One week ago this morning, the world was waking up to #DeflateGate. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, sounding still not quite fully awake for his Monday morning visit to WEEI in Boston, laughed the whole thing off as “ridiculous.”
While it may indeed now be “ridiculous,” it’s for reasons far different than Brady meant. On Sunday, PFT pointed out that much of the blame for the distraction and debacle belongs to the NFL, which apparently set a trap without quite knowing what to do with the beast whose foot they caught in it. Throw in the involvement of former Jets executive Mike Kensil, who now works for the league office, and the whole thing takes on a Hatfield-McCoy dynamic, with one of the Hatfields now walking around with a badge.
But former Jets special-teams coordinator Mike Westhoff has chimed in on this one, and he has reluctantly exonerated the Patriots.
“If it’s anybody that walks the edge on the rules, it’s these guys,” Westhoff told the Toronto Sun (via Tom Curran of CSN New England). “Sometimes they remind me a little bit of Enron — they’re always the smartest guys in the room, until some day maybe they’re not. That’s how I feel about them. . . .
“Did they do it? I honestly don’t think they did. To tell you the truth, I’m not so sure they’re not sitting around today thinking, ‘I wish we’d thought this up,’ knowing them. . . . As much as I hate to, I’m going to defend them. And trust me, I hate to defend them. [Spygate] was only a part of it. The number of things that were like this? There’s only a handful of them that have been made public.”
“Trust me, what I’m tellin’ you. There are quite a few others. Clock violations. You can go on and on. There’s a whole sh-tload.”
The truth is there’s “a whole sh-tload” for many (if not most . . . if not all) teams. Westhoff worked for the Jets when former strength coach Sal Alosi (supposedly acting alone) created a wall of humanity on the sideline with the goal of impeding the opponents’ gunners on punt coverage. Other teams have done other things; in the recent Bill Walsh: A Football Life documentary, Bill Parcells talked about his strong suspicion that the 49ers took down the communication lines early in playoff games at San Francisco, when the 49ers already had their first 15 plays scripted.
The current case has received much greater attention and scrutiny because of the profile of the team, coach, and quarterback involved — and because of Spygate. But that made it all the more important that the NFL crafted a clear, reliable plan for connecting underinflated footballs to deliberate misconduct. Apparently, the NFL didn’t.
Which in some ways makes this a lot like the Ray Rice case, only with different players and different details. The incompetence of an organization shows itself in many ways, especially when the organization is confronted with an unusual situation. The NFL’s handling of unusual situations in recent months has been quite unusual indeed, and the impact of this specific incident on the Patriots could be the tipping point for prompting one of the most influential owners in the sport to demand significant changes at 345 Park Avenue.