Top 10 BUSTED

Deflategate – Tom Brady: BUSTED!

Synopsis: Somehow, 11 out of 12 footballs used by the New England Patriots in the 1st half of the 2015 AFC Championship Game became “significantly” deflated. At the time of this post, we’ve heard from Bill Belichick twice and Tom Brady once. Initially, they both embraced the strategy of deny, deny, deny. Now, Belichick is trying to play scientist and make excuses. Do I think either one did anything to alter the football directly? No. Do I think at least Brady knows who did? Yes. This post will expose the inconsistencies in their stories to the point of busting Tom Brady’s Golden Boy image. Whether this scandal (to be forever known as Deflategate) will tarnish his legacy, only time will tell.


TOM BRADY – BUSTED! (DEFLATEGATE)

Almost one year ago, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban predicted that the NFL would implode in ten years. I initially thought his comments reflected his envy towards a more popular league with more valuable franchises. Then, I read his actual quote about NFL owners.

When pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. And they’re getting ‘hoggy.’ When you try to take it too far, people turn the other way. I’m just telling you, when you got a good thing and you get greedy, it always, always, always, always, always turns against you.

He followed up the quote with a Facebook post outlining concerns about the league. Specifically, he highlighted the inherent dangers from playing the sport, players’ bad behavior, reliance on Fantasy Football, and changing viewer habits. After further consideration, I realized that Cuban made a legitimate argument.

Since Cuban made his thoughts public, the NFL has suffered several blows to its image. The 2014-15 season started with a complete PR fiasco regarding the league’s handling of Ray Rice’s physical assault of his then fiancee and now wife. It was a well publicized example of an organization trying to sweep a player’s bad behavior under the rug. The league suffered another PR problem when Adrian Peterson, one of its marquee superstars, faced charges for beating his 4-year-old son.

Now, the league faces another controversy (i.e. Deflategate). Surprisingly, this one may be even more detrimental to the long-term viability of the league because it goes to the integrity of the game. Brady using deflated footballs may seem benign to certain NFL insiders (especially ones partial to the Patriots). However, it’s malignant to the rest of America (especially the ones betting on games and playing Fantasy Football). Either the NFL deals with Deflategate straight-on or risks spreading the cancer and making Cuban’s prediction more likely.

The Original “Gate” – i.e. Watergate

Albeit faint, my first memory of the fallout from the Watergate scandal was watching a news clip of President Nixon getting on a helicopter and giving America an ironic victory sign.

Deflategate - the latest "Gate"
Recognize the defiance?

Back then, families crowded around their TVs for moments like these. With my Fisher Price Play Family Airport already set up in front of our living room TV, I mimicked Tricky Dick being whisked away.

airport

That scandal is so ensconced in pop culture that the significance of all other scandals is based on putting a “gate” at the end of it. In the NFL, we have been exposed to Spygate, Bountygate, and now Deflategate in the last eight years alone. Interestingly, the main culprits from two of those scandals were Tom Brady and the Patriots.

SPYGATE

As a quick refresher, Spygate involved the Patriots videotaping defensive signals from other teams such that Brady could know what the opposing defense would do (e.g. blitz, fall back in coverage, etc.) before a play even started. Many NFL coaches commented that teams try to steal signals all the time, but the use of videotape went over the line because the league specifically warned them that it was illegal. Presumably, Belichick violated the rule for a few years but only got caught after videotaping the Jets while they were being coached by former Patriots assistant Eric Mangini. Some may fault Mangini for ratting out his former boss. Then again, I fault Belichick for his arrogance to cheat against someone who intimately knew his modus operandi.

Belichick has always claimed that the benefit from knowing the other team’s signals was small. Gary Myers of the NY Daily News recently recounted a conversation he had with Patriots owner Robert Kraft back in 2007. When Kraft asked Belichick how much the videotaping helped on a scale from 1 to 100, Belichick told him, “One.” Apparently Kraft responded by saying, “Then you’re a real schmuck.” Why is the exchange relevant? Because it shows that Belichick is willing to cheat even when the reward is minimal. If changing the ball pressure would have helped in the least, Belichick would have known about it and used that knowledge to his advantage.

