Andrew Luck responds to Robert Kraft.

Umpire Carl Paganelli holds a ball on the field after a play during the 2015 AFC Championship Game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts on Jan. 18, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

Umpire holds a ball on the field after a play during the 2015 AFC Championship Game.
Clearly having an easier to grip ball on this night offers no advantage so why all the fuss?

I’m ghostwriting for Andrew Luck today.  He’s got a lot to say and opted to hand it off to me to divine it.  

I'm Andrew Luck and I've got some things to get off my chest.

I’m Andrew Luck and I’ve got some things to get off my chest.

After watching and reading and listening to Patriots fans and Patriots media sympathizers and, most disturbingly, the Patriots organization from the owner down claim that:

  1. They didn’t do anything wrong and;
  2. Even if they did it, it was just ‘taking the top off’ off the game balls’ pressure and hardly consequential and;
  3. Even if they did it, it didn’t impact the game and;
  4. Even if they did it, you don’t have evidence and;
  5. Even if they did it, everyone does it and;
  6. This was an NFL sting and;
  7. The only reason this is a big deal is because all the world hates the Patriots and again;
  8. Everyone does it.

After listening to this, I wish to go on record: the fact that all eleven of the games in the Patriots’ possession were well below 12.5 while the balls I used were all legal — between 12.5 and 13.5 psi — on a cold, damp, windy night in January in Massachusetts had indeed a material affect on the outcome of the game.

Now that the Patriots’ have astonishingly launched a site ‘to refute’ the Wells Report, I wish to rebut the rebuttals.

1. They didn’t do anything wrong.

Footballs were checked by NFL referees an hour before kickoff, found to be appropriately inflated, and placed in the Patriots’ care for the game. In the course of the game, all the Pats’ footballs were found to be under inflated while the Colts’ balls were found to be properly inflated. I fail to see why this fact itself is not sufficient to demonstrate that Patriots did something wrong cheated or why it requires more discussion.

2. Deflating balls is inconsequential.

Let me say this once and for all: I am able to control the football better if it is softer. Getting a grip on the football is fundamental to passing (as well as handling snaps and handing off to running backs). Thus, making the ball softer is very consequential. This is why hand size matters when evaluating QBs in the combine. Nick Foles had the largest hands of any player in his draft class and it is an advantage for him. Russell Wilson demonstrates the hand size is perhaps even a more important measurable than height. This is why Teddy Bridgewater wears a glove and we all remember what happened when he took his glove off.

Working with the max range of air pressures, my hardest ball was 12.95 psi while Brady’s softest was 10.5 psi. That’s a 23% delta. It was freezing at kickoff that night with a 10 mph wind.

If we can agree that getting a grip on the football is indeed consequential for QB performance then it follows that having 20% lower air pressure improves your grip and thus is a consequential advantage. The advantage is magnified in poor weather conditions.  (See photo at top of post.)  And finally there were 73 plays in the first half where the Patriots’ enjoyed this unfair advantage. (And it would have been double the number of plays had not Brady thrown the interception which led to our alerting the NFL to the Pats’ cheating.)

Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 4.16.03 PM

Newkicks or else.  (page 12 of report)

“Inconsequential,” say Patriots people?  Frankly, it is hard to concoct a scenario that is more consequential to the outcome of game.  And not for nothing, if it’s inconsequential why is your HOF QB paying off part time locker room boys with “newkicks” to go through this clandestine operation before every game.  Obviously it’s because Brady doesn’t want to play with the same “rugby” balls with which I had to play.

3. Didn’t impact the game since the Pats won by a large margin and even scored better in the second half.
"Pats won so it's ok that they cheated."

“Pats won so it’s ok that they cheated.”

What nonsense this is. First, the charge is cheating; the question of impact on the game could not be more beside the point. But second, When you have a cheated on 73 plays (with the intent to cheat on every non-kicking play), you have impacted the game. It was 14-0 Pats after the first quarter; 17-7 at halftime. What if Brady would’ve thrown three pick 6s in the first half because of harder balls? Isn’t it probable that the Pats don’t score 21-0 in the third quarter without the halftime lead?  Losing by 17 changes both the offense’s execution and makes defensive scheming easier leading to the bad pick that put us down 24.  I assure you that I would get a first down in the third quarter if the score were just tied coming out of halftime; I assure you the Pats would not have scored 21-0 on us.  Which brings us to, third: it doesn’t matter because you don’t know, I don’t know, no one knows how the game would’ve changed had the Patriots simply taken the game balls given to them and not tampered with them cheated. It is unknowable how their cheating affected the game. To assert that it didn’t impact the outcome is simple (and convenient) flawed logic.

4. No evidence. Prove it. Then apologize.

Christ, how about the balls on Robert Kraft?  I really think living in the ultra-rich bubble provided him by marrying well has either made him soft or led him to believe the statement preponderance of evidence doesn’t apply to him.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 2.02.06 PM

Actually there’s nothing but evidence in the Wells Report Mr. Patsfan, but here’s a summary.

Now that this guy has weighed in, I'm convinced.

Now that this guy has weighed in, I’m convinced.

It’s like he’s surrounded himself with people who say, “Yes sir, Mr. Kraft, great idea” for so long that he doesn’t even know when he’s in the midst of a bad idea.  (See photo at right.)  It boggles the mind that Kraft actually thinks this is not proof.  I truly believe that if Robert Kraft were confronted with a video of his employee in a bathroom time stamped an hour before kickoff inserting needles into game balls, he would say either that there’s no proof air was actually let out of the balls through the insertion of the needle and/or the video tape was staged like the moon landing.

5.  Everyone does it.

Well I didn’t do it.

6.  The NFL was out to get the Patriots.

According to many, the NFL had been “tipped off” that the Patriots that they were suspected of cheating and that therefore the NFL should have warned the Patriots not to cheat in the AFC Championship.  What horseshit this is:  “I cheated but it’s your fault for not telling me not to cheat.”  No, that’s not how it works.  How it works is the same as telling refs something like:  we’ve seen on film that the Pats cornerbacks are chucking well outside three yards from the line of scrimmage and we’d like you to watch for it.  It is not then the ref’s responsibility to rush over to the Pats’ HC and tell him to cool it on hand checking because he’ll be watching for it.  No, the best course of action is probably to abide by the rules don’t cheat.

7.  All the world hates the Patriots.

My ghostwriter was actually rooting for the Pats in the Super Bowl.  Like really pulling hard for the Pats to pull it out.  But even if everyone does hate the Patriots, that doesn’t give the Patriots license to attempt to cheat in all the roughly 150 plays in a championship game and to succeed in cheating on 73 plays.

8.  Everyone does it.
Feb 18, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine speaks to the media during the 2015 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Pettine in February.  The only straight talker in the NFL.

This is worth a repeat:  I didn’t do it.  I followed the rules.  I played at a disadvantage and lost.  Here is where, in 2015 USA, we need to revisit why there are rules of play in the first place.  Rules are in place to protect everyone.  “Fairness.”  “Level playing field.”  These are not abstract constructs; these guiding principles we all should embrace.  Breaking the rules is cheating and while it’s technically ‘illegal,’ it is also immoral and unethical.  There is a problem in our discourse when people shy away from calling cheating cheating and resort to such euphemisms as ‘gamesmanship’ and ‘gaining an advantage’ and ‘bending the rules.’  (Thank you Mike Pettine for being the sole NFL person to call this what it is.)  The Patriots organization with premeditation set out to cheat against the Colts.1


They cheated and held the Lombardi Trophy.  And launched the grossed campaign of obfuscation that I can remember in all my years of sports watching.  What message does that future cheaters?  The message is go for it.  Even if you get caught, you’ll only lose some game time and draft picks and cash.  One can imagine a risk management brainstorm session in Foxboro:  “What’s the worst that can happen?  It’s not like the can make us forfeit our trip to the Super Bowl.  It is actually safer to cheat in the biggest game than in a smaller game because the NFL won’t have the courage to enforce the rules.”

And that is why the only appropriate league response should have been the immediate forfeiture of our game.

Cheating problem:  solved.

Wells Report by MassLive2

Go to page 8 for exact ball inflations.
Go to page 13 for conclusion.

  1. And it appears that this cheating — and other kinds of cheating — has been going on for a major part of the Brady era. [back]
  • Dave Kolonich

    Well written, organized and logical – as all of Mike’s posts are.

    Still amazed that Goodell struck at his Christmas party buddy Kraft. I would contend that the relationship could get frosty because of the suspension – but then again, Goodell has made his owners billions of dollars during his tenure. Still, it’s an interesting clash between Goodell the servant and Goodell the traffic cop.

    As for Andrew Luck, I would worry more about his GM finding him a better O-line and a playoff defense. At this point, even the Browns with different front offices every two years could field a better unit around Luck. These early prime years are being wasted. Of course without Luck, Ryan Grigson is writing for the National Football Post.

    Also, talk about some terrible timing for Bill Simmons’ Boston-centric Grantland. I would have loved (and maybe even read most of) Simmons’ response to all this. Where would this tragedy have rated? What would J-Bug think? Would a Ewing Theory be in play next season?

    Finally, after writing three semi-paragraphs, I realized again how trivial this whole issue became.

    • i care about this insofar as i feel pretty passionately that, in a game of inches that football is, to give your qb a better grip on the ball for every play and to have your opponent’s qb thereby have a more difficult grip is as non-trivial as it gets. if it weren’t for the prevailing downplaying of ‘it’s just 2 psi’ and ‘it’s no big deal because the got 21 pts with regular balls,’ i’m sure i wouldn’t be as into this.

