Sunday, January 25, 2015

To quote Jim Mandich "When I put it to my nose, it doesn't smell so rosy."

Something is amiss.

Certainly, the "ballghazi" storyline is interesting. And fun. I loved, loved, loved watching Bellicheat and Brady hold their press conferences. They squirmed. They looked uncomfortable. And they were just unlovable idiots about it all.

SNL did a nice job of summing it up in this 'cold open' last night:


We probably shouldn't find it surprising that the NFL has delayed any sort of judgement, ruling, or other comment until after the Super Bowl. After all, that's an enormous money maker, and whether the Pats are guilty of something or not, they can't detract from it and simply can not penalize one of the teams prior to the game, because that would impact the betting line...

So we are where we are. And where is that, exactly? Well, lets take a trip back in time...Bill Bellichick is a young coach who hadn't had much success in his previous stint as a head coach, and he's looking for an edge. So he studies the rules, and recruits smart players who he urges to play to those rules - learn them, and always play right to them and to never stop until the refs tell you to.

The team gets better, and gains credibility. But he's looking for more edges. New schemes are employed. Things are looking up and he gains respect as an innovator. And then, there's the addition of the communications devices between the sidelines and the QB. That's an innovation that maybe could be exploited.

I have no idea what he did, exactly, but here's the working theory that's accumulated from various sources: Bill tapped into the opponents frequency, in order to hear their playcalls, so he'd know what was coming. Video taping the signals helped make the job of reacting to it easier....and then (again assuming this is true) he not only used the NFLs frequency for his team (which turns on and off so the QB can't be reached once the clock ticks down to 20 seconds), he also used another frequency to communicate - one which didn't shut off, and which the NFL was unaware of.

The evidence about any of this is sketchy at best. But you can't deny that the NFL added the green stickers to helmets just after "spygate" and hired some people to work in stadia and monitor frequencies. Coincidence?

The rest of the conspiracy theory goes on from there - that the evidence that Goodell destroyed was about the misuse of communications devices, which (if it was true) possibly could have been a violation of federal law; that sort of evidence would have been bad for the NFL. Taking the heat for destroying tapes of opponents signals seems innocent enough. But...what if it was more?

In any case, the Patriots were fined, had to forfeit some draft picks, and we're told they agreed to stop doing whatever it was they were doing. But on the 5th anniversary, there was a book published that maybe they didn't...http://nypost.com/2012/10/21/book-stats-say-patriots-antics-havent-stopped-after-spygate/. Did they stop? Who knows, but the talk died down a bit.

But while the Patriots didn't make it back to the Superbowl after that, they stayed good. Strictly from a statistical standpoint, what they have done is...nearly impossible. Sure maybe Brady gives you an edge, but to keep winning at this rate, and have multiple 8-0 records at home? Something doesn't add up. You can read a lot more about the math behind it here, but clearly, something is up...http://www.sharpfootballanalysis.com/blog/2015/the-patriots-and-tom-brady-suspiciously-out-perform-expectations-in-wet-weather. And don't miss the fact that the bets are always managed to make the betting lines work out. Odd, indeed.

And that brings us back to this week and the deflated balls (#shrinkage!). What the media is focused on may not be the whole story. Yes, 11/12 balls from the first half were suspect. And we hear the ones in the second half weren't. But, there's a little detail that gets left out, and that's that the ball boy was late getting the first ball of the second half to the refs. It seemed odd at the time, now more so. Was there some funny business going on?

And there were reports of other teams complaining that they thought some of the balls in their games (at various points in the season) felt "soft"...and there was a report I caught about how Bill controls the sidelines behind his bench, as though its a top secret government installation. No one can go back there, and there are people blocking views from various angles.

And then, the larger miss is not about Brady having an easier time completing passes, but rather the security of the football. Here's a really interesting story about how the Patriots. Never. Fumble. Its not possible for them to make this happen based on smarter players, better hands, or better techniques. It points to something else, like maybe .... deflated and easier to hold footballs. http://www.slate.com/articles/sports/sports_nut/2015/01/ballghazi_the_new_england_patriots_lose_an_insanely_low_number_of_fumbles.html#comments

So it seems rather likely the NFLs delay in responding may point to a more sweeping sort of penalty after this game. And as for this game, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a few new things in place that will be mostly imperceptible to the viewing audience: the NFL always controlling the balls for both teams, there being no areas off-limits, many extra eyes watching for funny business on multiple levels, and more control when it comes to tactics (i.e., don't let them gain an advantage by subbing eligible/ineligible players, and that sort of thing).
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2 comments

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Great post Dave. We laugh because its funny and we laugh because its true.

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What I found funny was that on one hand Belichick plays dumb and states that he knows absolutely nothing about science or football air pressure, then goes on a Ph.D.-worthy dissertation about how air pressure, temperature, and atmospheric conditions effect footballs for about 10 minutes.