There’s plenty of blame to go around in the #DeflateGate case. The Patriots deserve the bulk of it. The NFL merits some as well, for apparently making a desire to catch the Patriots more of a priority than the mission to ensure that properly inflated footballs were used in the AFC championship game.
But how about the Colts? Vindicated on the surface by the finding that their suspicions of deflation were accurate, a question about their motives emerges from the Wells report.
Why did they wait two months to share with the league their suspicions about football inflation levels? If game-integrity is such a major concern for the NFL and its member teams, the Colts should have immediately complained to the league upon becoming suspicious of the Patriots.
Page 46 of the report explains that the Colts became suspicious as a result of two footballs intercepted by safety Mike Adams during the Week 11 game between the two teams. But the Colts said nothing to the league about the air pressure concerns in November.
If the goal was to ensure the integrity of the game, the Colts should have immediately alerted the NFL to the concern after the regular-season contest. Appearing on Thursday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, former Colts and Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy initially expressed concern about a quick complaint due to the possible appearance of sour grapes. But then he realized that it would have made more sense to promptly alert the NFL to the situation, so that the tactic (if occurring) could be stopped, quickly.
Instead, the Colts kept their suspicions to themselves until only one day before the playoff rematch.
“It would be great if someone would be able to check the air in the game balls as the game goes on so that they don‟t get an illegal advantage,” Colts equipment manager Sean Sullivan wrote in a message sent by G.M. Ryan Grigson to the league office on January 17. It would have been even better if the Colts had informed the NFL about the situation immediately after the Week 11 game, which would have prevented the Patriots from getting an “unfair advantage” in any of their remaining regular-season games, or in the divisional-round game against the Ravens.
Right or wrong (and the assessment of that one resides in the eye and biases of the beholder), the Colts opted for gamesmanship, dropping the report into the NFL’s lap one day before the game in the obvious hope that the Patriots would be forced to change their procedures with the smallest amount of time to react to the disappearance of the ill-gotten advantage.
The Colts didn’t want a sting operation; they wanted a level-playing field. With, of course, the least possible opportunity for the Patriots to adjust to the leveling of the playing field.
Some think that Commissioner Roger Goodell should have called the Patriots and told them to knock it off. That one phone call could have prevented the entire debacle. That also could have been exactly what the Colts wanted.
Ultimately, it didn’t matter. The Patriots once again blew out Indianapolis. And when it’s time for the two teams to play again this season on October 18 in Indianapolis on NBC, coach Bill Belichick likely will have his players primed for another blowout.
If Tom Brady eventually receives a four-game suspension, he’ll be primed, too. The Week Five game against the Colts would be his first game back.