Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Case Against Tom Brady (Or, Why the ideal Gas Law is a Crock)

The Case Against Tom Brady
Or, Why The Ideal Gas Law is a Crock 
Mike Bara


Since January of 2015, shortly before Super Bowl 49, football fans have been dealing with something called “Deflategate,” the accusation that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady knew of and/or directed a scheme to deflate footballs used by the Patriots in NFL football games. Specifically, the game in question was the 2015 AFC Championship Game played in New England’s Gillette Stadium in January, 2015. After an investigation (The “Wells Report”) determined that it was “more probable than not” that Brady was “at least generally aware” of a scheme by his equipment managers to deflate footballs below the 12.5 PSI minimum allowed by NFL rules, Brady was suspended without pay for the first 4 games of the 2015 NFL season. The Patriots were also fined $1 million dollars and docked two draft picks, including a highly valuable 1st round pick which would have been the 29th overall selection in the 2016 NFL draft. During the course of the investigation, it was revealed that a Patriots equipment assistant, Jim McNally, in an unprecedented break with protocol, was videotaped taking the bag of Patriots footballs, which had already been filled by NFL officials, into a locked bathroom in Gillette Stadium for over 90 seconds, which was plenty of time to have stuck a needle in all 12 of them.

After a private meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Patriots owner Robert Kraft announced that he would not oppose the penalties imposed by the commissioner. Brady’s appeal to the commissioner, Roger Goodell, was subsequently denied. The union, the NFL Players Association, then went to federal court where a judge with well-known union ties, Richard Berman, overturned the suspension on several legal technicalities. Among these was that Brady should have been specifically informed that illegally tampering with the equipment used in NFL football games was regarded as “cheating.” Berman’s decision was widely criticized by legal scholars as biased and legally baseless, and in late April, 2016 it was overturned on appeal by a 3-judge panel which agreed with the NFL that it had no legal basis in fact. That decision was upheld on appeal on July 12th, 2016. Brady subsequently dropped his appeal and served his 4-game suspension in weeks 1-4 of the 2016 NFL season.

Neither of the court cases dealt with the evidence that Brady had knowingly engaged in a conspiracy to deflate the footballs, only with whether he had received a “fair hearing” from the commissioner.

Shortly after the story broke on the Sunday night after the 2015 AFCCG, Brady held a press conference commonly known as the “Pinocchio briefing” in which he seemed nervous and agitated but denied any wrongdoing in vague, leagal-esque terms. Asked directly if he was a cheater, Brady replied meekly, “I don’t believe so.” That is legalese for “yeah I did it but I don’t think you can catch me.”

After the press conference, ESPN’s Mark Brunnell, a former Pro Bowl quarterback, said flatly “I did not believe him.” Hall of Fame quarterbacks Troy Aikman and Dan Marino also stated they did not find his denials credible, pointing out that NFL quarterbacks always know everything about their equipment, especially game balls, and can easily tell the difference in a ball deflated by even 1 PSI below the spec. ESPN Hall of Fame commentator Cris Carter and Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe concurred.


In order to understand the implications of a football icon like Tom Brady being accused of such an act, it is necessary to consider just what the impact of his actions were on the game itself. Brady engaging in a conspiracy to deflate footballs is at least on a par with Lance Armstrong’s blood doping and steroid use in the sport of endurance cycling. Deflated footballs create a significant competitive advantage for the team using them. This is especially true in cold weather games where Brady has excelled since the deflation scheme was implemented, which I argue was the 2007 season. Deflated footballs are easier to grip, throw and catch and much easier to hold on to, drastically reducing the risk of fumbling. Those that argue that even if Brady was part of the conspiracy, it was “no big deal” are simply wrong. It is a major advantage and almost certainly affected the outcome of many close games the Patriots played in the 8-year "Deflation Era." It is no different than if the first down chains used when the Patriots had the ball were only 9 yards long instead of 10. It adds up to a huge if not decisive edge over the course of a game, season and career.

It should also be noted, for the record, that the Patriots have a long history in the Bellichick/Kraft/Brady era of cheating. They were also fined and docked a 1st-round pick in 2008 for the Spygate scandal, and Belichick was officially fined $500,000 — the largest fine ever imposed on a coach in the league's then-87-year history, and the maximum permitted under league rules. The Patriots were also fined $250,000. The Patriots were also reported to have secretly spied on the St. Louis Rams final walk through practice before Super Bowl XXXVI (36), and Rams QB and 2-time NFL MVP Kurt Warner has stated repeatedly that he believes the accusations to be true. So a deflation scheme such as the one alleged by the NFL would not at all be out of character for the Patriots.

In addition, proof that Brady tampered with equipment could create a legal nightmare for a host of reasons, the least of which is that bettors who lost money on games in which deflated footballs were used could potentially sue casinos, teams or the NFL itself over their losses. So to pretend that it’s no big deal is silly. If it’s no big deal, why didn't Brady just accept his suspension from the beginning, continue his denials and move on?

Opening Statement

I will show in this essay that Tom Brady had the motive, means and opportunity to hatch the scheme he is accused of by the NFL. The evidence that he knew about and probably initiated a conspiracy to deflate footballs below the NFL spec of 12.5 PSI at least reaches the civil standard of “a preponderance of the evidence.” In fact, I also believe it goes well beyond the criminal standard of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” Patriots’ fans of course have already proven that they have a different standard of “reasonable” than most human beings. I am not writing this to convince them. This essay is aimed at the unbiased reader, who I am confident will come to the same conclusions that I did from the beginning: Brady’s a cheater.