I’ve heard all week that the American public is only interested in Deflategate because it involves the Patriots. Really? Let’s say an NFL referee found a slippery foreign substance (e.g. Vaseline) on the football used for the onside kick recovered by the Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game last Sunday. Would the Seahawks get a free pass because they’re not the Patriots? Would we be less interested if ESPN’s SportsScience determined that Packers’ tight-end Brandon Bostick would have flubbed the onside kick anyway? Would it matter less if former kickers said they used to do it too? No. No. And No. Deflategate is resonating beyond the sports community because it’s a compelling side story to the biggest media event of the year.

According to the NEA (National Education Association), studies show that somewhere between 80-95% of all students have cheated in school. According to ME (me), approximately 5-20% of students who participated in those studies lied. Every student understands the risk versus the reward involved in cheating. Since the likelihood of getting caught is not high, the reward of a higher grade or avoiding a detention is worth the risk. As such, the punishment has to be great enough to dissuade others from doing it. Depending on how egregious the violation, a student who gets caught risks getting an F on the assignment or in the class. A student who gets caught multiple times risks getting suspended or even expelled. Sorry Bill, but you got caught and this isn’t your first time.

From a young age, I remember learning that the cover-up of a crime is often worse than the actual wrong-doing. I was told that Nixon spying on the Democrats regarding an election he was going to win anyway wasn’t as bad as lying about it or destroying evidence proving that he knew about it. I thought my parents were trying to trick me into fessing up when I did something wrong, but realized later in life that it wasn’t a trick. After all, President Clinton was impeached because he lied under oath, not because he blew his manchowder on a 21-year old intern’s blue dress while on the phone in the Oval Office. Take it from here Yakov, “America,

WHAT-A-COUNTRY-YAKOV

So why do people lie? Because they get away with it much more often than they don’t.  Although usually more eloquent, Richard Sherman summarized Deflategate by saying, “Whatever they [the Patriots] did, the risk-reward was greater.” Said differently, people cheat and then lie about it because the reward is worth the risk. As long as Brady can hold out for one more week and win his record-tying 4th Super Bowl, any potential penalty will have been worth the risk.

If you’re old enough, you’ll never forget President Clinton wagging his finger and telling us, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” He was convincing, but it was a complete lie.

MONICAGATE
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Thanks Bill for giving sociopathic liars someone to aspire to be

Do you remember Rafael Palmeiro repeating Clinton’s gesture in March 2005 when saying, “I did not take steroids. Period,” only to be suspended for testing positive for steroids five months later. Given the time delay between the failed test and the announcement of the suspension, Palmeiro was probably “juiced” during his testimony.

INFLATEGATE
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You are a liar! Exclamation point!

As we wait for the NFL’s investigation regarding Deflategate to conclude, what do we know?

  1. All 12 footballs to be used by the Patriots’ offense during the 2015 AFC Championship Game had been tested and approved by an NFL referee approximately two hours before the game started. In particular, they all had air pressure somewhere between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch (PSI). The balls were marked and returned to the Patriots right before kickoff.
  2. At halftime, the Patriots’ footballs were checked and 11 out of the 12 were “significantly” deflated by more than 2.0 PSI. Apparently, the air pressure in those footballs was below 11 PSI, and perhaps even below 10.5 PSI. The 12th ball was deflated too, but by less than 2.0 PSI. Assuming that the footballs were at 12.5 PSI (which is how Brady likes them) before the game, the air pressure declined by at least 16% in those 11 illegal footballs.
  3. The footballs used by the Patriots in the second half of that game did not violate the NFL’s regulation regarding air pressure. Presumably, 12 replacement footballs were approved and used in the second half. None of those footballs were significantly deflated by the end of the game.
  4. The 12 footballs used by the Colts’ offense were tested and approved before the game. None of the Colts’ footballs experienced significant deflation during the game.

[Four months after this post was written, the NFL released the results of its internal investigation of Deflategate in the now-infamous Wells Report. I created a new post updating this story, but one statement from the previous list needs to be corrected. In particular, the second bullet point regarding 11 of 12 Patriots balls being deflated by more than 2.0 PSI was exaggerated. Apparently, there was confusion about the definition of “significantly” when the NFL leaked the information about the deflated balls. 

