C'mon, let's disqualify the cheatin' Patriots from the Super Bowl

Nobody supports this on the merits, right? Pats/Seahawks looks to be a far better game than Colts/Seahawks would be. (The next most interesting Super Bowl after NE/SEA would be a Packers/Seahawks rematch, just to see if Green Bay has one more epic choke left in them.) Plus, given the margin in New England’s win over Indianapolis, it’s goofy to think the outcome would have been different had the balls been inflated to league specifications. Assume, implausibly, that the deflation was worth three whole touchdowns to the Patriots. They still win by 17 points.

That said, like Jazz Shaw, I’m a Jets fan. I find no joy in the game of football apart from Bill Belichick’s and Tom Brady’s misery. Which means I must, with a full heart, enthusiastically endorse this call to boot their asses out of the Super Bowl.

Of course, it’s not realistic to disqualify New England from the Super Bowl. What’s the NFL going to do, bring back the Colts to replace them? Hold a loser-bracket between Denver and Indianapolis? That’s not feasible. Just because the Pats should be DQ’d doesn’t mean they will or could.

But, again, they should. The evidence is all there, assuming Chris Mortensen’s report is correct. Former NFL referee Gerry Austin was on Mike and Mike this morning and said officials check the PSI of all footballs two hours before the game. At halftime, New England’s footballs (each team has different balls during the game) were found to be two-to-three pounds lighter. Someone deflated the balls. There’s no debate here…

The defenders of New England have been even more laughable than they were during the videotape controversy of 2007. “It doesn’t even help that much!” Sure it doesn’t. That’s why they were doing it. Of course it helps. Deflating gave Brady an easier grip on the ball (at least in the first half; there’s question about whether the balls were re-inflated at half time when it was 17-7). It also left Andrew Luck with the harder footballs in the colder weather.

Here’s the Mortensen report at ESPN referred to in the excerpt alleging that 11 of the 12 balls used by the Pats were deflated. At first blush it’s hard to understand why that matters: Weren’t Brady and Andrew Luck using the same footballs, leaving them evenly matched albeit with inferior equipment? Actually, no. Each team supplies its own footballs, so Brady was playing with a different set than Luck was — and, as it turns out, he’s admitted in the past to preferring a slightly deflated ball because of the better grip it affords. Even if they were playing with the same footballs, as a Twitter buddy pointed out, Brady would be better prepared to throw the deflated ball since, unlike Luck, he was presumably practicing with one all week. It’s an advantage, if not a decisive one. And rules is rules.

Interesting note via Mortensen: This isn’t the first time the Colts have suspected Brady of throwing a deflated ball. They picked him off twice during a game in November and noticed that the balls felt a bit soft then too, which raises the question of how long New England’s been doing this. Is it a new thing? Did they turn to it earlier this season after Brady looked awful in September? Or has Belichick, a known cheater, been using illegal balls for years to give his QB an edge? Try to guess which theory this Jets fan is leaning towards. Needless to say, though, it’s true that there’d be no elegant way to replace the Pats in the Super Bowl even if you were inclined to pull the trapdoor on them. The league would sooner have Seattle play Ohio State than declare a forfeit and lose all the revenue. If you let Indianapolis play, you face a dilemma no matter the outcome. If Seattle wins, they’ll always face a “what if they played the Patriots?” question mark; if the Colts win, they’d be the first Super Bowl champs to win the big game after being, er, blown out in the previous round of the playoffs. Better to let New England play but handicap them somehow. Suspend Belichick. Or better yet, let Eli Manning play QB for Seattle.

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight site ran the numbers and concluded that Brady’s offense was worth 14 points to New England in the AFC Championship whereas the Colts’ offense was worth … -10 points. Even if you attribute all of those points somehow to the advantages of the deflated ball, Indy still loses by double digits.

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David Strom 6:01 AM on June 06, 2023