The National Football League will be ending one of the biggest overreactions in sports history when “DeflateGate” gets settled and put to rest. Once the dust finally settles, the league will have to go over how to stop this from happening. One of the ways that they will deter future violations is by setting a new set of rules on ball maintenance and new punishments for teams that break those rules.
If a team is caught cheating then the NFL should penalize not only the team itself, but the quarterback. One of the things that the public has learned is that nothing happens to the footballs without the knowledge of the quarterback. If the NFL is so set on making sure the integrity of the game is kept in store, they need to hold the team and the quarterback equally accountable for this type of offense.
Change will likely take time as the NFL Competition Committee evaluates the issue, but it is likely that the prep period that Tom Brady and Peyton Manning fought for a couple of years ago will be changed if not all together removed. The NFL will most likely keep a closer eye on who comes into contact with the footballs after the referees check them and it can be assumed that all playoff games will be played with brand new footballs like they are in the Super Bowl.
One of the things we took away from this debacle was the fact that if anyone wants the footballs deflated, it is most likely the quarterback. One of the reasons why the NFL went so hard after the Patriots was not because the inflation of the footballs played such a critical role in the outcome of the AFC championship game, but because the team and Tom Brady were so steadfast in proclaiming their innocence. Most analysts agree that if the Patriots came out and said it was a mistake and it won’t happen again there would have been no report, no draft picks and no suspension. So what does this mean for teams that get caught doing this in the future because it is sure to happen again?
Looking at Tom Brady’s punishment, it is important to understand the fact that he did not get four games for instructing team employees to deflate footballs. Many like to say that he was suspended two games for the act and two games for not cooperating with the investigation.
The NFL should considering looking outside the league in coming up with a new punishment for teams that doctor footballs. In the MLB, there has been a recent increase in pitchers getting caught using foreign substances on baseballs. The standard punishment for a pitcher who doctors a baseball is usually 6-10 games. For starting pitchers that is one to two starts. Now this cannot be applied to football as six to ten games equates to almost half the season. If you look at the percentage of the time missed, it equates to about one game.
The NFL should view this as a performance enhancement, but not one that is as serious as PEDs. While both give an unfair advantage, a defensive team can sometimes get just as much of a benefit as the offense. Deflating a football makes it easier to handle and while it will be easier for wide receivers to haul in passes, the same can be said for cornerbacks and other defensive players trying to intercept those passes.
The NFL should try to implement a similar policy for doctoring footballs as they do for other performance enhancing measures, not in terms of games but an escalating punishment. The first offense should be a game, second should be three games and a third should be a season. Players need to know that they cannot get away with this again.
The Patriots were not the only team to be caught doctoring footballs this season and they will not be the last team to be caught. Teams are always looking for ways to gain a competitive advantage so if a coach and a quarterback believe they can get away with it, they will attempt it. The NFL needs to make sure that teams know this will not be tolerated no matter who does it and that starts with setting up some new regulations.