  • Sam Gold

    This is the most satisfying piece of writing I’ve come across in quite a while. Thanks, Andrew…

  • You want to enter a vortex of scary, check out

    • i would say pats fans response to this has been pathetic (it has been) but in so doing i must acknowledge that theyre probably no different from any other fans who are into their team.

      this perspective is informed by my having stated that Jim Tressel was foolish to dismiss warning emails about Pryor’s tattoo bartering when USC had just gotten punished the year before. Tressel should have know there was a bulls eye on his back and should have been scrupulously clean. He wasn’t. That was dumb. For stating this opinion on twitter and think I had to go into hibernation for month from idiot Buck fans. Like, they were question my loyalty to OSU for simply stating pretty common sense truth.

      Id like to think Browns fans wouldnt be as terrible as Pats Nation is these days, but I’m not so sure.

  • GRRustlers

    First things first…very nice piece.

    The problem that I have with all of this is that 90% of the blame to me is solely on the NFL. There are certain things leagues need to do that are pretty damn basic to avoid cheating.

    I’m not excusing what New England did I just find it amazing that the NFL allowed them to do it even after it was brought to their attention. I find the suspension of Brady over this beyond stupid and think this should have been more of an organizational punishment. Something along the lines of ALL YOUR draft picks…or even all your games are on the road next year.

    Also the Umpire from the AFC title game needs to be fired. He touches the ball every damn play. The guy should notice and or have been aware of what the Colts presented to the league before the game.

    The thing that I can’t understand the most is when I was driving to work and listening to Mike and Mike because I hate myself and Bill Polian was talking about how they never thought this could possibly happen by letting QBs have access to the game balls. This was never something they could have imagined. This might be the most insane idiotic thing anyone involved with the league has ever said. You never thought the guys who care about the ball most may alter it?

    Can you imagine Mickey Callaway sitting in a room with the Tribe pitching staff with the game balls for the upcoming week. My god the starters would not give up a run all week (they would still go 3-3).

    Anyways I needed to vent on this and Twitter just does not cut it. Screw the NFL. Screw the Patriots.

    Go Browns.

    • i love you man but — solely on the NFL?? they published the rule book. the colts managed to abide by the rules without the NFL reminding them that — “Hey, don’t cheat today, mmK?”

      the raising of points such as everyone does it, or the nfl couldve warned the pats before, or they shouldnt have had they cockamamie balls in possession of teams prior to kickoff anyway — all of these distract from the obvious fact that the pats cheated on every snap of the first half of the championship game and but for an interception wouldve have cheated in every snap of that game.

      honestly, i think the pats made a calculated risk assessment that included — if we win they’ll never make us forfeit. it’s like because it’s the biggest game of the year pre-super bowl there was little chance the pats would face appropriate and timely discipline if caught. and they were right. and they were rewarded for cheating.

      and that’s fine.

      but what has to stop is the rationalization and pretending and the acting like there are others at fault. FUCK THAT. only the pats organization violated those rules in that game with an impact on the game that is unknowable. no one else.. not the refs, not the nfl, not the colts, no one else but the pats are to blame and should subject to discipline for the cheating of the patriots.

      • GRRustlers

        Poor choice of wording on my part. I was clearly never an English major. Solely was the wrong word. Really wrong.
        I have never said or stated that everyone else does it because clearly everyone else does not but the idea that the NFL is blameless or would act surprised that this COULD happen makes them inept at best and in a twisted way somewhat responsible.
        God forbid a kicker a few years ago roughed up a ball or added a little air to it which lead to the NFL hiring another person to stand on the sidelines and carry the golden K balls that they protect with their life. Now we hear all these rumblings from the past and the league does nothing because it is the golden boy in New England who happens to throw the ball for a living.
        The NFL has tolerated cheating from the Patriots and the fact that they come down now makes them only two things. Correct and incredibly mind bending stupid. They can be both at the same times. The worst part of all of this is that they really did not punish the Patriots.
        1st round pick – Bill would have traded it anyway.
        Million dollar fine – Ummm…this is the NFL.
        4 game suspension – So what…veteran QB gets a break and now has a 12 game season.
        The NFL is so inept that if the Patriots take a step back and really look at this they will realize that all of this was worth it…and that’s the real issue the NFL now has because 31 other teams may realize the same thing.
        If the Browns won the Super Bowl and were found after the fact to have cheated and were told their best player is suspended for 4 games, they lose a 1st, and Jimmy has to pay a million dollars…what percentage of Browns fans laugh while wearing their championship gear? I say all of them.
        At the end of the day I am not excusing the Patriots I just think they look at the general incompetence of the NFL and the other 31 teams and realize that it’s all worth it…and if you step back and look at the penalty I’d have to agree with them.

        • you know that speech in any given sunday? here’s belichick’s version:

          life’s a game inches, so is football. .. THE INCHES WE NEED ARE EVERYWHERE AROUND US. .. on this team we FIGHT CLAW CHEAT for that inch. .. because we know that when we add up all those inches that’s gonna make the difference between winning and losing — BETWEEN LIVING AND DYING!!!!

          every snap in that first half was an inch that the pats stole. 73. inch by inch.

      • Sam Gold

        This!. A thousand times THIS.

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