A friend of mine who is a devoted Patriots fan said this of the latest DeflateGate scandal that once again puts the ethics, integrity and talent of the entire Patriots franchise in question:

“These cats don’t want to see Tom Brady and Belichick shine and take their rightful place as the top HC-QB tandem in NFL history…always talking about SpyGate and saying that we are cheaters. That’s just hate because we got the best QB of all-time, the most ingenious coach and three rings. Plus it was cold and cold air can cause a loss of air pressure.”

 

All of that sounds great and who could knock the success that Brady and Belichick have had together as major faces of the NFL’s billion-dollar baby, obliterating records and making annual trips to the AFC Championship Game.

Why Such A Fuss About Deflated Balls? 

Problem is, only New England fans choose to ignore the shady ways of the Pats franchise dating back to SpyGate seven years ago. Once the Patriots were reprimanded by Roger Goodell, guilt was cemented. No matter how much Brady and Belichick-jockers want to sweep the Patriots' indiscretions under the rug -- in the public eye -- the franchise has lost its benefit of the doubt in such matters moving forward.

First-time offenders get offered probation. Repeat offenders get the system.

Motive?

The tandem hasn’t won a Super Bowl since the embarrassing scandal and Pats fans are fiendin’ for a return to Super Bowl glory which certainly makes the notion that they were purposely deflating balls for easier handle during their 45-7 thrashing of Indianapolis in the AFC Championship game on Sunday a more plausible one.

Besides, Belichick’s no idiot. They don’t call him Yoda for nothing. If he did want to do something under-handed he surely knew that his Pats were heavily favored to beat the Colts anyway, so very few people would give credibility to the accusation.

When asked directly Monday if the Patriots were using deflated footballs, Belichick replied in typical terse and condescending fashion, “I just said the first I heard of it was this morning.” 

Back in 2007, once the SpyGate scandal settled down, Patriots owner Robert Kraft told Daily News NFL writer Gary Myers about a conversation he and Belichick shared concerning the tapes. 

“How much did this help us on a scale of 1 to 100? Kraft asked.

“One,” Belichick said.

“Then you’re a real schmuck,” Kraft said.

And I agree with Myers when he ends his story by writing that “it would be even schmuckier if he fooled around with the footballs.”

 

In any event, as of Tuesday, the NFL is still investigating and the central figure in the investigation is the guy who controls the kingdom—Wild Billy B.

Brady, who completed a solid 23 of 35 passes for 226 yards and three TDs with a 100.4 QB rating, says the notion is “ridiculous.” He’s had tons of better games in the past, so proving that he had an easier time throwing the ball because it was softer is a tough one.

It is interesting, however, that Andrew Luck had his worst passing game of the season Sunday, completing just 12 of 23 tosses for 126-yards and a career-low 23.0 quarterback rating. Could the reason for his unusually inept performance be because he was throwing fully inflated pigskins in nasty, rainy weather?

 

Who Sparked The Sour Grapes ? 

The NFL's investigation was triggered by Colts linebacker D'Qwell Jackson's second quarter interception, according to reports from both WCVB's Mike Lynch and Newsday’s Bob Glauber.

Lynch reports that Jackson felt the ball was underinflated and notified the equipment manager, while Glauber says a Colts equipment staffer noticed the supposed underinflation.

According to sources, the equipment manager then informed the Colts' head coach, Chuck Pagano, who then informed the team's general manager, Ryan Grigson.

Grigson then called the National Football League's director of field operations, who then called the locker room and spoke with the officials on the field at halftime.

Each team supplies the officials with 12 game balls, with the home team providing an additional backup 12. But the catch is that each team gets to use the balls that they provide on offense.

From a New York Times piece on how the Giants prepare balls for Eli Manning:

For every N.F.L. game, each team has 12 to 20 balls that it has meticulously groomed and prepared according to the needs of its starting quarterback. The balls, brushed and primed using various obvious and semisecret techniques, bear the team logo and are switched out from sideline to sideline depending on which team is on offense.

