Yes, Tom Brady and the training staff illegally deflated balls, making them a tiny bit easier to catch and throw. Yes, Brady said in 2011 interview that he loved when Gronk spiked the ball because it deflated the ball and made it easier to throw. Yes, Brady threw his phone in a lake. This was all funny and continued to convince me that Brady and Belichick are cheaters and petty in general.
But really, four games? Greg Hardy got 16 and he threw a woman into a shower, dragged her into another room, threw her onto a couch full of loaded guns, choked her, and then blamed her for the whole incident. Is two PSI really worth ¼ of what Greg Hardy did? The simple answer is no, but the NFL doesn’t care about the PSI, really.
There were two reasons for which the NFL were especially hard on Brady and the Patriots.
One of those reasons is that they wanted the Patriots to atone for past transgressions. The Patriots are no strangers to scandals. They taped multiple teams’ defensive coordinators so when they played those teams in the future they knew what the defense was running. They were accused of tampering with Steelers headsets. They also employed a murderer.
But most damning of all was the taping of opposing defensive coordinators. They taped 40 games from 2000 to 2007. During that time, they also would send a low level staffer at the stadium into opposing locker rooms during warmups to steal the play sheet. Opposing coaches started leaving fake play sheets in the locker room because they knew this was happening.
We only found out about all of this when ESPN published an article in 2015 detailing everything the Patriots did.
Roger Goodell and the NFL worked hard to cover it up. They destroyed documents and stomped on tapes. They then made sure some of the teams that were affected by the cheating came out and supported the NFL’s investigation and said those actions didn’t affect games.
So when Deflategate happened, the NFL had to use that to punish the Patriots.
They came out with a four game suspension early in 2015 and an appeals process took until September of 2016 to conclude. The first appeal was nullified (allowing Brady to play in 2015) one day after the ESPN article about the Patriots cheating came out.
The Deflategate case not only distracted everybody from the Patriots cheating, but it also helped distract from the NFL reneging their agreement on a concussion study.
They had promised to donate $14 million to a study that aims to find a way to diagnose CTE. CTE is the degenerative brain disease that is affecting 100 and counting NFL players. The NIH, who are in charge of the study, selected Robert Stern (who helped coach Chris Borland, a promising linebacker for the 49ers, to retire) to conduct the study. The NFL didn’t like that, so they took their money out of the study.
Deflategate’s ridiculousness was absolutely welcomed by the NFL. They needed to show that they weren’t going to let the Patriots do whatever they wanted just because their owner is one of Roger Goodell’s best friends. They needed to make the offseason chatter of 2015 about PSI, not cheating. And they needed the offseason chatter of 2016 to be about PSI again and not how they wanted to control the CTE research. So yes, Tom Brady deserved punishment, but his four game suspension had nothing to do with some under-inflated footballs.
Collegian Columnist Brody Trujillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.