A Stones Throw 1-29-15

28

Seldom can a National Football League team make the playoffs and win their last game without making it to the Super Bowl.

The Indianapolis Colts did just that.

The Colts dominated the Cincinnati Bengals and then did the same to the Denver Broncos. Two games – two dominant wins.

Normally, that would mean the Colts would play in the Conference Final game – this year against the New England Patriots in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

Unfortunately, no one told the Colts about this game. As a result, the men who hurriedly put on Indianapolis Colts uniforms against the Patriots played like they were amateurs that were found playing flag football in the parking lot.

Or worse.

Actually, those who play flag football play with enthusiasm. The players wearing Colts uniforms against New England showed no enthusiasm.

There is no question who the best team was. There is no question which team belongs in the Super Bowl.

There is one question however.

Why did the New England Patriots feel they had to cheat against a team they had beaten by more than 20 points earlier in the year?

Or, did they cheat?

By now, most of the world has heard about “deflategate.”

Shortly after the Conference Championship game, a report surfaced that the New England Patriots had used underinflated footballs during the game. Later reports indicated that, at the Colts request, at half-time the National Football League officials checked the 12 previously approved footballs from both the Colts and the Patriots.

The results – all 12 Indianapolis Colts footballs were properly inflated – as they had been immediately before the game when checked by officials.

All 12 New England Patriots footballs were under-inflated even though they too met inflation requirements immediately before the game. While one of the Patriots footballs was just slightly under-inflated, 11 were more than two pounds of pressure below the league’s minimum requirement.

Thus, came “deflategate.”

At first thought, I did not understand why a team would choose to deflate their footballs after they had been checked for the proper inflation.

Then, when listening to current and former quarterbacks and receivers, I learned that the softer ball made it easier to control both the throw (pass) and the catch – especially when the weather is bad.

The weather for the Conference Championship game was bad. Throughout the game, a steady – sometimes hard – rain beat down on the field, sometimes with strong wind gusts.

Under-inflated footballs had to give the Patriots an advantage.

An advantage the Patriots didn’t need.

So again – why deflate those footballs? Why cheat?

We may never know the answer, but the statements and the excuses being made by the Patriots are interesting, if not totally humorous.

First, Patriots coach Bill Belichick claimed he had no knowledge of the problem and suggested the journalists talk to “the quarterback.” Having thrown quarterback Tom Brady under the bus, Belichick left the podium.

Then came Tom Brady, the All-American guy that every mother (and father) would like to have her daughter bring home for dinner. Brady hit the question head on. When asked about the underinflated footballs, he said “I did not under-inflate those balls.”

While I don’t believe Belichick at all, I do believe Brady – a little.

I am sure he did not personally reduce the pressure in those 11 footballs that were 16 to 20 percent underinflated at half-time. However, I do think he not only knew they were underinflated, but that they had two or more pounds of air pressure removed because this was what Tom Brady wanted.

In his press conference, Brady said he wanted his footballs prepared in a certain way. Then he said he wanted them set at the league minimum of 12.5 pounds per square inch. Then he said he really couldn’t tell the difference – he just threw whatever ball he was given.

And the Beatles will have a reunion concert in Cincinnati next month.

As the week progressed, Belichick decided he need to defuse the “deflategate” focus from Tom Brady. Belichick first said the Patriots were running a simulated game situation to determine how those 11 footballs were deflated.

Fortunately, Belichicks efforts showed that mathematically there is a common sense reason that explains the loss of air pressure in those footballs.

The final result – The New England Patriots are innocent of altering their footballs.

There are only a few problems with this finding.

First, why did the horrendous weather result in a loss of air pressure in the Patriots footballs while not affecting the Indianapolis Colts footballs? The only answer I can find is that the weather was much worse on the Patriots side of the field.

Tickets for the Beatles reunion are $25 for first row seats.

Second, while four local area mathematicians agreed with Belichick’s analysis, mathematicians from more than 100 miles outside of Foxboro have found his analysis faulty – if not downright ridiculous.

So, the question becomes “What will the NFL do about ‘deflategate?'”

There is precedence.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell severely punished teams, coaches, and players in the past for discretions against National Football League requirements. Goodell has suspended coaches who claimed plausible deniability simply because those coaches should have known.

If precedence is considered, the NFL does not have to determine who the actual culprit is who deflated the footballs. The NFL does not have to prove that Belichick knew about the deflation.

Bill Belichick – clearly one of the greatest football coaches of all time – should be suspended for no less than one-year.

I would suggest an even longer suspension.

First, this is not the first time he has been caught cheating in order to get an unfair advantage over an opponent. The first time was when he was caught having the “defensive walk-through” videotaped so he could prepare against it. This violation cost the Patriots $500,000 and draft picks.

So, does “deflategate” make two instances of cheating by Belichick and the Patriots?

Not a chance!

In fact, reports have now surfaced claiming the Colts had contacted the NFL with concerns that the Patriots were using under-inflated footballs in the November game when the Patriots won 42-20.

Then, reports have surfaced that the Baltimore Ravens warned the Colts that the Patriots used under-inflated footballs against them the week before the Conference Championship game.

I find it hard to believe that there are no other instances of Patriots cheating.

We are in an era where the greatest baseball players of the last 25 years are being kept out of the Baseball Hall of Fame either because they used performance enhancing drugs to take an unfair advantage, or even worse, are simply suspected of the use of performance enhancing drugs.

I wonder if the same treatment will be given to Bill Belichick.

Probably not.

Still, I have to think the legacy of Bill Belichick has been tarnished beyond salvage. I have to think the legacy of All-American quarterback Tom Brady has been dirtied somewhat.

And, I have to think the legacy of Roger Goodell and fairness in the National Football League is at question. In a league that has no problem issuing fines of $100,000 to a player for refusing to meet with the media, surely it will have no problem suspending Bill Belichick for a year or more, Tom Brady for six to eight games, and taking several draft picks away from the Patriots.

Not talking to the media does not alter the game played on the field. Illegal videotaping and the reduction of the air pressure in a football does. And these are just the two incidents we know about for sure.

Like in baseball, we can certainly suspect Bill Belichick and the Patriots have done much more to alter the outcome of Patriot games.

What is really sad, the Patriots don’t need to cheat. With footballs that were re-inflated at half-time, the Patriots outscored the flag football Colts 28-0 in the second half of the Conference Championship game.

The Patriots didn’t need to cheat to beat the Colts – but they did. They don’t need to cheat to beat any team – they are that good – but cheat they do.

Right now Belichick is busy developing the “wrinkle” that will make sure the Patriots win the Super Bowl – a wrinkle that won’t include deflated footballs – but a “wrinkle” that might not be totally legal. But then, that is the legacy of Bill Belichick.

– Mike Cooney