Tuesday’s information dump included for the first time hard evidence that the Ravens had told the Colts about concerns with kicking balls when playing the Patriots in the divisional round of the 2014 NFL playoffs. This has prompted some to conclude that the Ravens also told the Colts about concerns with football deflation.
The Ravens have mobilized to extinguish any such perception, releasing three statements and a text message from the Ravens to the Colts regarding the kicking balls.
“Prior to the AFC Championship game, no one from the Ravens talked to the Colts about deflated footballs,” the Ravens said in a general statement. “We knew nothing of deflated footballs. John Harbaugh has been consistent in his answers to reporters about this since he was first asked on NBC-TV at the Super Bowl.”
Said Harbaugh in his own statement: “I’ve been consistent from the beginning when asked about whether the Ravens tipped off the Colts about deflated footballs. I’ll say it again – we didn’t. We knew nothing about deflated footballs. As a former special teams coach, I know that members of the kicking group from teams talk to their counterparts all the time about conditions, including field, weather and footballs. I learned this morning that our kicking consultant [Randy Brown] sent a text to Coach Pagano on Jan. 16 suggesting to the Colts that they pay attention to how the officials rotate the kicking balls into the game. Coach Brown’s text did not mention the Patriots and did not complain about anything the Patriots did. The Colts never responded to Randy’s text, and he had no further communications with the Colts on this matter.”
Randy Brown had no further communications with the Colts, but Ravens special-teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg previously did — on an issue unrelated to footballs.
“On or about January 12, 2015, Chuck Pagano called me to ask about a punt-field goal substitution play that New England used against the Ravens in the Divisional game (Jan. 10),” Rosburg said in his own statement. “At the 10:55 mark of the second quarter at the 34-yard line, New England sent its placekicker (Stephen Gostkowski) onto the field with the field goal unit. This caused us to defend the punt with our field goal block team. The play was blown dead by the officials because the Patriots were penalized for delay of game. Coach Pagano wanted to know about New England’s substitution, because the coaching video does not show that part. There was no conversation regarding footballs.”
The Ravens also released the text message that Randy Brown sent to Pagano on January 16: “Make sure the refs rotate the kicking balls cause last week they wouldn’t let our ball in the game. Their ball was done so poorly that it was nearly impossible to kick off deep…It was hard and not worked in well at all…Let Tom (McMahon, Colts special teams coordinator) know he can call me at any time.”
I’ve got three comments in response to this development. (If you don’t care what I think, scroll down to the next story.)
First, while some would argue it’s good P.R., the Ravens come off as overly sensitive. Why are they so concerned about the perception that they may have told the Colts that Patriots footballs are underinflated?
Second, although Harbaugh clearly was talking only about deflation, his comments during the Super Bowl pregame to Bob Costas were so broad and so forceful that some may be surprised to learn that there was communication between the two teams on a separate issue.
“I heard all that, I couldn’t believe it when I heard it,” Harbaugh said at the time. “It’s ridiculous, it never happened, I’ve been, I never made any call, nobody in our organization made any call. As a matter of fact, just to make sure I had all the facts, I called up Chuck Pagano and asked him, ‘Did anybody else in our organization tip you off about deflated footballs?’ and he said, ‘No way.’”
Third, Harbaugh was able to be broad and forceful because he didn’t know at the time that Randy Brown had communicated with Pagano. Which will cause some to wonder whether there were other communications between members of the Ravens staff and Colts staff that Harbaugh didn’t know about.
The mere fact that Brown was giving Pagano a head’s up about an issue that could help the Colts in their game against the Patriots shows that at least one member of the Baltimore staff was trying to help the Colts in their game against the Patriots. It’s not unreasonable to wonder whether other communications between various members of the respective coaching staffs and front offices may have occurred on multiple other issues relevant to the efforts of the Colts against the Patriots.
Bottom line? Harbaugh definitely told Costas the truth, and there’s still no evidence to suggest that the Ravens told the Colts about deflation concerns. That said: (1) it’s possible that it happened without his knowledge; and (2) so what if it did?