With respect to the 11 Patriots footballs still in play before the start of the second half:

  • One was reinflated by approximately 1.0 PSI;
  • Two were reinflated by approximately 1.0 to 1.5 PSI;
  • Five were reinflated by approximately 1.5 to 2.0 PSI; and 
  • Three were reinflated by approximately 2.0 to 2.5 PSI

Assuming that “signficantly” deflated meant that the balls needed to be reinflated by at least 1.0 PSI, then the second bullet point from the original post would have been accurate.]

Brilliant liars are convincing because they’ve convinced themselves that they’re not lying. When Clinton testified about his affair with Monica Lewinsky, he said “There’s [There is] nothing going on between us.” Later, he argued that his answer was truthful because he did not have a relationship with Lewinsky at that precise moment. In particular, he rationalized any confusion regarding his statement by saying, “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” Really? That sounds like something a delusional person would say. Furthermore, he argued that a blow job was not “sexual relations” because oral sex was somehow omitted from the definition of “sexual relations” in a court document. At that point, Clinton was borderline sociopathic.

Let’s judge if Belichick was a brilliant liar during his press conference from this past Thursday (i.e. four days after the AFC Championship Game). To help with the effort, I have developed a BS Scale ranging from Frigid (i.e. completely believable without any underlying deception) to Steaming Hot (i.e. a steaming pile of BS).

BILL BELICHICK – DEFLATEGATE PRESSER #1

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  • Quote: “I had no knowledge of the various steps involved in the game balls and the process that happened between when they were prepared and went to the officials and went to the game.” 
    • BS Scale: Lukewarm. While the statement is possibly true, are we expected to believe that such a micro-manager wouldn’t know every rule or process that might lead to a competitive advantage on the field? He ordered the videotaping of opponents’ signals when the benefit was a 1 out of a scale of 1 to 100, yet supposedly doesn’t know about a process that might affect the competitive balance of a game.
  • Quote: “The balls we practice with are as bad as they can be: wet, sticky, cold, slippery. However bad we can make them, I make them. Any time that players complain about the quality of the footballs, I make them worse and that stops the complaining.” 
    • BS Scale: Cold. Belichick’s statement seems absolutely true; however, he used a lot of adjectives to describe a “bad” football without saying hard or overinflated.
    • I love how Belichick makes things worse for players who complain. He clearly is a brilliant coach, but that doesn’t mean Don Shula was wrong to call him Belicheat.
  • Quote: “Tom’s [Brady] personal preferences on his footballs are something he can talk about in much better detail and information than I could possibly provide.
    • BS Scale: Cool. Since Belichick exposes his players to extreme conditions, it’s not surprising that his astute QB would develop a preference for a certain type of football (e.g. deflated) in the rainy conditions that existed last Sunday night in Foxboro. It’s believable that Belichick doesn’t know every detail about Brady’s football preferences, but he certainly knows that Brady likes them as under-inflated as possible.
    • Similar to many of you, I thought it sounded like Belichick threw his Golden Boy under the bus with this comment. Let’s see how effective Brady does the same to someone like assistant equipment co-manager Dougie Spoons (i.e. the fictional guy in the SNL skit).
SNL’S TAKE ON DEFLATEGATE (TOM BRADY AND DOUGIE SPOONS)
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Check out the SNL clip
  • Quote: “I could tell you that in my entire coaching career I have never talked to any player, staff member about football air pressure.”
    • BS Scale: Hot. Apparently, Belichick knows how to make a football “bad” for practice but never thought about how to make it “good” for a game. That’s like having your team practice with the sound system blasting to get ready for a noisy away game, but not reminding your quarterback to signal the home crowd to quiet down if it gets too loud. As the head coach of the USC Trojans in 2012, Lane Kiffin somehow knew not only the benefits from deflating a football but also how to get a student manager to take the fall when the team got caught (Are you listening, Tom?). I have a hard time accepting that Kiffin knew more about altering football air pressure to his team’s advantage than Belichick did.
  • Quotes: “I’ve told you everything I know.” and “I don’t have any explanation for what happened.”
    • BS Scale: Steaming Hot. First, we’re supposed to believe that Belichick told us everything he knows about the situation in approximately 10 minutes. Second, he doesn’t have any explanation for what happened. Perhaps channeling his best Clinton, Belichick convinced himself that he was saying the following instead, “I’ve told you everything I [want you to] know.” and I don’t have any [morally justifiable] explanation for what happened.” With the addition of those five words, the BS Factor of his statements would cool down to Frigid (i.e. completely believable).

Even though Brady was supposed to hold a press conference on Friday, it got moved up to Thursday after Belichick’s “supportive” comments earlier in the day. Let’s see if Brady did any better on the BS Scale with his answers to the media’s questions.

TOM BRADY – DEFLATEGATE PRESSER #2
Tom Brady - Presser
Based on the smile, Brady must think he did well
  •  Q: When and how did you supposedly alter the balls? Brady: I didn’t have any – I didn’t alter the ball in any way.
    • BS Scale: Hot. I do believe Brady when he said that he didn’t alter the ball in any way because I’m sure he had someone else do it. However, I’d like Brady to finish his original thought because he wanted to say something that he couldn’t. Start again Tom, “I didn’t have any _____” what? Were you going to say “I didn’t have any role . . . ” before realizing that you couldn’t? How about, “I didn’t have any knowledge . . .?” No, you probably couldn’t say that either. To be honest Tom, you’re a bad liar. Good news though, you’re not a sociopath because otherwise you would have finished that first sentence while wagging your finger at us.
  • Q: Is Tom Brady a cheater? Brady: I don’t believe so. I feel like I’ve always played within the rules. I would never do anything to break the rules.
    • BS Scale: Steaming Hot. First, who answers the accusation of being a cheater with “I don’t believe so,” unless he knows he cheated. This one should be a “No” brainer. Brady must not have watched any of Clinton’s testimony while in college at Michigan because otherwise he would know the road map. When asked, “Is Tom Brady a cheater?” Brady should have said “Absolutely Not!” because he could always go back to, “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” Second, Brady tried to sell us on the statement that he “would never do anything to break the rules.” Apparently, he forgot about Spygate. His team lost a 1st round pick and was fined $250,000 (plus Belichick was fined an additional $500K) for breaking league rules by filming defensive signals of opposing teams. Hey Tom, when you were given your opponent’s defensive plays by your own coaches, did you ever say to yourself, “Something just doesn’t seem right about this?” Imagine the sitcom laugh track being cued as Brady pretends to think about the answer.
    • Of note, the league also investigated the Patriots’ use of an unauthorized wireless connection between Brady and one of his coaches during the Spygate game against the Jets. Presumably, the team used an additional radio frequency that didn’t cut out when the play clock reached 15 seconds, as required by league rules. What’s that Bill, “Rules, Schmules?” There’s enough to get the Patriots on without speculating about something that didn’t result in a negative finding, but it does reasonably explain how Brady got the information transmitted to him (unless we’re expected to believe that Belichick was videotaping the other teams simply to show his grandkids someday).
  • Q: Are you comfortable that nobody on the Patriots side did anything wrong? Brady: I have no knowledge of anything. I have no knowledge of any wrongdoing. I would never do anything outside of the rules of play. I would never have someone do something that I thought was outside the rules.
    • BS Scale: Steaming Hot. Perhaps due to the endless grilling, Brady started to make more bold statements at this point of the press conference. Even though Belichick took most of the shrapnel from the Spygate explosion, we know that Brady was a willing participant so he can’t expect us to believe that he “would never do anything outside of the rules of play.” Brady’s last comment in this quote about never having anyone do something that he “thought was outside the rules” has a disturbing qualification. Obviously, he wants to maintain wiggle room in case the NFL’s investigation proves otherwise.
  • Q: Have you tried to find out why the balls were under-inflated? Brady: That’s a great question. I think there are a lot of people that have more information than me.
    • BS Scale: Steaming Hot. The most repeated argument I heard all week about the irrelevance of having deflated balls was the improvement in Brady’s numbers when the footballs were properly inflated in the 2nd half.  Specifically, the following table shows Brady’s stats for both halves:
      • DID DEFLATEGATE HELP?

