DeflateGate has been nothing short of a firestorm of controversy over the past month. From the initial accusations by the Indianapolis Colts that the balls were under-inflated to the constant late night jokes about soft balls to the 300 page novel known as the Wells Report, down to the sanctions, the media has played this story to every angle.
The Wells report indicated that it was “more probable than not” Patriots staff members Jim McNally and John Jastremski tampered with the PSI of the game balls for the Patriots-Colts game after they went through initial inspection, and that Tom Brady was “at least generally aware” of this. The wording of the report obviously struck a chord with Patriots fans, who have since complained that the report essentially is making broad and biased accusations. Furthermore, they feel that Tom Brady is being unfairly targeted. The fact that many current and former NFL quarterbacks have corroborated the fact that they like to have their game balls prepared for their liking seems to indicate that Patriots fans are right, right?
Let’s begin by explaining how the Patriots were punished for DeflateGate.
* A fine of $1 Million
* Forfeiture of draft picks (a first rounder in 2016, and a fourth rounder in 2017.)
* A four game suspension for quarterback Tom Brady
* In addition McNally and Jastremski were both suspended without pay indefinitely by the Patriots, although this wasn’t league mandated, it seems as though it’s a byproduct of the scandal.
As we go through the sanctions, depending on your view, they are either reasonable or Draconian. with some in the fringe category believing they are too lenient. However, were the punishments appropriate?
Starting off with the fine, the punishment is appropriate. Seven years prior to this, there was “Spygate”, where the Patriots were accused of videotaping opposing players’ signals. The sanctions for that were as follows: a combined $750,000 in fines for the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick and the loss of the 2008 first round pick, (their own). The sanctions were meant to deter the cheating.
Looking at the fine, it’s obvious that this is essentially an extension of the league’s stance on cheating, and the fact that the Patriots have gone from $750,000 in fines between Belichick and the organization to $1 Million to the team as a whole indicates that the fine is meant to be a second warning. Even though videotaping signals and adjusting air pressure in footballs are two completely different offenses, they still fall under the general category of cheating. Cheating violates the integrity of fair play and sportsmanship of the sport, not the league. The league is an organization surrounding the sport. So it makes sense that the league will fine the Patriots as the actions of their employees indicate that they have cheated.
Patriots fans may complain that there is a bias, that other controversies like Noisegate yielded less severe punishment, and in truth they did, however, in the instance of Noisegate, the team as a whole cooperated in the investigation, whereas members of the Patriots involved in DeflateGate were not as cooperative with turning over evidence.
Moving on from this, the punishment that gets many Patriots fans riled up is the fact that Tom Brady will be suspended four games, depending on if he successfully appeals.
One of the major themes I have noticed about commentary of the DeflateGate suspension is the resounding “Tom is getting punished for a few PSI”. I’ve also noticed that commenters on Patriots related websites have essentially read the Wells report in the hopes that they can find a legal loophole which proves Brady’s innocence. I’ve heard news bytes where Patriots fans have equivocated the punishment to a PED suspension. Let me make something perfectly clear. The punishment isn’t about the footballs or the lack of air in them, it’s about Brady’s conduct during the investigative process.
I think that Patriots fans, for the most part believe the NFL is punishing Brady for deflating the balls, as if he personally went into the bathroom at Gillette Stadium in the AFC championship game and stuck a needle in them. The fact that they bring up scientific study after scientific study which attempts to corroborate their belief that Brady is completely innocent is almost admirable, but completely misinformed. Again, it’s not the balls, it’s his conduct after the fact.
Brady may have sat through the meetings with the NFL’s investigators, but when asked to turn over cell phone and email records which would have aided the investigation, he refused. That is legally obstructive. When faced with an investigation, a person is expected to cooperate fully. You can’t say, “I’ll answer the questions, but you can’t have my phone records”. I’m not saying that Tom Brady is a criminal, but to act as if the investigation is below him and that he has any wiggle room indicates that he thinks that he is above discipline, And this is yet another problem. Brady may be one of the league’s biggest stars, but at the end of the day, he is still an employee of the Patriots, and by extension, the NFL, and all employees, regardless of status, are held to the same standard.
