Back in February, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell dropped a nugget during Super Bowl week when he told the world that he was lying about his care for the “integrity of the game.”
Goodell issued a 4-game suspension for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for alleged deflation of footballs (for the record, Brady is innocent and there is no proof that anything happened to the footballs, regardless of how you feel about one out-of-context text during the offseason- and in disregard of all the other texts that support his innocence) and then tried to tell the world about his goal for improved control over footballs for the 2015 season.
“Two Game Officials, designated by the Referee, will conduct the inspection and record the PSI measurement of each football,” per the NFL’s operations guide. “The League’s Security Representative will observe the inspection process. Primary game balls for each team will be numbered one through 12, and any game ball within the allowable range of 12.5 PSI to 13.5 PSI will be approved, and the PSI level will not be altered. Any game ball that is determined to be over 13.5 PSI or under 12.5 PSI will either be deflated or inflated to 13.0 PSI.”
And, thus, everyone expected that the footballs would have their pressures inspected and recorded so the data gathered and recorded from the random spot checks that took place at half time would be valid.
Per Goodell, there were no violations in 2015, and this is where everyone who followed DeflateGate rolls their eyes. Any time a football that is inflated to 12.5 PSI is taken to an environment colder than the locker room, it will naturally fall below the lower limit in the rule book- which is exactly what happened with the Patriots footballs in the 2015 AFC Championship game.
“They were simply spot checks,” commissioner Roger Goodell said, when asked why the NFL wouldn’t release the data gathered over the course of the 2015 season. Based on the NFL’s actions over the course of DeflateGate, where they intentionally leaked misleading information to the media and prevented the Patriots from rectifying the mistakes, it’s not a reach to assume that we would have heard if the measurements were damning for Brady.
But it turns out that the NFL went above and beyond in their attempt to hide the information from the public- and from their own staff.
“We did spot checks throughout the year,” NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said back in February, “and we measured PSI levels and recorded that information.”
This is actually an incorrect statement, according to Blandino himself:
Interesting info from Dean Blandino about PSI spot checks: NFL Security took the measurements and didn't share the info with officiating.— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) July 19, 2016
The guide book says the halftime measurements should “be inspected in the locker room by designated members of the officiating and security crews, and the PSI results will be measured and recorded,” and that “all game ball information will be recorded on the Referee’s Report, which must be submitted to the League office by noon on the day following the game.”
It just so happened that the “designated members” for inspection were all a part of the security crew, and that the game ball information was incorrectly recorded and kept by the NFL. It’s unsurprising because the officials would probably be more likely to leak information to the public than the NFL’s own security arm.
“On the officiating side, we weren’t involved in the PSI and that part of it,” Blandino said on ProFootballTalk radio.
The officials were supposed to know the information so they could file their Referee’s Report, but apparently it wasn’t necessary to follow the guidelines.
The league went out of their way to disregard the rules they created for this exact reason because they knew that there was nothing wrong with the Patriots footballs. This is a league that is adding chips to footballs to track data and could add a feature to measure in-ball PSI (even though the NFL is claiming they can’t), but won’t because integrity or something.
The NFL should be ashamed, but I expect they feel more like: