Wells Report Deflates Patriots
by Nia Atkins on Friday, May 22nd, 2015
When you hear the phrase “NFL cheating scandal,” deflated footballs probably aren’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, you might remember that the New England Patriots were accused of using underinflated footballs in the AFC championship game against the Indianapolis Colts on January 18, 2015. The “Deflategate” chatter died down after Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick repeatedly denied knowing about the deflated footballs. On May 6th, however, a report released by the NFL’s independent attorney, Ted Wells, stated that it was “more probable than not” that Brady knew of the deflated footballs, spurring yet another flurry of media attention. There was much speculation about what the Patriots’ punishment would be and whether or not Brady would be suspended. Finally, on May 11, Brady was suspended for four games without pay, and the Patriots were fined $1 million and a 2016 first round draft pick by the NFL.
According to the NFL’s report, two locker room attendants, John Jastremski and James McNally, both of whom have been indefinitely suspended without pay, deflated the game footballs on the orders of someone in the Patriots organization. Exactly who gave the orders is not yet known; however, Brady was likely at least aware that the deflations were happening. Whether or not Patriots coach Bill Belichick was aware of the deflating of balls is unknown. The NFL’s investigation discovered that eleven of the twelve balls used by the Patriots during the first half of the AFC game were filled with less than the minimum amount of air allowed by league regulations. The referees reportedly checked and approved the air pressure of the footballs before the game, but McNally supposedly took the footballs and let air out of them after the referees checked them.
One aspect of the scandal that’s up for debate is its status as a scandal. Some argue that the advantage obtained by deflating footballs is miniscule and that although a less inflated football is slightly easier to grip in rainy and cold conditions, the slight loss of air barely affects the game. Others argue that the Patriots should be stripped of their championship and that Brady deserves an even harsher punishment.
This isn’t the first time the Patriots have been caught cheating. In 2007, the Patriots were caught videotaping the New York Jets’ defensive signals on the sidelines, creating the “Spygate” scandal. Although videotaping opposing coaches is not illegal in the NFL, the Patriots did so from their own sideline, an action that was outlawed before the 2007 season. As part of the punishment, Bill Belichick was fined $500,000, the maximum amount allowed by the league and the largest fine on a coach in the league’s history. The Patriots were fined $250,000 for the scandal.
Although the Patriots have been caught cheating twice now, they aren’t the only team that has. Other, lesser known NFL cheating scandals include the Denver Broncos’ videotaping scandal, in which the Denver Broncos filmed a San Francisco 49ers practice. Another was the New Orleans Saints’ bounty program in which New Orleans Saints players would receive extra money for injuring players on opposing teams during games, as well as the New York Giants’ faking injuries to avoid using up timeouts. One of the more recent instances of cheating occurred in a 2013 game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens, in which Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin stood on the side of the football field while an opposing player was running in his direction. Tomlin’s position created an obstacle for the opposing player who most likely wouldn’t have been tackled if Tomlin hadn’t caused him to slow down. Although Tomlin argued that his inconvenient positioning was an accident, the NFL fined him $100,000.
The NFL is clearly scandal ridden, especially in the past couple of years. Even with the abundance of cheating scandals coming from all corners of the National Football League, the Patriots organization has managed to stand out and create an undesirable reputation for itself. With a second cheating scandal under its belt, the Brady/Belichick era has been stained even further. Although Belichick and Brady have accomplished multiple record-breaking feats together, including being the winningest coach and quarterback combination since the AFC and the NFC merger in 1970, their legacies will be forever tarnished and their future successes forever questioned.
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