One of the most puzzling aspects of the #DeflateGate controversy came from a series of contradictory reports regarding the PSI measurements taken at halftime of the footballs used by the Patriots in the AFC championship game.
Initially, Chris Mortensen of ESPN reported that 11 of the 12 balls were two pounds under the 12.5 PSI minimum. PFT later reported that 10 of the balls were closer to one pound under the minimum than two. Hours before Super Bowl XLIX, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported that “[m]any of [the footballs] were just a few ticks under the minimum.”
The real numbers remained unknown, until the issuance of the Ted Wells report.
As it turns out, two sets of measurements were made, by alternate game officials Dyrol Prioleau and Clete Blakeman. The measurements involved only 11 Patriots footballs, with the ball that had been intercepted by Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson during the second quarter not included.
Prioleau’s measurements were, in PSI: (1) 11.8; (2) 11.2; (3) 11.5; (4) 11.0; (5) 11.45; (6) 11.95; (7) 12.3; (8) 11.55; (9) 11.35; (10) 10.9; and (11) 11.35.
Blakeman’s measurements were, also in PSI: (1) 11.5; (2) 10.85; (3) 11.15; (4) 10.7; (5) 11.1; (6) 11.6; (7) 11.85; (8) 11.1; (9) 10.95; (10) 10.5; and (11) 10.9.
Each of Prioleau’s measurements were higher, which suggests that: (1) Prioleau measured the air pressure before Blakeman; and (2) the mere act of insert a needle briefly into the football to test the internal PSI decreases the internal PSI noticeably.
Based on Prioleau’s numbers, NONE of the footballs were more than 1.6 PSI below the minimum. One was exactly 1.6 pounds below the minimum. Six were were between 1.0 and 1.5 pounds under the minimum. Three were between 0.5 and 1.0 pounds under the minimum. One was only 0.2 PSI below the minimum.
In other words, and as PFT reported at the time, 10 of the balls were closer to one pound under the minimum PSI than two.
Based on Blakeman’s numbers, only one ball was 2.0 pounds under the minimum. Another one was 1.8 pounds under. One was 1.65 under. One was 1.6 under. One was 1.55 under. Four fell between 1.0 and 1.4 PSI under. One was 0.9 PSI under. One was 0.65 PSI under.
The numbers show only one ball a full 2.0 PSI under — and that was based on a measurement that apparently happened after a different measurement showed that same ball at 1.6 PSI under. Given that Mortensen’s report was: (1) taken as completely accurate; and (2) pushed the entire scandal to a new level, it’s important to look at those numbers objectively and to assess carefully whether there’s a plausible atmospheric explanation for the loss in air pressure.
Further complicating matters for the NFL is the lack of clear evidence that the starting point for each ball was 12.5 PSI. Given that the NFL was aware of the issue before the game began, it’s stunning that a record of the measurements wasn’t made.
Moreover, and as suggested by the measurements made by Prioleau and Blakeman, the mere act of confirming that the balls were inflated to 12.5 PSI may have dropped them below the minimum.
The problem for the Patriots is that enough other evidence pointed to a violation to allow Ted Wells to conclude that the preponderance of the evidence suggests to deliberate manipulation. Regardless, the raw numbers aren’t nearly as bad as they were originally portrayed to be.
In the interests of fairness to everyone, that fact can’t be disregarded.