One year ago tonight, acting on a complaint from Colts G.M. Ryan Grigson, the NFL decided to test the air pressure of the footballs used by the Patriots in the AFC championship game.
The readings, generated by gauges that varied by roughly 0.5 PSI, showed that the Patriots’ footballs consistently were below the minimum of 12.5, the number to which the balls were set before the game. It later became clear that the NFL didn’t realize as the measurements were being made that a basic scientific principle known as the Ideal Gas Law resulted in the pressure dropping as the footballs went from a warm environment to a cold one at Gillette Stadium.
And so the misinformed, knee-jerk presumption of cheating poisoned the process from the get go. False information regarding the actual numbers created a presumption among the media and fans that someone did something they shouldn’t have done, setting the stage for a scorched-earth Ted Wells investigation that inevitably cobbled together enough pieces of circumstantial evidence to justify what appeared to be a predetermined conclusion.
Armed with unprecedented knowledge that weather conditions may indeed take the footballs used in a given game out of compliance with the 12.5-to-13.5 PSI range (both due to cold and due to heat), the NFL opted not to gather in 2015 exhaustive data for the purposes of understanding what happens when the temperature is 90 degrees or 9, and everything in between and beyond. Instead, the league has opted to use only a random testing procedure, periodically removing footballs from service at halftime for testing, and then testing the replacements at the end of the game.
The league has not yet committed to making any of the PSI information public. However, a source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that the league may be releasing a summary of the data between the conference title games and the Super Bowl.
Without the raw numbers, few will put much stock in the summaries. Then again, the only way anyone would believe that summitries or raw numbers are accurate is if they undermine the notion that the measurements generated one year ago tonight suggest cheating.