That the New England Patriots cheated is not a topic of debate. If you want to debate whether Tom Brady knew about it – or was the guy behind it – you can debate that. But whether the Patriots cheated? That’s a fact.
But it may not have been nearly as bad as you think – or better yet, nearly as bad as the NFL led us to believe.
“Look, I think that the Patriots’ guys deflated the footballs a little bit, I think Brady probably knew about it – all of that – and they broke a rule and should be punished (to some extent),” Yahoo! Sports columnist Dan Wetzel said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I am also of the belief this is more misdemeanor than felony and the fact that the league never cared about the inflation levels of the football and didn’t that night tells me this was never a big deal until Goodell decided to make it a big deal for some reason. Now to me, the more pressing thing is not that some lackey took a football into the bathroom and got some air out of it. It’s that two days later or a day later basically, late at night, ESPN came out with a report that 11 of the 12 Patriots footballs were deflated by more than two pounds per square inch of pressure. They cited a league source. At that point, only the league knew the actual measurements that had been made at halftime. And when they did that story, the thing went from curiosity to hysteria because it looked like significant levels were taken out. There were so many footballs, it couldn’t possibly be accidental, it was nefarious cheating, this is the Patriots – and the story went bananas.
“As the Wells Report came out and we see, that story was 100 percent wrong,” Wetzel continued. “Not one football – not 11, not one – was more than two pounds per square inch deflated. So who leaked that story to ESPN? And is it the league office that put out this story that was extremely prejudicial to the New England Patriots and created this whole hysteria that we’re still dealing with? Or did somebody else somehow put it out there and the league – (which knew) the actual measurements – rather than correct the story and say, ‘Hey everyone, calm down. These inflation levels really aren’t that far down and they really aren’t far at all when you include the natural weather deflation, this isn’t that big of a deal. Let’s just fine them a couple hundred grand and end it.’ Why did the league let the hysteria go on a story that wasn’t anything like the context it was viewed in?
“And that, to me, is far more interesting for the general NFL fan. Everyone’s enjoying watching the Patriots get some mud on them and all that and I get it. But if you’re a general NFL fan, is that how you want the league office to operate? Because what happens when it’s your team? This was absolutely not (what) an independent, fair-minded, middle-of-the-road thing would do. They either would never have leaked that information or when that information got out, they would have told everybody to calm down. Instead, they just rolled with it. And four months later, the most important story of this thing was 100 percent false. That’s the issue to me that I think, in the end, should be the focus of what happened in this case. What happened with the league office?
“If this story (were presented) in a different context, we’re not getting as much great talk-radio fodder and columns out of it. So it’s been good for you and I. But I don’t think this is nearly as big of a deal as it was portrayed because of those reports early on, (which) the league was either leaking or knew was false and didn’t do anything to stop it.”