Closing the Chapter on the 2015 NFL Season

2015 NFL Season Sumary

It’s in my nature to always have something to look forward to, which is why I immediately started a countdown to 2016 training camp after the Patriots lost to the Broncos in the AFC Championship. Don’t get me wrong – I was still experiencing rage and disappointment from the game (the type that only spoiled New England fans can really understand at the end of a season that doesn’t result in Tom Brady lifting the Lombardi), but I knew it was time to move on, even knowing that Peyton Manning still needed to face off against Cam Newton.

It doesn’t seem right to move onto 2016 without a recap of the some NFL season highlights. Here’s what we thought of 2015…

It was a good year for:

  • Cam Newton and the Panthers – They almost had a perfect season (15-1), but we’re guessing that a Super Bowl win would make everything good for this gutsy team from the NFC South. They spent the whole season with a chip on their shoulder, trying to ignore the haters who pointed to the difficulty (or lack thereof) of their schedule as the reason for their success. Cam is a front-runner for MVP.
  • Kirk Cousins – He won the starting QB position in Washington this year and gave us the best soundbite of the year with his fired-up, “You like that?!!”
  • The Houston Texans – This may seem like an odd choice because they were decimated by the Chiefs during wildcard weekend this year after winning the pathetic AFC South. However, they did give us one of the best Hard Knocks seasons yet and I think they deserve some praise for that.
  • Aaron Rodgers – The season may not have ended the way he wanted, but the guy had not one, but two spectacular Hail Mary catches this year. He’s an exciting player to watch.
  • The Bengals’ half-time monkey – Why doesn’t this happen at all football games? SOMEBODY PLEASE EXPLAIN!
  • Women in the NFL – We’ve still have much ground to cover when considering the involvement of women in the old boy’s club known as the NFL. However, seeing Jen Welter as an intern pre-season coach for the Cardinals and Sarah Thomas as the first full-time official felt like small victories and we’ll take what we can get. With the Bills promoting Kathryn Smith to become the first full-time assistant coach in the league earlier this month, hopefully this will be a sign of more female hires to come. Have we figured out the domestic violence issues linked to the sport? No, but hiring women into higher-profile positions and hearing rising sports world stars like Katie Nolan call people out seems like a good start.

 

It was a bad year for:

  • Injured players – Yes, everyone gets injured in the NFL. However, there were a lot of “big names” that went on injured reserve or missed a significant number of games due to injury, upsetting fans and fantasy football participants everywhere. A lot of these “big names” were quarterbacks, including Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger, Andy Dalton, and Joe Flacco. (Personally, all I can think about is how things would have been different if the Patriots didn’t have so many significant injuries. Sweet Jesus, it would have been great to see Roger hand the Lombardi over to Mr. Kraft and Brady.)
  • Officials – You couldn’t pay me enough to be an NFL official. The job is too stressful and the stakes are too high for something that is not full-time employment. The officials seemed to go through a rough patch in the middle of the 2015 season. Mistakes are understandable, but it was the size of the mistakes and how much of an effect they had on game outcomes that made them so newsworthy.
  • Catching – No one knew what exactly justified a catch this year. Expect this to be a topic addressed by the rules committee for 2016.
  • FanDuel and DraftKings – These two daily sports fantasy companies started out having a good year and then seven states declared that activities on these sites were a form of gambling. While there is certainly a lot of money to be had in the fantasy world, every day new hurdles seem to pop up and everyone wants their piece of the pie.
  • Rams fans in St. Louis – Can you imagine having your football team taken away from you? That’s what happened when Stan Kroenke and his mustache decided to follow the big money and move the team back to LA. Read these fan reactions and tell me you don’t feel bad for some of these people.

Other things worth mentioning:

  • Moving the extra-point line back – The NFL moved the PAT (point after touchdown) line from the 2-yd line to the 15-yd line this year. Kickers still made the majority of their PATs, but it did add an interesting twist to the game and we didn’t hate it.
  • Concussions – The NFL recently announced that diagnosed concussions rose 32% this season (including preseason and training camp), with a 58% increase when only considering regular-season games. The movie “Concussion” kept the topic in the headlines, highlighting this as a significant problem the NFL will have to contend with in the long term.
  • Shame on you – The Falcons lost a 2016 draft pick and president Rich McKay was suspended after the team was found guilty of pumping in sound noise during home games in 2013 and 2014. Browns GM Ray Farmer was suspended and the team was fined after a sideline texting scandal. The Browns and the Bills had to suspend coaches after alleged assault incidents.
  • Color rush uniforms – The NFL experimented with color rush uniforms and some of them were just hideous. We were not fans. Please don’t do that again.
  • Deflategate – Believe it or not, it’s not over yet, as the NFL’s appeal of Judge Berman’s ruling will be held on March 3. I think I speak for all of us when I say, just drop it Roger.

