trailing 34-9 in that game?

Highly unlikely.

Is Rodgers wrong to overinflate? Was Johnson wrong to pay to fix his footballs? Are the Pats technically cheating by deflating footballs?

Yes, yes and yes. But it sounds like, in an extremely competitive multi-billion dollar industry, that everyone pushes the envelope when it comes to pigskin PSI. The more important question is what type of impact did it have on the game and how should they be punished. Offsides is cheating too and that's a five-yard penalty.

Do the Patriots have any benefits of the doubt left in the court of public opinion? Clearly, the answer is and should be no. New England paid a huge price for Spygate and rightly so. There is a competitive advantage to be gained from watching another team practice and the punishment fits the crime — a total of $700,000 and a first-round draft pick.

But the amount of air pressure in the footballs last Sunday had nothing to do with the outcome of the game. The Colts were a clearly inferior team that has no other excuses for why it lost by 38 points.

New England was better and the NFL should react accordingly. Maybe Goodell should take a page from the Sports Pickles’ book: