Kravitz: Pats, NFL need to come down hard on Belichick for DeflateGate

Bill Belichick (file photo)
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Bob Kravitz
If the NFL deems that the Patriots doctored the footballs to the team's advantage in Sunday's game, one of two things must happen:

  • If Patriots owner Robert Kraft has an ounce of integrity, he will fire Bill Belichick immediately for toying with the integrity of the game for the second time in his otherwise magnificent career — the first issue being the SpyGate fiasco that earned Belichick and the team fines and a forfeited first-round draft choice.

  • If Roger Goodell has an ounce of integrity, and he's not spending all his time going to pre-game soirees at Kraft's mansion, he will not only fine Belichick and take away draft choices, but suspend the head coach for the upcoming Super Bowl.
Does this sound excessive?

It probably does if you're a New England fan. But this goes beyond New England and Indianapolis and impacts the essential fairness of every game being played on an NFL field.

This goes to a team using greasy tactics to ensure they have a competitive advantage that goes far beyond the fact they have home-field advantage.

It is very hard for me to believe — no, it's impossible for me to believe — that this was one large, cosmic accident. A deflated football, and we're talking about two pounds worth of deflation, gives the team using it a distinct advantage when it comes to throwing and catching, especially during a rainstorm. It's very hard for me to believe that some rogue ball boy, acting on his or her own, unilaterally decided to use a pressure gauge to independently take some of the air out of the ball.

There's only one way this could happen, and that's with Belichick's full knowledge and approval.

Go ahead and chalk it all up as sour grapes on the part of the Colts, who would have lost badly had they used a beach ball, a hockey puck or a badminton shuttlecock. But, the Colts noticed something odd about the football when D'Qwell Jackson intercepted Tom Brady. Jackson himself told me he didn't notice anything strange, but, then, the Colts want to distance themselves from this thing as much as they can. All I know is that at that point in the game, General Manager Ryan Grigson walked over to the Colts public relations spot and took a phone call, and seemed quite perturbed. This was very unusual for a general manager who spends his time quietly watching the game from the press box.

Was this investigation inspired by the Colts? I have no doubt that it was.

But that misses the point. The point is, they caught the Patriots cheating red-handed. It's not an accident when 11 of 12 footballs are grievously under-inflated. It's not a weather issue — it was around 50 degrees at game time. It's not that Rob Gronkowski spiked the ball so hard in the end zone, it suddenly deflated. It's none of that.

This was cheating — pure and simple.

And either Kraft or Goodell have to do something very dramatic to make it clear that this kind of nonsense will not be tolerated.

If it was anybody but Belichick, if it was a coach who has no history of attempting to circumvent the rules, it would be worth a fine and maybe a draft choice. But we're talking here about a repeat offender. SpyGate was not the figment of the media's or Eric Mangini's imagination. It was real, and it was wrong, and it cost the Patriots $250,000 and a first-round draft choice, and cost Belichick himself $500,000.

And here, too, is the shame of it: Belichick doesn't need to cheat. His team is that much better than anyone else, save the Seattle Seahawks. We'll find out more about that next Sunday. He doesn't need to resort to these kinds of despicable and underhanded tactics.

Let's be honest about this: If the balls were properly inflated this past Sunday, the Patriots would have won…um…45-7. The footballs had little or nothing to do with the outcome. The Pats simply ran over the Colts. They out-coached them and out-played them. Badly.

I go back to a conversation that Kraft and Belichick reportedly had after SpyGate, as shared in Kraft's book.

Kraft asked Belichick, in essence, on a scale of 1 to 100, how much competitive advantage was gained by taping opposing teams.

Belichick said it was about a one.

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“Then you're a schmuck,'' Kraft reportedly said.

I'd use another word, but this is a family website.

This was the same subterfuge Lane Kiffin engaged in when he was at USC. Balls were deflated. So, of course, there was a small fine and the ball boy took the fall and was fired.

According to a report from ESPN's Chris Mortensen, the league is “disappointed…angry…distraught.'' Now the investigation will move toward determining how the 11 footballs became deflated.

Winning without honor, without integrity, is not winning. (Unless you're a myopic Patriots fan).

It was instructive to spend early-morning Wednesday on a couple of Boston radio shows. They wanted to know if Aaron Rodgers should be penalized for admittedly over-inflating footballs. (Not if they're within the prescribed PSI). One wanted to know if Pete Carroll should be fired because so many Seahawks have been popped for using performance-enhancing drugs. One moron even rolled out the Nixonian “well everybody cheats'' argument, which inspired blind laughter on my part. All deflections from the issue at hand. Still, it is utterly amazing (but not really) how far some media will go to defend their city's team, especially when it wins Super Bowls.

Kraft needs to do the right thing. Goodell needs to do the right thing. Belichick should not be coaching in the Super Bowl, or worse.

Related stories:
DeflateGate: ESPN reports Patriots footballs under-inflated
Kravitz: Source says NFL investigating if Patriots deflated footballs in DeflateGate scandal
Kravitz: And the DeflateGate investigation, saga continue...
Colts fans react to DeflateGate investigation
D'Qwell Jackson interception prompted Colts' concern about deflated footballs
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