Why Didn’t the NFL Stop DeflateGate Before It Started?


After reviewing the Wells Report in its entirety, the biggest question I would raise to the NFL is to why the league didn’t prevent the events of “DeflateGate” from happening in the first place?

From the recently released report, we know that on January 17, 2015 (or the day before the AFC Championship Game), Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson notified two senior members of the NFL Football Operations Department that he was concerned that the New England Patriots were illegally altering footballs before gameplay. Included in his e-mail, Grigson noted his desires to have a fair competition:

"“…all the Indianapolis Colts want is a completely level playing field,” wrote Grigson. “Thank you for being vigilant stewards of that not only for us but for the shield and overall integrity of our game.”"

In his e-mail, Grigson also included a message from Sean Sullivan, the Colts equipment manager, that provided reasoning for the team’s initial concerns:

"“As far as the gameballs are concerned it is well known around the league that after the Patriots gameballs are checked by the officials and brought out for game usage the ballboys for the patriots will let out some air with a ball needle because their quarterback likes a smaller football so he can grip it better, it would be great if someone would be able to check the air in the game balls as the game goes on so that they don’t get an illegal advantage,” wrote Sullivan which Grigson included in his preliminary e-mail."

So if the league was tipped-off prior to the beginning of the AFC Championship, why weren’t any additional security precautions or preventive measures taken? 

Head official Walt Anderson individually inspected the footballs to ensure that each football met proper game regulation as part of his normal routine, but that wasn’t enough in hindsight. Some time between Anderson’s initial inspection and kickoff, Patriots locker room attendant Jim McNally took the footballs without permission from the officials locker room and snuck them into a nearby bathroom seemingly for illegal deflation.

Jan 18, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) throws a pass during the third quarter against the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

In fact, it wasn’t even until a second quarter D’Qwell Jackson interception, when the Colts sideline staff discovered that the intercepted football appeared noticeably lighter, that the league decided to take investigative action. Once alerted by Colts officials, it was then that the league decided to look into the matter further at halftime by weighing the New England Patriots footballs.

It seems that instead of taking reactionary measures, the NFL could’ve taken better preventive measures to ensure that the Patriots used footballs were within regulation and were not to be tampered with before kickoff. I don’t want to go as far as to say that the NFL blew off the Colts initial concerns, but perhaps, the league didn’t take them as seriously as they necessarily should’ve.

As a result, the DeflateGate controversy was able to gain nationwide media attention and perhaps even overshadowed some of this year’s Super Bowl game, the NFL’s marquee event of the year. It’s really puzzling to say the least, when it seems like this firestorm could’ve been avoided entirely had the NFL just originally heeded the Colts initial warning.

Jan 18, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; Indianapolis Colts inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson (52) runs the ball after an interception during the second quarter against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

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