There seems to be this opinion floating around that most fans think the NFL was justified in punishing the Patriots the way it did, and that those who disagree are just angry Patriots fans. While those fans surely exist, and probably make up the majority of the dissenting viewpoints, let me preface this by saying that I’ve been a Denver Broncos fan since I was 10 years old. The Patriots have been a hated rival for years due to all of the clashes in the playoffs and the regular season, especially in recent years.
And I think the DeflateGate punishment is absurd.
Honestly, it’s almost like Roger Goodell just sits down and reads Facebook comments for a few hours before deciding how to punish people. There’s no discernible system in place, and the punishments ramp up as public opinion becomes clear. A lot of people yelled angrily about the Patriots and the deflated footballs, and bam, here comes Goodell with a four-game suspension, a million dollar fine, and the loss of a first-round draft pick.
That doesn’t happen to other teams who slightly push the rules to gain an advantage. The Vikings and Panthers both cheated this year as well, according to Ben Goessling, warming up balls with heaters during a cold game. Pretty similar to inflating them to slightly below the right level to get a better grip, a la DeflateGate. The NFL found out and, as Frank Schwab reported on Shutdown Corner, gave out warnings to each team.
No fines. No suspensions. No loss of draft picks.
Now, it can of course be argued that the Patriots organization has cheated before. But does that really justify the jump all the way to taking two draft picks and $1M from the Pats and taking around $2M from Tom Brady? That’s an absolutely insane leap.
Here’s a leap that makes more sense: As Schwab also noted, the San Diego Chargers were investigated in 2012 when the officials noticed a towel they were using to dry off the footballs had an adhesive substance on it. Though the Chargers said they had done nothing wrong and the NFL eventually determined that rules weren’t broken, the Chargers were fined. That fine was for two percent of what the Patriots got: $20,000.
It’s true that these situations are not 100 percent the same. The actions by the Patriots seem more intentional and clearly broke the rules, whereas the Chargers did not officially break the rules—though they were fined anyway, suggesting something of a breach. The Vikings and Panthers both clearly violated the rules, though they didn’t try as hard to hide it.
However, the biggest difference here is that none of these teams were in the spotlight because they weren’t any good. The 2012 Chargers were 7-9 and missed the playoffs. The Vikings were also 7-9 in 2014—and missed the playoffs. The Panthers won their division with a losing record of 7-8-1. They made the playoffs, but only because they were in the dreadful NFC South.
The Patriots, though, won the Super Bowl.
Now, this isn’t to say the Patriots didn’t cheat or that they didn’t gain an advantage. It’s not to say some punishment wasn’t needed. Though Brady wasn’t directly connected, it could be argued that he probably gave the orders, and it could also be argued that Bill Belichick—much like Sean Payton—at least should have known what was going on.
It’s simply to say that the punishment given out was ridiculous, and it looks like Goodell once again bowing to public pressure. A lot of noise was made about a high-profile team, and he reacted to that, not to the actual case. If the punishment had been based on what allegedly happened, it wouldn’t have come close to the removal of a first-round draft pick and a net amount of roughly $3 million.