What makes it worse for Brady is that he not only didn’t fully cooperate, but when asked, he openly lied. At the DeflateGate press confererence , (you can read the transcript here) Brady repeatedly said that he had no knowledge of the deflated footballs, that he didn’t know about the football handling procedure that he and Peyton Manning had lobbied for eight years prior, and that he couldn’t tell the difference between the inflation level of the two footballs.
Brady deserves his suspension, not for PSI, but for pulling a Clinton, lying and acting as if he is above the law. Those who are close to him need to realize what his suspension is about, not the footballs, but his conduct. Even though he is allowed to appeal his suspension, the NFL would be hypocritical in approving a reduction from four to two games. In fact, when Brady appeals, the NFL should send him a packet containing a file which shows his hypocrisy, the lobbying for the rule change, the texts that Jastremski and McNally sent, and a transcript of the press conference in which he stood on the podium and lied to the media.
The fact is, the suspensions are appropriate. The fine is appropriate, the loss of draft picks will be difficult, and losing Tom Brady for four games will be difficult. Given the NFL wants to level the playing field, making an example of those who cheat to win is definitely the right way to go.
Any Jets fan or reporter who expected second year general manager John Idzik to pounce in free agency has been left sorely disappointed, irritated, or at the very worst, calling for his head. It’s been a little over a week since the real offseason began and so far the only notable moves that the Jets have made have been losing valuable right tackle Austin Howard to the Oakland Raiders, replacing him with Super Bowl starter Breno Giacomini, signing former Peyton Manning target Eric Decker to a team friendly contract over five years, and cutting embattled wide receiver Santonio Holmes and cornerback Antonio Cromartie.
Idzik has left the team with a Cromartie sized hole at cornerback, a need for another target for second year quarterback Geno Smith, and enough questions to make a game out of figuring what the team’s offseason strategy is.
In an offseason rife with talent at any position other than quarterback, Idzik has repeatedly lost out on cornerback options in free agency. First to go was arguably the best cornerback on the market Alterraun Verner, who left Tennessee for Tampa Bay, followed by Vontae Davis, who returned to Indianapolis, then Darrelle Revis, who ended up being the Golden Goose of Free Agency, who was cut by Tampa Bay then signed by the Jets’ most bitter rival, the New England Patriots. On Sunday, after negotiations with former Broncos cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the sixth year cornerback ended up signing with the New York Giants. Details came out that Idzik wanted Cromartie to prove himself after having a decent year in Denver after two miserable ones in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, the Giants ended up giving Cromartie exactly what he wanted, a 5 year deal worth a little less than $8 million a year. In terms of a contract, that’s top flight cornerback money, and DoRoCro is certainly not a top level corner.
Going back to Idzik though. his actions, or rather, inaction, has led to several theories: that he’s a stubborn negotiator who refuses to find a middle ground, (ostensibly true, given his handling of the Howard situation), that he’s more concerned with building the team through the draft, (also true, given that he’s already attended Texas Tech and Louisville’s pro days to scout tight end Jace Amaro and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater rather than meeting personally with former top target Emmanuel Sanders) or that he’s deliberately sabotaging Rex Ryan so that he can blow up the team and remake it the way he wants it (although there’s no credence to that theory, the way that he handled Ryan’s coaching staff indicates that he’s still smarting over having to deal with someone whom he didn’t hire).