How will you remember the 2015 season? What do you think 2016 will bring us? Comment below to let us know.

– Michelle

 

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We Read the Wells Deflategate Report So You Didn’t Have To

Wells Report Deflategate

Val and I exchanged some text messages early yesterday afternoon. They went like this:

“Omg Wells report is out”

“There goes my afternoon”

“I’m only on page 22 and it’s upsetting”

For the third time in the past year and a half, the NFL released a hefty PDF to the public evidencing the results of an investigation into a league controversy.

(As a refresher, the Ted Wells’ 148-page report on Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito bullying incident came out in February 2014 and Robert Mueller’s 96-page report on the Ray Rice incident was released in January 2015. We didn’t get to see an official report from the 2010-2012 Saints Bountygate incident. Gee, we’d love to see the amount that ended up on the NFL’s books under the category of legal/investigative report expenses over the last few years.)

As we’ve explained before, we get our kicks from reading these reports. Admittedly it was less fun this time around considering that we are Pats fans. Not that it’s a cakewalk to read about workplace abuse and domestic violence either…

Anyway, the title of this post says it all: We read all 243 pages of the Wells report and now we’re going to tell you what you need to know.

(Oh wait, did you catch that? Yes, the report on deflated balls is 95 pages longer than the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito report and 147 pages longer than the report on Ray Rice.)

 I’m going to preface this by stating a few things:
  • We’re Pats fans, so that means our reactions reflect an inherent bias. We looked for flaws in the report, while others may be more likely to take it for what it’s worth.
  • Our dear old dad subscribes to the theory that you can make numbers show whatever you want. After taking a few statistics classes, we completely agree.
  • I (Michelle) can’t speak for Val, but I’ve been having major trust issues lately. Someone could tell me the sky is blue and depending on who said it, I would probably take it with a grain of salt. I’m learning the hard way that you can give two people the same set of facts, and they can use them very differently. One of the biggest (and toughest) lessons I’ve learned in my 20s is that everyone has their own agenda. Not everyone is a liar, but sometimes the truth is a gray area.
  • At the end of the day, the NFL is a business. Money is involved in every decision that’s made.

The Background

After their 45-7 victory over the Colts in the AFC Championship game on January 18, 2015, the Patriots came under fire for allegations of ball tampering. Like Kim Kardashian, Deflategate pretty much broke the internet. Patriots ownership, Coach Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady all denied involvement and we all learned more about ball inflation physics than we ever needed to know. The NFL announced they would have an official investigation completed. The Wells report is the result of that investigation.

High Level Synopsis

The Wells report is a collection of circumstantial evidence that builds a case against two Patriots employees and their quarterback. The report concludes that it is “more probable than not” that deliberate action by Patriots locker room attendants led to the deflated balls and that Tom Brady, Patriots quarterback, was generally aware of the activities. The report includes:

  • Air pressure readings of the 11 Patriots balls and the 4 Colts balls tested at halftime
  • The Colts’ role in alerting NFL officials of their suspicions prior to the game, as well as bringing attention to ball pressure during the game
  • General timeline regarding the game balls prior to the start of the game
  • Pertinent communication by parties of interest prior to and following the game
  • Kicking ball investigation (it was a non-issue)
  • Super science-y stuff done by an external consulting group

The Main Characters

Jim McNally (Officials Locker Room attendant for the Pats), John Jastremski (Patriots equipment assistant), and Tom Brady (Patriots quarterback) are the three key players in the report. There is a whole section of the report devoted to McNally’s responsibilities, which included being the main attendant for the Officials’ Locker Room and game day ball transport.

The Surprise

The extent to which Tom Brady is called out. Wells was clearly not a fan of Tom’s refusal to hand over text messages or the autographs/memorabilia Brady provided to the staffers, a practice which is commonplace throughout the NFL. To understand Tom’s agent’s reasoning for not handing over phone, click here.

