It is time to forget about ‘deflategate’

Jack McCarthy

On a rain-soaked January evening in Foxboro, Mass., quarterback Tom Brady led his New England Patriots in a 45-7 rout over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC championship to advance to his sixth career Super Bowl. 

“We’re on to Seattle,” said Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick, echoing the team’s season long strategy of focusing on the next opponent and blocking everything else out. However, Brady and Belichick had no idea what kinds of distractions they would have to block out over the next six months. 

In the days following the game, multiple conflicting reports surfaced about the air pressure of the footballs used by the Patriots in the first half of the game before they were switched out with a new set of footballs. According to NFL rules, game-eligible footballs are supposed to be between 12.5 and 13.5 psi. The 12 footballs used by the Patriots were measured to be at the legal amount before the game, but at halftime most were found to be between one and two psi below the legal amount. 

Some Patriots supporters argued that the cold weather could have caused the drop in the air pressure within the footballs. Non-Patriots supporters called Belichick and Brady blatant cheaters. This new scandal brought back memories of the “Spygate” scandal that changed the image of the early 2000s Patriot dynasty. 

What most people did not care to consider is that the psi level of the footballs had absolutely no impact on the actual game. The Patriots led 17-7 at half, which is still a very close game to most team’s standards. To start the second half, the Patriots scored 28 unanswered points. And all of them with regularly inflated footballs. 

Nevertheless, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell felt the need to bring the hammer down on the Patriots. Other franchises, particularly the Ravens, Colts and AFC East opponents Jets and Bills lobbied to the commissioner to punish Brady severely. 

They thought that the Patriots had gotten away with too much for far too long, from “Spygate” to the “ineligible receiver” play used in the Patriots-Ravens playoff game the week before. Goodell agreed. He suspended Brady for the Patriots first four games of the 2015 NFL season. 

After a long set of appeals and hearings, the case finally landed in federal court, where judge Richard Berman negated the four-game suspension, citing inconsistencies in the NFL’s rules and investigation. The NFL will appeal this decision, but Brady has already played in the first two weeks of the season. 

To the average NFL fan, it seems that the overturning did not matter. On social media and in everyday conversation, the claims continue that Brady and the Patriots simply know how to break the rules without getting caught. People cannot help but make deflated football jokes whenever the opportunity arises, usually at Brady’s expense. 

But it goes farther than simple joking. ESPN analysts argue that Brady’s entire career is tainted by some underinflated footballs, and whether the combination of “Spygate” and “Deflategate” will cast a shadow on Belichick’s stellar coaching career. 


First off, it is unclear if Brady or Belichick had anything to do with this debacle. When the NFL released its investigation’s findings, known as the Wells Report, the language used does not confirm that anyone on the Patriots did anything wrong. Nothing can be confirmed by the phrase “it is more probable than not.”

One of the main reasons that Goodell upheld the suspension after the original appeal was the report that Brady had destroyed his cell phone. The NFL asked for the phone to investigate what kind of texts Brady may have sent around the time of the AFC championship game. But, there was no phone to investigate; Brady’s assistant had destroyed his phone before the investigation.

 Apparently this is a common practice of Brady’s, as he destroys his phone to dispose of contract information, endorsement deals, and private family matters that could be hacked. Yet, once someone hears the word “destroyed,” they immediately assume the worst. Brady’s emails and the texts of the two locker room attendants both lacked any information indicting Brady. 

The Patriots are far from the first team that has tried to gain a competitive advantage by slightly altering equipment. 

The Cleveland Browns were fined for sending text messages back and forth between the field and the coach’s box, which is illegal. 

The Atlanta Falcons were caught pumping extra crowd noise into their system. 

The Vikings were caught heating game balls during a cold November game. 

The Chargers were caught using Stickum on their gloves – a substance that was outlawed in the ‘80s. 

All of these make for small advantages, yet Goodell compares slightly deflated footballs to using performance-enhancing drugs. The fact is that none of these, deflated balls included, deliver an advantage even close to using performance-enhancing drugs.

There’s one clear reason that we target the Patriots so much more than the rest of the NFL. They are constantly winning – and nobody likes a winner. Nobody liked the Yankees during the Derek Jeter dynasty, and nobody liked the Miami Heat during the LeBron James era. 

The Patriots have been at or near the top of the NFL for 15 years now, and fans are looking for a change of scenery. We’ve seen Brady and Belichick hoist the Lombardi Trophy four times now and get extremely close several more times. Since our teams can’t find ways to beat the evil empire we call the Patriots, we dismiss them as cheaters as an excuse. 

Instead, we should focus on our own teams, and hope that at some point they can reach the level of success that the Patriots have enjoyed.

It is undeniable that Belichick is one of the greatest coaches of all time, and everyone should respect his level of preparation for each and every game.

It is undeniable that Tom Brady is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, and whether or not some footballs were deflated has no impact on that.