What disgruntled fans, columnists like Manish Mehta and Rich Cimini, and agents fail to realize is that there’s more to the offseason than free agency. There’s no such thing as an open-book general manager; if there was, then all his targets would be gone. Idzik is fiscally conservative. In a salary cap driven league, that may not be a bad thing. He’s not going to throw money at just anyone because that player can temporarily fill a need. While admittedly upset at losing Revis to New England, I get why he didn’t sign him. Revis may be a top flight cornerback, but really, is a corner worth $12 million a year? In addition, Revis established his status as a greedy money grubbing mercenary when he held out of camp in 2010, and cemented it when he signed a 1 year deal for $12 million with the Patriots.
Idzik knows that prices for players do drive up when rookie contracts expire. Look at Colin Kaepernick. He’s only been playing for three years and already he wants $18 million a year. This is for a quarterback who, while he did make the Super Bowl in his first year as a starter, is in no way elite quite yet.
Another realization is that Idzik’s strategy has paid off. The Seattle Seahawks won the Superbowl with a roster built almost entirely out of players acquired in the draft. Richard Sherman was an Idzik pick. Russell Wilson was an Idzik pick. Golden Tate was an Idzik pick.
What Idzik does need to realize is that he’s not in Seattle anymore. Seattle is more calm and reserved when it comes to dealing with football outside the season. New York, on the other hand, is a hyper frenzied media market. Every move is watched, every player is overanalyzed. Fans don’t know the meaning of patience. Rex Ryan and Woody Johnson, both imported products of the New York way, aren’t patient. However, is it necessarily a bad thing to wait? Is waiting until the draft a crime?
Idzik prove many doubters wrong with his first draft. He found Revis’ replacement in Dee Milliner, reaped the immediate benefits of the deal as well by getting future Defensive Rookie of the Year Sheldon Richardson, a pick, mind you, that Jets fans booed (although Jets fans will boo practically any pick), and patiently waited and picked up a viable, if slightly shaky option at quarterback in Geno Smith at #39. In addition, Idzik completely revamped the running game by trading for Saints running back Chris Ivory. Prior to the deal, many fans wanted Idzik to pick up a running back, like Alabama’s Eddie Lacy or UNC’s Gio Bernard.
Although Idzik’s strategy may wear thin the patience of fans who were expecting the team to actually do something in free agency, perhaps he’s biding his time and hoping that his magnum opus is in this year’s draft.
The Jets do have up to 12 picks this year after the purge of 2013. Up to 5 of those picks are protected thanks to the compensatory rules. There’s actually a good chance that one of those picks ends up being the prized end of the third round selection. In addition, the Jets have two fourth round picks, and history has shown that the fourth round has been one of the Jets’ best rounds, see Jerricho Cotchery, Kerry Rhodes, Leon Washington, Brad Smith, and Bilal Powell for reference.
Idzik may be using one or two of the picks that he has to strike a deal for a cornerback. While he won’t be getting a Sherman, he may be going after someone who’s dependable, like a Brandon Flowers or a Byron Maxwell. It’s not like he’s going to pull a St. Louis and stash all his picks.
Idzik also knows a late round talent when he sees one. Seattle’s defensive backfield was constructed practically out of late round picks, save for Earl Thomas. Maybe he’s scouting late round cornerbacks who fit the Ryan system.
Look, I get it. The Jets defied expectations last year. They finished 8-8 while perched precariously near the salary cap without an established franchise star or a legitimate receiving corps. They’re off the hook for $27 million. The obvious thing to do is to pounce in the Free Agent market. But here’s the thing. Idzik isn’t an obvious person. He’s biding his time and obviously planning to strike when he feels comfortable. Idzik’s a draft man, just like Mike Tannenbaum was a free agent man before him.
Idzik knows what he’s doing, that he’s got plenty of time. Jerry Reese, the GM of the Giants knows that his time is coming, which is why he’s been making moves like offering 5 years to a cornerback who really isn’t worth the money. Reggie McKenzie of Oakland is also making desperation moves because he knows another 4-12 season will likely mean that he’ll be out of a job. Bill Belichick is making moves because he wants to capitalize on whatever time he has left with Tom Brady, especially after seeing him at his worst last year. And John Elway knows that Peyton Manning is one bone crushing sack away from calling it a career.
There’s a saying in football which could be rephrased for most professional sports (the NBA excluded) that says that you don’t win a championship by winning free agency. Who won free agency last year? And what happened to them that season?
Fans often act spoiled and entitled. We saw it in Sunday’s episode of Family Guy, although in that case, it wasn’t Peter and his buddies crying about the Patriots not making moves in free agency, rather it was the team’s inability to win because of divine intervention. (Frankly, the thought that the Patriots could actually suck with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick still playing is actually intriguing.) In fact, Peter put it on the mark with this quote.
These are good drunk people who work hard to get absolutely nowhere in life. There are 3 million fisherman and only 7 fish left in the sea. But they live to watch football. Many of them on Zenith or Sylvania televisions.
Okay, there’s an obvious exaggeration there and the context is different, but that’s the point. Fans feel that they know what their team needs, and it’s not just the generality of a position, they feel that they know which players their team needs and how much money they should spend, and when things don’t go their way, they whine and call for people’s heads. In truth, what does a blue collar worker know about the inner workings of a football team? What does a news writer know about cap room and how to use it other than how much there is? What does an unemployed deadbeat, a product liability attorney, or a student at a college living on their parents’ dole know about how football, the business works? They think they know football, but what they know is the on field product, like knowing what a Lamborghini looks like. They don’t know what parts go into a car unless they specialize in that field, or dabble in it as a hobby. If a fan wants to get into the business of football, they need to learn about the business of football. That’s why colleges offer sports management courses nowadays. If fans ran a team, they’d run it to the ground. They’d have no concept of what cap is, and how to manage it. They’d know next to nil about player values. In truth, unless they did the actual research into what it takes to run a team, they’d play it like they would their fantasy team. A fantasy team and an actual NFL team are two entirely different things. In fantasy, unless you invested a ton of money in it, you can make moves without consequence, and in all likelihood, your team is full of stars. In pro football, you can’t afford it unless you manage your money wisely. So again, unless you actually know about how football, the business is run, it’s advisable that you stop yelling for your GM’s head.
So yes, while Idzik may be annoying a lot of people with his supposed glacial pace in free agency, we can’t pass judgement on him until the offseason ends. There’s months to go before the first preseason game, and free agency obviously isn’t over yet. So don’t panic and don’t yell for his head. Good things come to those who wait.
By now, unless you’ve been living under a rock or really can’t stand football, you know that the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks, the preseason favorites for the Super Bowl, are actually going to be playing in the Super Bowl. By now, you know that Peyton Manning once again got over the stigma that he’s a choke artist in the playoffs. By now, you know that the Seattle Seahawks, barring anything totally unexpected, are a potential dynasty.
And yet, you choose to focus on Richard Sherman, the Seattle cornerback, who is arguably the best cornerback in the league, or so he thinks, and his vociferous postgame interview, which probably scared the living bejeezus out of Erin Andrews. The interview, which was essentially a call out to 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree can be watched here.
After the interview, there was a lot of discussion over whether Sherman acted like a classless jerk, whether he should have kept his personal conflict with Crabtree out of the spotlight, and so on and so forth.
Some people even decided that Richard Sherman’s rant would make them temporary Broncos fans, because the Broncos are supposedly more classy than the Seahawks.
Wow. Decided to go with the broncos after that interview. Seriously dude?? Matt Harvey (@MattHarvey33)
Stay classy, Richard Sherman. Making it easy for all of America to become #Broncos fans. Steve Caparotta (@SteveWAFB)
And then of course, there were the idiots on Twitter and message boards who felt the need to drop an N-bomb in calling out Sherman.
I’ve heard of people rooting for teams for stupid reasons, “Because x player went to my school”, “Because the uniforms are awesome”, “Because they were the first team I saw in the Super Bowl/World Series/Stanley Cup/NBA Finals etc.” but this really takes the cake. To root for another team because one player decided to release his pent up excitement and anger in one post game tirade, literally minutes after he helped his team get to the Super Bowl, really shows how stupid temporary fan allegiances can be.
