Punch Drunk Wonderland

The Patriots deflated integrity more than footballs in AFC Championship Game

The allegations came up Sunday night and now they’ve been proven true. 11 of 12 New England Patriot game balls tested were under inflated as much as 2 PSI below the required amount. It wouldn’t have changed the outcome. Nothing was more deflated than the Indianapolis Colts in that game. But, that’s not the real issue here.

(Go here for a nice rundown on the rules and processes involved with footballs in an NFL game.)

The real issue is that the Patriots have been caught cheating…again. Spygate was big and it showed that the Belichick regime has it in them to push the limits of the rules and to even overstep the boundaries. On an even darker note, there were reports that the coach may have advised his murderous tight end, Aaron Hernandez, to find a safe house. Yikes. And now, here we go again. The Patriots found themselves the favorite at home in this year’s AFC Championship and they felt that it was necessary to pull a Kiffin and under inflate footballs to get a slight edge. Well, as W.C. Fields said,

If a thing is worth having, it’s worth cheating for.

While some footballs being a few pounds light on air may be small potatoes, this is actually a big deal. It’s the spirit of the act and the pattern of behavior that paints the marring picture. And, that picture is a bad one for the so called integrity of the NFL. I’m not going to say take the AFC Championship title from the Pats (though that probably should happen). Handing the title with an asterisk to the Colts after their shoddy performance would be nearly as egregious. However, something has to happen and it has to be significant.

patriots-2015-afc-champs-01We hear the “protect The Shield” rhetoric all the time. This is a case of a team that is a perennial contender showing a pattern of cheating and questionable actions. How many other things have the Patriots done to get an edge? How many times have they stepped over the line without being noticed? Sure, they’re a good team and have been for years. But, their actions bring everything into question. They lose all integrity by showing a pattern of cheating, and the fact that they’ve shown such a pattern is why the NFL has to hand down a hefty punishment.

After the 2007 Spygate incident Bill Belichick was fined $500,000 (league maximum for discipline to coaches), the Patriots were fined $225,000 and the team lost their 1st round draft pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. In 2012 after a long investigation the New Orleans Saints team, coaches, and players faced stiff punishment associated with the illegal bounty program that was ran by the team from 2009 to 2011. The punishment handed down there was an indefinite suspension for defensive coordinator Greg Williams, head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the entire 2012 season and he became the first NFL head coach to ever receive such a suspension, Saints’ GM Mickey Loomis was suspended for the first 8 games of the 2012 season, assistant head coach Joe Vitt was suspended  for the first 6 games of 2012, the team was fined $500,000 and they lost their 2nd round draft pick in the 2012 and 2013 NFL Drafts. These were big punishments to address actions that brought into question the integrity of the league, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell spent a great deal of time doing damage control to “protect The Shield”. So, what does it mean now that we have a team that was severely punished for cheating in 2007 that has been caught cheating again? Same organization. Same head coach.

Bill Belichick has widely been considered one of the greatest coaches in NFL history, but now does an asterisk have to be placed next to his accomplishments? It’s one thing to get wrapped up in a cheating controversy once and deal with the stiff repercussions, but to be the head coach of a team that has been caught cheating TWICE is huge. It should be damning, in fact. It speaks to the culture of the organization and, as mentioned above, brings the integrity of the Patriots team as well as the NFL into question. The punishment for this second offense should be huge, and I’m guessing it’s going to fall squarely on the head coach’s shoulders. Expect a large fine, suspension, and more.

All of this said, Deflate Gate pales in comparison to the kinds of image issues the NFL has had to deal with this year. Air in footballs and cheating are big deals, but nothing compared to domestic violence. It’s just one more little thing to throw on the pile of questions about the integrity of the NFL. Where does the rhetoric really stop and the action and proactive policy begin? There’s a lot on Roger Goodell’s plate in terms of “protecting The Shield”, but he had better get to work. And, he’d better get it right.

K. Smelser About K. Smelser
Kelly Smelser is Owner/Senior Writer for Punch Drunk Wonderland and PDFantasy Sports. Architect of the PDW fantasy football world and general spinster of NFL and Fantasy Football news and analysis. Long walks on the beach, sunsets, and other such niceties are also fine...