That means that from series to series, the ball in play can feel wholly different, but each team's quarterback always has a ball prepped by his equipment staff the way he likes it.

Pats fans call it far-fetched. Everyone else in NFL Nation sees this as very possible and another potential stain on the controversial and mythical careers of Brady and Belichick. In his first year as a starter, Brady led the Patriots to a Super Bowl win in the 2001 season, starting a run of three championships in four years. Now he and Belichick have a chance for their first in 10 years.

Brady surpassed John Elway for most Super Bowls for a quarterback and tied defensive lineman Mike Lodish for most by any player.

Belichick tied Don Shula for most Super Bowls for a coach and broke a tie with Tom Landry with his 21st postseason win.

"I know we've had some ups and downs this year," Brady said, "but right now we're up, baby, and we're going to try to stay up for one more game."

By deflating the Colts, the Pats (14-4) double-threat earned a sixth trip to the Super Bowl and move on to face defending-champion Seattle (14-4) for the NFL Championship on Feb. 1 in Glendale, Arizona. Belichick will face Pete Carroll, whom he replaced as Patriots coach in 2000.

 

Pats Play To Win

We know the NFL is a high-stakes business and in all pro sports players, coaches and owners stretch the rules to gain an advantage. It doesn’t have to be an egregious level of cheating like doping a player’s Gatorade bottle. That’s some movie stuff, but any deterrence from the rules suggests a lack of integrity. It’s why people treat PED users in baseball like the plague. You can’t cheat the game—even in the slightest way—and then proclaim to be a genius or more capable than the next man who did it authentically.

New England wide receiver Julian Edelman said, “It’s funny they come up with stuff like that, but it is what it is.” He sounded as if the NFL has it out for the Patriots, but I don’t see any reason for the NFL to sweat the Pats anymore than they have in the past.

Belichick’s never gotten more than a slap on the wrist for some questionable in-game and off the field maneuvers. He’s the untouchable hoody and considered a genius among his less-successful peers. Brady is the All-American hero and a superstar QB with the model wife. The NFL's been nothing but good to Brady, even giving him that playoff boost he needed early in his career which sparked the tuck rule. 

A rule that Ray Lewis believes is the only reason any of us knows who Brady is.

Lewis told Stephen A. Smith on ESPN Radio that the Patriots getting the benefit of the infamous rule when Brady appeared to fumble in his first playoff start against the Raiders in January of 2002 is the reason he has a career today.

“When we — the first time we created something called a tuck rule, it’s the only reason we know — I’m just being honest — the only reason we know who Tom Brady is, because of a tuck rule,” Lewis said, via CBS Boston. “There’s no such thing as a tuck rule! If the ball is in your hand, and I knock it out your hand, whether it’s going backwards, forwards, lateral, sideways, however it’s coming out, that’s a freaking fumble! But guess what we created? We created a freaking tuck rule!”

With a legacy defined by getting hardware, the pressure to go back to the Super Bowl grows each season. When the Pats don't get to the Super Bowl, everybody loses money and a bit of credibility. So who would blame a crafty sideline stalker like Belichick for chasing the dollars. 

 

America eats crap like this up, but noone wants to believe any of these guys are capable of twisting the rules to win. They’ve both gotten a bit ornery as the years have worn on, but winning makes that kind of character flaw acceptable.

However, if we were to be convinced that the legacy of Brady and Belichick is accurately sprinkled with controversial calls, rule violations and underhanded dealings, it would not only be a stain on the NFL, but on the spirit of the game itself.

SpyGate ended with Belichick being fined $500,000 by the NFL—the largest fine ever imposed on a coach—and the Patriots lost a first-round pick. Call it unfortunate, but even if Brady snatches that fourth Super Bowl and moves into a tie with Terry Bradshaw as the winningest QB the gridiron has ever seen, haters and realists will always be able to say that there is a cloud of controversy which belittles the impact and magnificence of the Brady-Belichick Era.

Highlighted along with their dominance will be their desperation and addiction to winning at all costs – an ego-driven endeavor shared by two Type-A personalities with an unwavering eye on the prize.