But this post isn’t about calling people out for being stupid, it’s for making sense of why Sherman did what he did, and why he was justified for doing it.
So we start off at the beginning. First of all, 49ers-Seahawks may be the best divisional football rivalry right now. Both teams are great, and seem to be destined to face off in important games for at least the next decade, both coaches have had experience playing each other even before the NFL called them, both have solid offenses and nasty defenses, what’s not to like?
There are, of course, those who take the rivalry very seriously. Sherman and Crabtree stand out the most. According to Sherman’s side of the story, which can be seen in this article, written by Sherman, the feud didn’t just start that night, but rather back in the offseason, in Arizona. In his piece, Sherman says that he could have caught the ball, had Crabtree not pushed him. Instead of holding a grudge right there, Sherman tried to act like the bigger man by saying “good game” to Crabtree, but when Crabtree pushed him again, he was free game.
While Sherman’s choke signal to Colin Kaepernick probably wasn’t called for, after all, he did have a somewhat respectable game minus the turnovers, his post game interview with Erin Andrews didn’t seem as bad as it was played out to be. Sure, Sherman yelled, sure, he trashed Crabtree by calling him a “sorry receiver”, and sure, it sounded like something out of WWE RAW, but in actuality, it was, for the most part, harmless.
Sherman didn’t swear in his interview, which showed at least a certain degree of maturity. His play against Crabtree and throughout the year also gave him a certain degree of traction on his “I’m the best corner in the game” comment. And for those of you who were confused by his LOB shoutout, it’s not a gang sign, it’s the initials for the Seahawk secondary nickname, Legion of Boom.
Here’s the problem. You as fans say that you are tired of the clichéd interview, the “we played hard and they played hard”, generic company line. And yet, when Sherman decides to exercise his first amendment rights and speak his mind, you suddenly become members of the morality police. “What a classless douche”, “That’s a low blow”, etc. Make up your mind, people. Either you want a degree of opinion, or you want the company line. If you like it, great, you like it, but if you’re so damn sensitive, then perhaps you should avoid watching sports altogether. Someone’s going to win and someone’s going to lose. Some are going to be excited about going to the Super Bowl and show it, others are going to act as if it’s no big deal.
Do you fault Sherman for being excited? I certainly wouldn’t. This is the Super Bowl, perhaps the greatest sporting event in the country, if not the world. Even if there is a degree of parity in the NFL, going to the Super Bowl is harder than it looks. Sherman has every right to be excited, every right to show emotion, every right to say that he was better. He made the play that brought Seattle back to the Super Bowl. You say that Peyton has more class? May I remind you that Manning has already been to two Super Bowls, so obviously it wasn’t new to him. Heck, he’s already won one, as well as the MVP of the Super Bowl.
Don’t judge Sherman’s character by one interview. Don’t root for the Broncos just because your opinion of a team was affected by one interview. Don’t view Sherman as a villain because of an interview. Have an opinion that isn’t colored because of an interview. The goal of fandom is to root for a team because of the way they play, not because of the actions of one player. If that was the case, then there’d be a lot fewer Patriots fans because of Aaron Hernandez, and the Cleveland Browns would be one of the most popular franchises in the NFL.
Instead of letting the (almost) off-the-field headlines color your fandom, watch the game for what it is, a matchup between the best offense and the best defense. Enjoy the novelty of a game in a cold-weather city in an open stadium. Enjoy the commercials if you hate football, or if you hate football and commercials, enjoy Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Or, if you want to pick players, there are other players on each team that are just as easy to root for. Denver has Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker, Knowshon Moreno, all great players. Seattle has Bruce Irvin, Earl Thomas, Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Derrick Coleman. Don’t let it be Manning vs. Sherman. Enjoy the whole game for what it is.