        Comp

        Attempts Comp % Yards TDs

        INTs

        1ST Half  11  21  52.4%  95  1  1
        2nd Half  12  14  85.7%  131  2  0
        Total  23  35  65.7%  226  3  1
    • Clearly, Brady performed a lot better in the 2nd half (with regulation footballs) than in the 1st half (with deflated footballs). Brady should be livid and demand to find out why the footballs were deflated, unless of course, he already knows. With respect to people arguing that Brady didn’t cheat because he did worse with the illegal balls, they should realize that an undesired result doesn’t mean that someone wasn’t trying to cheat.

For perhaps the first time ever, Belichick called a press conference to go over the Patriots own internal investigation. While talking to the media, Dr. Belichick showed that he learned a lot about football air pressure in two days. Whereas the team’s first two press conferences focused on denying all allegations, this one focused on confusing the situation by introducing hypothetical excuses. Here are some of the excuses introduced by Belichick as well as other highlights from the press conference.

BILL BELICHICK – DEFLATEGATE PRESSER #3
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Based on his “smile,” Belichick must think we bought it.
  •  Quote: “When the footballs are delivered to the officials’ locker room, the officials were asked to inflate them to 12.5 PSI. What exactly they did, I don’t know.”
    • Relevance: Maybe the officials under-inflated them from the start.
  • Quote: “When you measure a football, there are a number of different issues that come up. Number one, gauges. There are multiple types of gauges. The accuracy of one gauge relative to another, there’s variance there.”
    • Relevance: Perhaps the gauges were inaccurate such that the violation was due to faulty testing equipment. Wow, Billy’s getting desperate. He sounded like a drunk driver who blew a .15 after having 10 drinks but claimed that the breathalyzer was not properly calibrated (probably because he should have blown a .20).
  • Quote: “Now, we all know that air pressure is a function of the atmospheric conditions.
    • Relevance: None beyond Belichick sounding like a meteorologist two days after saying “I don’t have any explanation for what happened.” I’d like to know how much the team spent on scientific experts during the last week alone
  • Quote: “We rub it to get the football to the proper texture. Yes, it’s — I mean, I don’t know what’s vigorous or what isn’t vigorous. We’re not polishing fine china here; we’re trying to get a football to the proper texture the quarterback wants it to grip it. Does that stimulate something inside the football to raise the PSI? I would say yes, it does.”
    • Relevance:  Apparently, the Patriots’ paid consultants have come up with a scientific explanation for 1 to 1.5 PSI of lost air pressure even though the process differs from the one described by Brady two days earlier. Regardless, it shows that the team is working hard to muddy the waters.
  • Quote: “I would not say that I’m Mona Lisa Vito of the football world, as she was in the car expertise area, alright?”
    • Relevance: None beyond showing that Belichick may actually have a sense of humor by making a reference to Marisa Tomei’s character in My Cousin Vinny.
  • Quote: “I believe now 100 percent that I have personally, and we as an organization have absolutely followed every rule to the letter.”
    • Relevance:  That’s quite a bold statement coming from someone who sounded like Sargent Shultz three days ago.

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Summary: Regardless of any evidence produced before the NFL’s official investigation of Deflategate is completed (and perhaps afterward too), supporters of the Patriots will continue to believe what Bill and Tom have sold them while others won’t. Brady is already on the Mount Rushmore of the NFL’s greatest quarterbacks but there are only two remaining questions to be answered:

  1. Is Brady the greatest QB ever?  Depends on whether he wins next week or not.
  2. Does it matter that Brady cheated? Depends on what you think about Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Lance Armstrong. Many other athletes cheated at the same time they did; however, they were caught. Of note, they continued to deny and/or make excuses even after getting caught.

Whether you believe that Deflategate is legitimate or not, get ready for a fun ride.

TOM BRADY – BUSTED! (DEFLATEGATE)
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