Not a Surprise

The timing of the release of the report. Gee, the draft just concluded and although off-season programs have started, you can’t realistically expect any big headlines until training camp is in full swing. We’re shocked the report was released in May. Absolutely gobsmacked. (Can you sense the sarcasm?)

What Made Pats Fans Feel Good

The report supports that Coach Belichick and Patriots ownership appear to not be involved. Even knowing about past transgressions, Bill’s “mic drop” press conference filled with science jargon and My Cousin Vinnie references was convincing enough for us. Most of the media will never admit it, but we found it interesting that Jackie MacMullan said she owes an apology for automatically suspecting Bill’s involvement because of his history. From meeting Jackie in person and hearing stories about how Bill is not a journalist’s best friend (no duh), this was an interesting tidbit.

What Made Pats Fans Feel Bad

Pretty much everything else, especially with respect to the details in the report. The copious amount of ambiguous language was frustrating, even if it is the norm for legal documents such as these. McNally was clearly up to something as he does not come across as credible, or to be blunt, all that intelligent. We agree with Mike Reiss that some of the details of the report seem to support a pro-NFL agenda.

Favorite New Phrase

“More probable than not [he] was generally aware.” It’s more useful in everyday vernacular than “conscious uncoupling,” don’t you think? Next time we want to accuse someone of something but may not have all the cold hard facts we would like, we will leverage the same phrase used in the report to describe their conclusion regarding Tom Brady’s involvement. For example: Val, it’s more probable than not that I was generally aware of the breaking of your Skipper doll’s arm. (Apparently I broke Skipper’s arm when I was little, but I do not recollect doing so, nor was any one watching, so it remains a complete mystery as to who handicapped Barbie’s sister.) It was the investigators’ way of saying that we know Tom was up to no good, but we can’t prove it.

Lessons Learned

Think twice before you text. The most damning pieces of evidence are the text exchanges between McNally and Jastremski. Kids, it doesn’t matter if you delete suspicious texts. Like Liam Neeson, investigators will find them and then use them to kill you (metaphorically speaking, of course). Although these texts could be open to interpretation if taken out of context, any one reading them will generally find them suspicious, especially when McNally refers to himself as the “deflator.” *Facepalm*

Employee of the Year

Is not going to McNally or Jastremski. What’s kinda funny is that McNally’s texts indicate that Tom’s borderline neurotic ball preferences frustrated McNally to the point where he wanted to vindictively over-inflate balls just to get back at Tom. Let this be a lesson for all of you next time you want to complain about your boss and you choose to do it via text message.

Whoops, Our Bad

As Peter King points out, the NFL screwed up a few things during the process:

This is too important to get some facts wrong, and the NFL did. There were media leaks throughout the first week in the process, and some were based on misleading stats. According to the two-page letter apprising the Patriots of the investigation sent by NFL senior vice president Dave Gardi to Patriots officials Jan. 19, “One of the [Patriots’] game balls [inspected at halftime] was inflated to 10.1 psi, far below the requirement of 12 ½ to 13 ½ psi. In contrast, each of the Colts’ game balls that was inspected met the requirements set forth above.” In fact, the lowest of the 20 readings measuring Patriot footballs at halftime was 10.5 psi. And one of the gauges measuring the four Colts’ footballs that were measured at halftime had three of the balls below 12.5 psi.

What’s Your Definition of “Expert”?

The Wells report contains a 98-page report from Exponent, a scientific and engineering consulting company. Using pretty pictures and graphs, their report builds a case against the Patriots, indicating that physics is not the only reason for the loss of air pressure. They also tested how fast air could be removed from balls. The report also says, “In sum, data did not provide a basis for us to determine with absolute certainty whether there was or was not tampering as the analysis of such data ultimately is dependent upon assumptions and information that is not certain.” This is coming from a research firm that once argued that secondhand smoke does not cause cancer, along with some other questionable findings. (On a side note, we probably would have been a lot more invested in our high school physics classes had we known it would come in handy a decade later when defending a football team.)

UPDATE: The American Enterprise Institute issued their own independent report. The report questions the statistical analysis in the Wells report and basically says that you can’t replicate the findings unless you do some funky math.

