The Giants unwittingly, and ironically, have done plenty in the past two Sundays to exonerate the Patriots for #DeflateGate. Yes, Giants co-owner John Mara is believed to have lobbied (along with others) for unreasonably stiff punishment of the Patriots. And, yes, the conduct of the team Mara owns in consecutive games has helped the punishment seem even more unreasonable than it was.
As to #DeflateGate II, the Giants forced the NFL into a clumsy, awkward spot by complaining about Pittsburgh footballs under circumstances that could have been easily explained by natural deflation on a cold day. The NFL couldn’t say that without indirectly clearing the Patriots, so the NFL initially circled the wagons — and then eventually veered off script with a comment that later had to be described as the product of a misstatement.
As to the walkie-talkie scandal, the looming decision to give the Giants a relative slap on the wrist for a blatant and brazen violation of a known rule shows how bizarre it was to hammer the Patriots for a rule that was, essentially, the exact opposite.
Regarding the Giants, coach Ben McAdoo broke a rule that is clear and known and obvious. Every year, all 32 teams are reminded of it. There is no ambiguity or confusion or lack of clarity. The walkie-talkie is present on the sideline, it can be used only by the backup quarterback, it can be used only for listening not speaking, and the coach can never, ever touch it.
Badly breaking this bright-line rule clearly undermines the integrity of the game; if not, all 32 teams wouldn’t get a reminder of the rule every single year. The violation gives the coach a chance to talk to the quarterback under circumstances that would permit the communications to occur beyond the cutoff when the play clock hits 15 seconds.
As to #DeflateGate, there was nothing clear or known or obvious. The rule book contains a permitted range of inflation (12.5 PSI to 13.5 PSI) because it always has. It’s been in the rule book for so long that no one really knows where it came from or how it got there.
Before January 2015, the NFL never paid any attention to the question of whether teams intentionally or accidentally were using footballs that deviated from the acceptable range. Former NFL official and supervisor of officials Jim Daopoulos explained in the early days of #DeflateGate on PFT Live that football inflation had never before been an issue or a consideration. The use during the AFC championship game of two gauges that varied by 0.4 PSI underscored the fact that football air pressure was regarded as anything but a laboratory science.
Speaking of science, the fact that the NFL didn’t know that air pressure drops in footballs on cold days further highlights the reality that the entire subject resided in one of the league’s various blind spots, with no specific procedures or warnings or memoranda or anything else aimed at sealing off an avenue for chicanery and clearly and plainly explaining to teams what is and isn’t permitted on a regular basis.
Coupled with the fact that the evidence of tampering with the footballs was inconclusive at best, the decision to hammer the Patriots while not hammering the Giants becomes even more glaring and more obviously the result not of a genuine desire to protect and promote the integrity of the league but to find a way to justify punishing a team that has consistently excelled, that is repeatedly suspected of cheating (because how else can other coaches explain to their owners the dominance of the Patriots?), and that has a coach who lacks the people skills to make others inclined to give him a break or the benefit of the doubt.