Deflategate: A Revisit to one of the Most Controversial Scandals in NFL History

By Jesse Brawders
May. 20, 2019

The question for years in the NFL has been whether or not New England Patriots QB Tom Brady ordered to have the staff deflate the game day footballs to help his receivers catch the ball in the rainy weather. The situation escalated from a one game wonder to a court case that lasted over a year. The question is, were the Patriots guilty of tampering during the 2015 AFC Championship?

So what did the Patriots actually get accused of?

During the AFC Championship against the Indianapolis Colts in New England, the Patriots were accused of deliberately deflating the team’s footballs so they received an unfair advantage. Even though the Patriots outplayed Indianapolis in every sense of the word, winning 45-7, they still by some reason decided to cheat. During halftime, the referees replaced the 12 game balls with backups, with no reasoning at that point in time. The Patriots were accused of dropping the psi in the footballs by around 2 psi each, dramatically changing the chances of Patriots receivers catching the ball on a rainy night in Massachusetts. Well, according to the ideal gas law (PV = nRT, where P is pressure in atm, volume in L, n being the number of moles, r being the constant .0821, and temperature in kelvin), commonly used in chemistry and physics, states that if the temperature decreases, the pressure will also decrease. But, unless the footballs the Patriots used on offense were in a oven pregame, there is no way that the balls naturally deflated by 2 psi. So, the only other way that could have happened would be if the team deliberately deflated the footballs before the first half even started. By altering the footballs, it made the balls softer and easier to grip, resulting in the ball becoming easier to throw with better grip and easier to catch due to the smaller bounce once the ball hits the receiver. It was more of a psychological decision than an actual physical one. Does deflating the balls by 2 psi make it easier to catch? Yes. But, do you really need to when the other team will face the same problem and your rushing game up to that point of the season was above average? No, not really. It is not even like the Colts were the better team and the Patriots needed a miracle or something to make the Super Bowl. It seemed like a dumb decision by Tom Brady and his team that got exposed and exploited by the American media. I don’t know about other sports writers, but when something this big in the industry comes out, of course you are going to milk it until there is nothing left.

How did the incident get reported and spiral?

The story first broke out from KTHR Colts reporter Bob Kravitz, saying on Twitter that New England would be investigated for deflating the home team footballs during the AFC Championship. The next day, more reports surfaced, stating that Indianapolis realized the deflated footballs when Tom Brady threw an interception to Colts LB D’Qwell Jackson late in the first half, when Jackson brought the football to the sideline staff due to being underinflated. It was later reported by Chris Mortensen that all but one of the Patriots’ footballs were not at the correct pressure. After the Patriots won Super Bowl XLIX, there was even more reports surfacing that Indianapolis might have known that the balls would be deflated even before the game started. When the teams faced off on November 16th of that season, Colts GM Ryan Grigson clarified that the organization did talk to the NFL the week of the game with suspicions that New England would deflate their footballs. The investigation would conclude months later, with Tom Brady being suspended the first four games of the 2015 season and the Patriots losing their 1st round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft and their 4th round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. New England would also be fined $1,000,000 for the scandal. Brady would later appeal his suspension, initially losing the appeal but later winning it due to the involvement of United States District Judge Richard Berman. Berman decided that Goodell was extending his power, resulting in Brady’s suspension being deleted. A federal appeals court would later take on the case in late 2015, setting an appeal date for Spring of 2016. After another hearing, Brady’s suspension was reinstated. Brady would try again to appeal to the suspension, but was denied the opportunity by the U.S. Circuit court.

Aftermath

Now, the scandal has gone down as one of the most controversial scandals in sports history. The Patriots organization has continued to deny the accusations, but what is done is done. New England lost the chance to draft two rookies in the span of two years, but even worse, their reputation even further damaged. They were now apart of two separate cheating scandals, with Spygate in 2007, having New England appear to be cheaters. In some fans eyes, the Brady-Belichick era will go down as one of the best eras in Boston sports history, while for some fans they will go down as the worst cheaters in NFL history.

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