Look Who Is Talking

  • Bob Kraft, owner of the Patriots, made a statement.
    • Oh Snap! Paraphrase: I still feel the same way I did back in January, when I told you how much this pissed me off. This report doesn’t rely on any definitive evidence. Can we talk about the Colts deflated balls? I’m offended that the report says we didn’t cooperate because we did. I’m not going to fight the report and its findings because it’s pointless. We’ll take whatever punishment comes our way, but I’m not happy about any of this.
  • Don Yee, Tom’s agent, also made a statement.
    • Oh Snap! Paraphrase: If the NFL cares so much about the integrity of the game, why did they not alert the Patriots to the Colts’ concerns about ball tampering prior to the game? Sounds like a sting operation to me. This report sucks because they left out a lot of stuff, including my client’s testimony. The NFL is a significant client of this firm, so conclusions were made first and then facts were collected later.
  • Tom Brady’s Dad, also had some words:
    • Oh Snap! Paraphrase: This is a witch hunt. The NFL is covering their own butts with this report. We should call this Framegate. (We find this interesting because Tom’s dad isn’t quoted all that often in the media.)

The Numbers

  • 243 – Total pages in the Wells report.
  • 98 – The number of pages in the report devoted to the Exponent report.
  • 67 – The number of interviews performed as part of the investigation.
  • 11 and 4 – The number of balls for the Pats and Colts, respectively, tested by the refs at halftime. Yes, that sounds like an accurate read of the population. (Oh, there’s that sarcasm again!)

The Outcome

  •  You can bet your bottom dollar the league will be changing its procedures around ball management. They already manage kicking balls more stringently and it’s an easy protocol change to make, so look for the rules to be updated for the 2015 season.
  • More than likely you’re going to see some punishments handed down from the league. Wouldn’t be surprising to see them for the team and Mr. Brady. We’re talking fines for the former and fines and suspensions for the later. If Roger (Goodell, the commissioner) takes the same approach he did with the Saints and BountyGate (“ignorance is not a good excuse”), you could potentially see Coach Belichick receive sanctions as well. All eyes are on Roger to prove that he doesn’t favor the Patriots, but he’s got to be careful because owner Bob Kraft has been one of his biggest supporters up until this debacle.
  • Jim McNally and John Jastremski are still suspended from working for the team, as requested by the NFL. It’s safe to say they won’t be considered for employment within the league anytime soon.
  • If you’re not a fan of New England, this adds fuel to your hate fire.

Want to read some different opinions? Check out Andrew Brandt’s MMQB post here. Dan Whetzel of Yahoo Sports made some good points in his Deflategate report. Boston sports writer Christopher Price basically says this is embarrassing for everyone.

– Michelle & Val

Favorite Link Friday – January 30, 2015

Favorite Link Friday NFL January 30

We’re kicking off Super Bowl weekend with some of our favorite NFL stories from the web this week.

Here’s your Super Bowl edition of Favorite Link Friday:

If you have 5 minutes to kill…

1. When They Were Younger – Continuing their series from last year, the MMQB reached out to Super Bowl players’ former college and high school coaches and asked them to share favorite memories. Stories include QB Tom Brady being stuffed in a locker, Pats tight end Tim Wright and his hair-cutting skills, and Seattle kicker Steven Hauschka’s 3.8 GPA as a neuroscience major.

If you have 10 minutes to kill…

2. The Real DeflateGate Scandal Is That Anyone Cares – Chris Kluwe was known for being an outspoken player during his eight seasons as a punter with the Vikings and he doesn’t hold back in this essay posted on Time’s website. Whether you agree or disagree with him, he brings up some interesting points related to the league and DeflateGate.

If you have 20 minutes to kill…

3. Tom Brady Cannot Stop – Maybe you think Tom Brady is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time or maybe you think he’s a pretty boy and he annoys the heck out of you – either way you should read this in-depth profile on Tom from the New York Times. Well-written and full of interesting details, this article shows what makes this 37-year-old tick. Just think of it as a human interest story, where the subject happens to be married to a super model.

There’s no “if” here – this is a must-watch…

4. Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch (a.k.a. Skittles) and Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski (a.k.a. Gronk) hang out with Conan O’Brien and play video games. Almost wet ourselves watching this. Too many good one-liners to count. Gronk is always entertaining, but this is the side of Skittles we don’t get to see and we love it.

