Roger Goodell owes Tom Brady an apology

Columnist
Yahoo Sports US

On Dec. 4, the New York Giants got ahold of a couple of Pittsburgh Steeler footballs and decided to see if they were below the NFL pregame inflation minimum of 12.5 pounds per square inch.

“The PSIs were a little low,” Giants coach Ben McAdoo said.

According to the ProFootballTalk, the balls came in at 11.8 and 11.4 psi. The Giants told the league, although not via a “formal complaint,” whatever that is. The NFL isn’t saying much, but it apparently checked to see if the referees had maintained control of the balls and dismissed the situation quickly.

Why? Because by time the Giants obtained and presumably checked the balls on the sideline, the temperature in Pittsburgh was between 41.0 and 41.2 degrees, according to Weather Underground’s historical data.

Footballs lose air pressure in cold weather. The numbers were explained away by science, not cheating. This was nothing. Nothing happened, nothing at all.

“All footballs were in compliance,” the NFL stated after Fox’s Jay Glazer reported on the incident.

The situation was properly handled. Good job, NFL.

That means given the chance to do deflate-gate all over again – the initial situation with the New England Patriots scandal is nearly identical (even considering whatever happened in the Foxborough bathroom, which we’ll get to below) – the NFL chose to do nearly the exact opposite.

In action, if not words, the league is acknowledging it got it all wrong the first time. So now it’s incumbent upon NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to do the right thing and verbalize it with a simple but noble act.

He should apologize to Tom Brady.

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Tom Brady ended up serving a four-game suspension for deflate-gate. (AP)
Tom Brady ended up serving a four-game suspension for deflate-gate. (AP)

The way the league handled the Giants-Steelers situation was a complete reversal from how it handled the Indianapolis-New England episode from the AFC championship game in January of 2015.

That night, an Indianapolis equipment intern thought a Patriots football felt underinflated. The Colts tested it on the sideline and sent word to team officials above. The Colts general manager immediately went to the NFL’s suite and shouted, “We’re playing with a small ball.”

The league scampered down to test at halftime. League vice president Troy Vincent, who was in charge of such things, later testified he’d never heard of Ideal Gas Law. As such, when the readings started coming in under 12.5, no one spoke up and said, “Those numbers are explainable.” Instead, they thought anything below 12.5 was cheating and something like 11.4 was significant cheating. Ignorance was bliss.

The league immediately began working backward, using damning and inaccurate leaks and the allowance of false reporting to stand for months to further its case. A multimillion-dollar “independent” investigation was launched.

It was a delicious scandal. The idea that Brady and the Patriots were cheating was good copy and fueled all sorts of fan and media angst.

It wasn’t true. Not then and not as a parade of scientists came out screaming that everyone should’ve paid more attention in science class back in high school. Most of the footballs were fine, easily explained away by the weather.

The other football PSIs were hard to discern. Since no one recorded the initial pregame levels, testing for how low was the acceptable low was impossible. Is 11.32 OK? (That’s what the NFL-hired science firm determined). Or is it 11.1? Or 10.8? Were the pregame footballs really at 12.5, or 12.3? No one knew. No one ever cared prior to this. There was confusion over the measuring gauges and time of measurement. This was a junk experiment. Even a game attendant taking footballs into a bathroom should have been deemed inconsequential, because if you can’t prove footballs were deflated in the first place, which the NFL never did, then what is there to investigate?

It should have ended there.

Even then, any ball slightly out of the realm wasn’t proof that there was a conspiracy to deflate the footballs. It was actually proof that there wasn’t.

Why would someone tamper with only some of the footballs but not all? And why would he take not a full pound of pressure out, but a tenth of a pound or two? Those are microscopic amounts no human could detect.

The NFL never proved the footballs were deflated that night because the footballs were never deflated. They ran a murder case when no one was killed.

Text messages, cries over a smashed cell phone and Goodell citing Brady testimony that is 100 percent the opposite of what the transcript revealed was his actual testimony were desperate attempts to save face.

The science is the science. It’s been that way since 1834, when Ideal Gas Law was proven. So, welcome to the 19th Century.

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It seemed the NFL wanted to find out on its own when, in 2015, the league rewrote its game operations manual. The new procedures demanded that at halftime of “designated games” league security and referees would take the footballs to the locker room where “the PSI results will be measured and recorded.”

Then … “all game ball information will be recorded on the Referee’s Report, which must be submitted to the League office by noon on the day following the game.”

Scientists and professors crowed in delight. The NFL was about to see that it routinely played with footballs in the 11s, 10s, even the 9s – such as the Seattle at Minnesota playoff game in January where the temperature was minus-6 at kickoff.

Only after the season, Goodell tried to claim that there were no results. “It wasn’t a research study,” he told Rich Eisen’s radio show. “They simply were spot checks.”

The league claimed it didn’t have the data. To believe this is to believe that the NFL’s own security personnel and every single one of its officials just up and decided to ignore specific game operations rules.

Either that or the NFL didn’t like what it found.

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New England Patriots fans show their support for <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/players/5228/" data-ylk="slk:Tom Brady">Tom Brady</a>. (AP)
New England Patriots fans show their support for Tom Brady. (AP)

After a protracted battle in federal court that became more about arbitration law than what happened in a Foxborough bathroom, Brady wound up being suspended for four games this season. New England was fined and lost a couple draft picks, including a first-rounder.

Only now it’s clear the NFL acknowledges and accepts Ideal Gas Law. If not, how does an 11.4 reading merit no further investigation? Why are cell phones not being seized and every last intern nickname questioned? And if the league quickly determined no one could have tampered with the footballs and yet the footballs still measured in at 11.4, well …

A rookie lawyer could destroy this case.

It’s clear the league office is no longer acting in ignorance. It’s clear that if it could do it again – as it just had the opportunity – the NFL would do it completely differently. It’s thus clear it believes the original way was improper.

So apologize to Brady.

He can’t get his four games back, but he’s still looking for his reputation. You can guard and test the footballs all you want. He’s the same great player, home or away, indoors or out, warm or cold.

Despite getting pummeled publicly, he has handled his side with dignity. He tried to defend himself legally but he has never ripped the league or blasted Goodell.

Even after word of the Giants’ complaint being dismissed this weekend, when Brady could have turned this into a huge story and attempted to humiliate the commissioner, he just quietly told Westwood One it’s “inconsequential” and he had moved on.

You want to keep the Patriots’ punishment because they violated pregame protocol when the officials, in violation of their own protocol, didn’t do a thing when they watched a game-day employee carry the footballs out of the locker room? OK. Whatever.

Tom Brady deserves better though. The footballs were never deflated. The NFL’s actions show it knows now that they were never deflated.

It’s on Roger Goodell to be man enough to admit it.

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