Lutz Blog

Bob Lutz: As evidence mounts, let’s hope the Patriots didn’t cheat

Like the rest of America, I love a scandal. The juicier the better.

I’d like to write here that Deflate-gate is much ado about nothing. But what if 11 of 12 balls used by the New England Patriots in Sunday’s AFC championship blowout win over Indianapolis were under-inflated by at least two pounds per square inch, which has been reported citing NFL sources.

Perhaps this will turn out to be nothing. Perhaps there’s a legitimate reason – cold weather, a misinformed equipment man, magic – why those balls didn’t have an NFL-specified amount of air in them.

But, as this investigation unfolds, there are questions yet to be answered. The main one? If air was taken out of the balls after the game officials inspected them more than two hours before kickoff, who is the culprit?

If it had anything to do with the coaching staff of the Patriots – I’m looking at you, Bill Belichick – then we have a problem.

Remember Spygate in 2007? The Patriots were disciplined by the NFL for videotaping New York Jets' defensive coaches' signals during a September game from a sideline location,

It has haunted Belichick (who was fined $500,000) and the Pats for a long time, even though I don’t think it was a big deal and that most teams in the NFL do, or attempt to do, something similar.

As for deflating footballs, who knows? Is it a common practice around the league? One would think or at least hope it’s not.

Slightly-deflated footballs are, the experts say, easier to grasp and have a different way of traveling through the air. They’re probably also easier to catch, coming in less like rocks and more like pillows.

And if New England messed with the footballs, that’s something to be worried about.

But it’s one thing if it was some just-out-of-high-school equipment guy doing it. It’s another if it was ordered by the coaching staff. And it rises to a Class-A felony if Belichick was involved.

I’m a semi-Pats fan because of the great admiration I have for quarterback Tom Brady. And in a worse-case scenario, something like this damages the Brady legacy to some degree, even if he had no knowledge it was happening. Which is why if Belichick had anything to do with or knowledge of the deflating of the footballs, I’ll be surprised.

Belichick can’t be that stupid, right? A renowned football genius can’t be stupid, can he?

Brady, who laughed off this controversy in its early stages, is regarded as one of the greatest quarterbacks ever. Why would anyone think he needed an advantage?

Logic says cold weather could have been a factor in the balls being under-inflated. But, then, why was one of the 12 balls fine?

This is an intriguing story, especially for all the Patriots haters out there. If New England personnel purposely let air out of footballs in hopes of gaining an advantage, then the Patriots should be punished.

But how?

The NFL can’t order that the AFC title game be replayed. The score was 45-7, for crying out loud. The teams could have played with Nerf balls and it wouldn’t have made a 38-point difference.

There’s even a cynic inside me that thinks the NFL needed a story like this to pump up the Super Bowl because nothing much (sorry, Pro Bowl) is happening this week. And that in the end, it’ll turn out to be a non-story.

We need more information before we can make a determination of just what happened Sunday in New England. Perhaps there’s an innocent explanation for how the balls were a little lighter.

Let’s hope so. Let’s hope the Patriots weren’t cheating. If there’s a team that doesn’t need to cheat, it’s New England.