Hope these articles get you ready for what is sure to be a great Super Bowl!

– Michelle & Val

Our Thoughts – 2014 NFL Playoffs – Championship Games Recap

NFL Our Thoughts Snap Football Blog AFC NFC Championship

“I couldn’t stop the fun facts from coming.”

Well that about sums up these game recaps.

Here’s what we thought about the NFC and AFC Championships…

Seattle (28), Green Bay (22) – Last year’s Super Bowl champions are heading back to the big game to defend their title. The poor Packers have all offseason to think about how they let a 16-point lead slip through their fingers. This one has got to hurt.

Green Bay’s defense dominated the first three and a half quarters of the game. The only touchdown they gave up in the first 57 minutes was on a trick play from special teams. The offense didn’t capitalize when they needed to, especially late in the game when they went three and out two times in a row in the fourth quarter.

While his calf injury didn’t seem to limit him as much as last week, at least at the beginning of the game, QB Aaron Rodgers only averaged 4.9 yards per attempt and had the lowest postseason passer rating of his career (55.8), throwing two interceptions in field goal territory. He did come through with a game-tying field goal in the last minute to send the game to overtime, but never got a chance to touch the ball again as Seattle won the coin toss and marched down the field for a touchdown. (In overtime, if the first team to receive the ball scores a touchdown, the game is over. If that team fails to score or only scores a field goal, the opponent gets another possession.)

There were a lot of plays that hurt the Packers (see a nice summary here), but the one that will be most talked about will be the dropped onside kick by Packers tight end Brandon Bostick. Poor kid – he’s getting called the goat of the playoffs. BaaaaaLong story short is he didn’t do the task he was assigned, the ball bounced off him and into the hands of a Seattle wide receiver, and the Seahawks’ comeback continued from there.

Coach Mike McCarthy’s conservative play calling, especially decisions to kick field goals instead of going for a touchdown twice from the 1 yard line in fourth down situations, have been heavily criticized since the game.

Seattle QB Russell Wilson did not play good football for the majority of the game, and we’re not trying to be mean. He finished the first half with 12 passing yards, three interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 0.0. After 55 minutes, he added another interception to his total and his quarterback rating went up to 7.0. Seahawks fans in the record crowd of 68,538 even started to leave with five minutes remaining and the Packers up by 12 – and then had to watch the end of the game on TVs outside the stadium.

Lucky for Wilson, the Packers were only able to convert his four turnovers into six points. In the final nine minutes (five minutes of regulation and four minutes of overtime), his passer rating was a perfect 158.3. All four of his interceptions came on throws aimed at wide receiver Jermaine Kearse. Kearse was only targeted one more time in the game – and he caught the winning 35 yard touchdown in overtime.

There’s no crying in football, but someone didn’t tell Russell Wilson that.

Two injuries to watch for Seattle are cornerback Richard Sherman, who sprained his elbow when he collided with teammate Kam Chancellor, and safety Earl Thomas, who dislocated his shoulder but played through the injury. Both are key pieces in Seattle’s secondary and have said they will be ready to play in the Super Bowl in two weeks.

Fun facts:

– Russell Wilson is now 26-2 playing at home at Century Link field. This ties John Elway’s Broncos (1996 to 1998) and Brett Favre’s Packers (1995 to 1997 and 1996 to 1998) for the most home wins over a three-season span.

– Indeed, Seattle is just the fourth team in league history, and first since those 1985 and ’86 Bears, to lead the league in both scoring and total defense in consecutive years.

– The Seahawks now have the opportunity to become the first team to repeat as world champions since Tom Brady and the Patriots accomplished the feat ten years ago.

– Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft has hired two head coaches since owning the team: Bill Belichick and the coach who came before him — Pete Carroll, coach of the Seahawks. Their teams will now play each other for the title of world champion on Sunday, February 1st in Glendale, Arizona.

– Michael Bennett rode a bicycle to celebrate the win. You do you, Mike. You do you.

New England (45), Indianapolis (7) – This was expected to be a much closer game, and going into halftime, New England was only leading by a score of 17 to 7. Then the Patriots came out and scored touchdowns on their next four possessions. Game over. The 38-point margin of victory is the largest in Patriots postseason history and the third-largest in a conference championship game.

