In the AFC Championship Game in January 2015, the New England Patriots were accused of deflating the game balls, which would give their offense an unfair advantage. This was discovered by a member of the opposing team, D’Qwell Jackson, the Indianapolis Colts linebacker, who picked off a pass by Tom Brady. Eleven of the 12 game balls were underinflated by 2 pounds per square inch. The Patriots and Colts were to provide 12 balls each to be tested by the referee two hours before the game. Each team uses their own balls, so the Patriots would have been the only ones to benefit. The referee is the sole judge of whether the balls offered meet the specifications. They remain under the referees’ supervision until they are delivered to the ball attendant just before the start of the game. The ball attendant transports them to the field, where the ball boys keep them on the sidelines.
If the balls were deflated, they would be easier to grip for the quarterback and receivers, especially in the wet conditions during this particular game. If the balls were softer and smaller, they would have been easier to catch, to throw, and to handle. When Jackson intercepted the pass from Brady, he immediately knew something was off and brought it to his equipment manager, who then told the head coach of Indianapolis, who told the general manager of Indianapolis, who then told the Director of Football Operations, Mike Kensil, who finally went back to the officials on the field. John Madden, a Hall of Fame coach and extremely respected member of the football community, thinks the coach of New England, Bill Belichick, wasn’t aware of the scandal. He does think that it would’ve been extremely difficult for Tom Brady not to have been aware and if something like that was planned, it would have to involve the quarterback and possibly have been his idea. If a linebacker who intercepted a pass could so quickly recognize the difference, why didn’t Tom Brady?
The Patriots won 45-7, but 28 of those points were scored in the second half after the officials were made aware of the issue and all of the balls were pumped back up to regulation. It is unclear whether the deflation of the footballs was intentionally done by the Patriots. Some believe this was a witch hunt directed by the Director of Football Operations, Mike Kensil. He was the President of the New York Jets when Bill Belichick turned in his resignation in order to join the New England Patriots as head coach. Kensil blames Belichick for sending the Jets into a downward spiral and for ruining his career. Some believe Kensil was on a mission to defame and humiliate Bill Belichick. This makes one question whether the Patriots had anything at all to do with the balls being deflated, or if they were just in the line of fire for a bigger grudge being addressed.
Tom Brady was suspended for four games in the 2015 regular season by the NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, for his part in the scandal. However, when the issue was brought to federal court, Judge Richard M. Berman vacated the suspension, holding that “the requisites of fairness and due process” were missing from the penalty imposed upon Brady.
Article Written by: Erin Irish