The Patriots’ game plan was similar to their approach in week 11, when they beat the Colts 42-20, by using six offensive linemen (which is one more than normal) and running the football. One of the Colts’ weaknesses is stopping the run – they had to know this was coming with the extra offensive lineman, but there just seemed to be nothing they could do about it.

Pats running back LeGarrette Blount rushed for 148 yards and three touchdowns – 69 of these yards came after contact. FUN FACT ALERT – Blount now owns the Patriots team record with seven postseason rushing touchdowns (three in this game and four against the Colts last year). He’s the first player in NFL history with multiple postseason games with at least three rushing touchdowns.

Left tackle Nate Solder, who played tight end in college, even caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady in a trick play. Coach Belichick praised him, saying “Nate carried that ball like a newborn baby — two hands and had it cradled. You couldn’t have got that out of there with a crowbar.”

The Patriots secondary (defense) did not let Colts QB Andrew Luck find open receivers, and they held the Colts to 83 rushing yards. Luck only threw for 126 yards and had a 23.0 quarterback rating, the lowest in his three seasons in the NFL. That’s sad. Windy and rainy conditions probably also played a role in this.

The Patriots have now outscored the Colts 189-73 in their last four games, including by a margin of 113-27 in the second half alone. Luck has thrown 10 interceptions in four career games against the Patriots.

The other story line to come out of this game, which we already posted an article about, was the NFL investigation into the Patriots using deflated footballs during the game. Latest update on that is that 11 of the 12 balls were deflated. They’ll still play in the Super Bowl, but expect punishment in the form of a fine and probably loss of draft picks. Ugh.

It’s actually impressive the Colts made it this far into the post-season with the holes they have on their roster – they lack a pass rusher and quality running backs. The Colts have gotten one game closer to the Super Bowl each year since Andrew Luck was drafted and Chuck Pagano became head coach, despite missing a few key roster pieces every time. Andrew Luck is one of the best young quarterbacks in the game, and he will take Indy to a Super Bowl. He’s only 25 and what’s scary is he is only going to get better.

Fun fact for the Colts – kicker Adam Vinatieri, the oldest current player in the league (he’s 42!) played in an NFL record 30th play-off game. He took the record from Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice, who played in 29 during his career.

Here are a few other records set and fun facts from this AFC Championship game:

– This is the 6th Super Bowl the Patriots will be playing in under Belichick and Brady.  They won their first three within a four year span, and lost their last two. The six Super Bowl appearances in 15 years is a league record. This is the eighth overall Super Bowl appearance for the franchise, which ties the Cowboys and Steelers for most all-time.

– This was Bill Belichick’s 21st career playoff win, which made him the winningest coach in postseason history. He ties Don Shula for most all-time Super Bowl appearances by a head coach, with six.

– This was QB Tom Brady’s 28th career playoff game, and his record ninth AFC championship game. He passed Peyton Manning to become the NFL’s all-time leading passer in the postseason (7,017 yards). Brady was already the NFL’s all-time leader in postseason wins (20) by a starting quarterback and postseason touchdown passes (49). His boyhood idol, Joe Montana, is second in both of these categories with 16 games and 45 touchdowns. Brady will now be starting a record sixth Super Bowl.

If you don’t follow us on Twitter, you should. How else are you going to be ready for the Super Bowl?

– Val and Michelle

Football Basics – The Ball

NFL Football Basics - The Ball

If you follow sports news at all, I’m sure by now, you’ve heard about the NFL looking into the Patriots possible use of deflated balls in the AFC Championship game on Sunday.


Since we’ve had to update this post so frequently in the past few days, this is the spot where we’ll put a Tweet or a link with the latest development.

UPDATE 1/24/15: Bill Belichick held a surprise press conference, where he talked science and made My Cousin Vinny references. Basically, he’s saying to the NFL, “Prove it.”


Whomp, whomp. What a downer for all of those Pats fans.

(In case you didn’t read our About section, Val and I clearly state that we are both Patriots fans. We can say nice things about any team except the Jets, but at the end of the day, our Patriots fandom switch is permanently stuck in an upright position. Feel free to keep this in mind when reading this post.)

We think this is a great opportunity to learn more about NFL footballs and why people care about their inflation levels.

Here are some things to keep in mind about NFL balls during game play:

– There are two different types of balls used during the game. “K balls” and “game balls.”

K balls are used for the kickoff game and are brand-spankin’ new out of the package. Game balls do not need to be brand spankin’ new, but they do need to be filled with proper air pressure (12.5 to 13.5 pounds per square inch of pressure). Per this Associated Press story with lots of interesting details, this is what happens with K balls:

So the night before a game, 12 balls marked with a “K” are delivered straight from the manufacturer, Wilson Sporting Goods, to the officials. Two hours before the game, a representative from each team can prepare the balls by rubbing them down and brushing them off. An official then checks the air pressure, puts the balls in a bag and subs them in on kicks.

– Prior to the game, each team provides the officiating crew with 12 game balls, sometimes more if requested in the case of bad weather.

Each team uses their own balls during the course of the game. (I’m sorry, but is anyone else having difficulty being mature with all of the ball references? I’d like to think I’m a lady, but I am struggling right now.)

– The officials check the air pressure within the game balls prior to the game.

– Once the air pressure is checked and any balls are adjusted, from our understanding, they are handed off to the ball boys from each team.

Peter King had an excellent post on the day in the life an officiating crew last December. Here’s an excerpt where he talks about the ball handling process on game day:

The Kicking Ball Coordinator (every game has one) walks in and sees Mackie. “Got the ‘K’ balls?” he says, and Mackie hands him the six balls that one team rep from both Baltimore and Chicago will be able to condition for the next 45 minutes; the proviso is they’re only allowed to use brushes, towels and water to get the sheen and wax and new-football feel off for the game.

“Got the game balls yet?” Mackie says to the locker-room attendant, and as if on cue an orange bag of 24 game balls arrives from a Bears equipment man. Minutes later the Ravens’ bag of 24 shows up. Usually it’s 12 per team, but with the threat of bad weather each team conditioned 24 balls during the week—the Chicago balls will be used when the Bears are on offense, Baltimore’s when the Ravens have the ball—and now Mackie, Waggoner and Paganelli go to work to get the balls prepared. One by one, as if on an assembly line, Mackie checks with a pressure gauge to see if the balls are filled to 12.5 to 13.5 pounds per square inch of pressure. Those that aren’t get taken to the bathroom. There Paganelli uses an electric pump to fill up the balls, Mackie checks the pressure, and Waggoner puts the good ones in the sink, until all are perfect. Then Waggoner marks each by silver Sharpie with an “L” below the NFL shield, Steratore’s branding of each ball so they’re not confused with other balls found on the sidelines. The “L” is in honor of Steratore’s fiancée.

In another side of the room, Schuster chews on a red Twizzler while filling out a form for each team: Before the first half, he’ll be checking a randomly picked group of players for slippery substances, and he’ll do the same with a different group at halftime. He puts the numbers of the players he’ll be patting down on his “Player Uniform Foreign Substance” card. He says it’s been about 10 years since a player has been caught with silicone on the jersey.

Outside the locker room at 10:18, Waggoner meets the three ballboys for the game. “We’ll have weather today, so be prepared to change balls every play, okay?” One replies: “Yes sir.”

The six ‘K’ balls return at 10:28. “I’ve never had to use six,” says Mackie. “Even on a wet day like this, we’ll probably only get to four.”

– The officials handle the balls a lot during the game. Have you ever noticed how players constantly hand the balls back to the officials after every play? One would think that at least one member of the officiating crew would notice if a ball felt deflated. Additionally, the balls are tested throughout play.

– If a team were to mess with air pressure within the balls, it would have to happen some time between the officials handing the balls off to the balls boys and the time the ball boys walk out to the sideline. So yes, there’s probably a moment in time that someone could tamper with the balls. Admittedly, I don’t know all the details of this timeline, but one would assume that you wouldn’t change the pressure of the ball once you’re out on the field in everyone’s view.

– What’s the effect of using a deflated ball during a game? According to Peter King, “[…] if true, theoretically it could—could, not would—make a football easier to throw and catch.” Considering the weather conditions (very rainy), a deflated ball could help in that situation.

If you watched the Pats game, you would have noticed that after the 3rd quarter kickoff (Colts kicking, Pats receiving), there was a delay before the Pats were allowed to run their first play. There appeared to be some confusion regarding the balls, and as NFL rules expert Mike Carey and commentator Phil Simms pointed out, the K ball was still on the field. The ball boys did not provide them with a new game ball, as they should have. You can find video of this here.

There are still a lot of emerging details on this story. In our personal opinion, if the Patriots, did in fact, deflate balls on purpose, 1) that’s stupid/disappointing because they don’t need to do so to win and 2) it’s hard to believe that all 45 points they put up were because of the deflated balls. We are in no way condoning cheating (if we had a dollar for every time we had to say this as Pats fans, we would quit our day jobs and buy an island next to Richard Branson’s), but the Colts only put up 7 points.

We’ll try to post any significant updates within this post as the story unfolds with our DeflateGate timeline below:

UPDATE 1/20/15: We’ve got another update from an unnamed source about the specific play that caught the attention of the officials. The following excerpt is from here:

According to a person familiar with the background of the matter, the Colts first noticed something unusual after an interception by Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson in the second quarter. Jackson gave the ball to a member of the Colts’ equipment staff, who noticed the ball seemed underinflated and then notified coach Chuck Pagano.

General manager Ryan Grigson was notified in the press box, and he contacted Mike Kensil, NFL director of football operations. Kensil then told the on-field officials at halftime, when the Patriots led 17-7. The Patriots erupted for 21 points in the third quarter, although it is not known if any of the balls were improperly inflated after halftime.

Asked Monday about the balls, Pagano said: “Did not notice, and that’s something for the league to handle. It’s not my place to comment on it.”

UPDATE 1/20/15: Jim Daopoulis, an ex-ref made was interviewed on a Boston sports talk show and this is what he had to say about it:

I think this is a non issue. Completely a non-issue. I just can’t imagine something like this happening.

Basically what happens is the officials get the footballs before the game. They mark the footballs, they check the pressure of the footballs. There are so many issues going on, so many people out on the field. People that come out of the office in New York that are just walking around the field. And I don’t believe ball boy that is making $10 an hour is going to stand there with a needle in his hand taking air out of the ball. And how do they know which ball they’re gonna send in there? And basically if a referee or an official doesn’t like the feel of the ball, he’s going to throw it out. So I just think it’s a non-issue right now.

If you listen to the audio, Jim also talks about why the NFL is taking the time to look into the issue. In short, it’s because of the team that’s involved.

(As an aside, Jim is a great follow on Twitter if you’re interested in learning more about the calls being made during games. He’s got great insight and gets straight to the point. We also like Mike Pereira for this type of thing – he’s probably more recognizable as an officiating guru for most football fans.)

UPDATE 1/20/15 :

UPDATE 1/21/15 : Mike Reiss’ latest post is full of questions that we’re waiting for the answers to as we wait for the NFL to complete it’s investigation: All thoughts in one place on deflated balls

This article talks about the challenges involved with deflating balls.

We think the concerns about possible deflated K balls at the Pats-Ravens divisional game is a non-issue. K Balls are monitored by a neutral NFL employee during the course of the game.

Here is a helpful FAQ about game balls from ESPN. Most of it we covered here, but it’s worth a read.

UPDATE 1/22/15: Bill Belichick’s statement on Thursday morning was uncharacteristically long and detailed. Watch for #I’veToldYouEverythingIKnow to trend on social media. He could have ended his time at the podium with a mic drop and it wouldn’t have seemed out of place.

UPDATE 1/22/15: Tom Brady also held a press conference. Pats fans waited for Stacey James (VP of Media Relations) to take Tom out of his misery after answering questions from the media, which was starting to resemble a pack of blood-thirsty wolves. Most important thing we got out of this conference was Tom saying that the NFL investigators had not talked with him yet.

UPDATE 1/22/15: Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson says he didn’t notice anything weird with the football he intercepted. He wanted to keep it as a souvenir and handed it off to a Colts staff member, who allegedly set off a chain of events prompting an investigation.

UPDATE 1/23/15: The NFL finally issued a statement saying that they were conducting an investigation.

 

Once we get through DeflateGate, I think we’ll all agree that we now know more than we ever needed to know about NFL footballs. 

So, what’s your take on this? Let us know in the comments below.

If there are any players or former players out there that can tell us how much of a difference the air pressure in a ball makes, we would love to hear your thoughts!