I will also not shy away from the so-called “science” arguments that the footballs simply deflated “naturally.” The longest (and first) section in this essay will deal with the application (or in this case, misapplication) of the so-called “Ideal Gas Law,” which I will show simply cannot account for the condition of the Patriots footballs that day.  I ask the reader to stay with me through that section, which will necessarily get a bit technical.

Finally, I will show that not only were the footballs for 2015 AFCCG tampered with, this scheme was most likely in use for more than 8 years, and may in fact have indirectly contributed to the Patriots 2011 Super Bowl XLVI loss to the New York Giants.

So with that, let’s begin…

The Evidence

The case against Tom Brady will deal with 6 key points which indicate his guilt. These 6 lines of evidence are:

1.       Brady was known to prefer deflated footballs

2.       Brady led the charge to let QBs “prep” their own game balls

3.       Brady’s performance drastically improved after getting access to the game balls

4.       Brady’s fumbles reduced drastically from his first 5 years in the NFL to the last 8 (after deflation)

5.       Tests show the “Ideal Gas Law” is not a factor in measurements.

6.       Brady destroyed evidence sought by NFL investigators.

Part 1 - The “Ideal Gas Law” Argument
(Note: This section includes excerpts from the “Deflategate” Wikipedia article)

Shortly after Brady was suspended by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Patriots coach Bill Bellicheck argued at a press conference that footballs could deflate naturally due to “physics.” He was obviously fed this information by the Patriots organization, as demonstrated by his fumbling answers when questioned about it. A few months later, Patriots owner Robert Kraft introduced something called the “Ideal Gas Law” during Brady’s appeal. In these court papers, economists under Kraft’s employ argued that the footballs used by the Patriots had deflated naturally due to temperature.

First, it’s important to understand exactly what the Ideal Gas “Law” is vs. what it is not. It is not a scientific "Law" of any kind, despite its name. According to Wikipedia, “The ideal gas law is the equation of state of a HYPOTHETICAL ideal gas. It is a good APPROXIMATION of the behavior of many gases under many conditions, although it has several LIMITATIONS.”

So far from being a scientific “Law,” as scientifically ignorant defenders of Brady like Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk have repeatedly claimed, it is merely a hypothetical approximation of how certain “ideal gasses” (which the air in a football is NOT) MIGHT behave under “ideal” laboratory conditions (which a football stadium is not). But the misapplication of it in this case has led some people (mostly Patriots fans) to conclude that the Patriots footballs somehow deflated all by themselves in a balmy 52 degree football stadium. Let’s look at exactly what the arguments, measurements and a little common sense show us.

The first thing to understand is exactly how the measurements were taken and what they showed. It is not certain what the exact pressure was of the footballs set by referee Walt Anderson prior to the game, but it is well known that Brady and the Patriots preferred the ball inflated to the lower end of the spec at 12.5 PSI, and this was always accommodated by the officials working Patriots football games. There is no known preference expressed by the Colts QB Andrew Luck on football PSI. Given these facts and the recollections of referee Anderson, it is safe to assume that ALL of the Patriots footballs were inflated to 12.5 PSI. The Colts footballs were logically inflated to somewhere between 12.5 and 13 PSI.

Two gauges were used in taking the halftime measurements requested by the Colts. One was a calibrated “non-logo” gauge, which was the one used to test the balls prior to the game, and the other was a second non-calibrated “logo gauge” which had the NFL logo on it. The Logo Gauge was found to consistently run at least 0.35 psi above the (accurately calibrated) non-Logo gauge, but both were determined to be extremely consistent and precise. In particular, the Logo gauge is inaccurate (it runs high) but is precise (it consistently runs high by the same amount every time), and therefore can be used as additional confirmation that the non-Logo measurement is correct (with the exception of Colts ball #3, below). Wells has stated that he believes that referees Blakeman and Prioleau used the Non-Logo and Logo gauges respectively in the Patriots halftime tests, and that the two of them switched gauges with each other for the Colts halftime test. It is also established that there was a transcription error on Colts ball #3 which led to a flip-flop of the logo gauge and non-logo gauge measurements, which I have corrected in this table.

Patriots ballBlakemanPrioleau
Colts ballBlakemanPrioleau
Because the logo gauge runs consistently high and was not calibrated, we will deal only with the calibrated non-logo gauge results for our analysis, although I have included both as a reference.

There are multiple lines of reasoning which show that the Patriots footballs were deflated by intentional human intervention, and not because of the so-called “Ideal Gas Law.”

First, if the so-called “Ideal Gas Law” could account for the deflation of the Patriots footballs, then that would be reflected in the comparison with the Colts footballs, i.e. both sets of balls would have deflated by roughly the same amount. 

However, when we check the Colts footballs, they measure 12.325 PSI on average. That is only 0.175 below the minimum spec set by the NFL of 12.5 PSI. In other words, less than one-quarter PSI below the spec. By contrast, ALL 11 of the Patriots footballs measured well below 12 PSI on the same gauge within minutes or seconds of the Colts balls being measured. The Patriots footballs average only 11.1 PSI, more than 1.4 PSI below the minimum spec, and 1.225 PSI below the Colts footballs, which were measured under identical conditions. Another way to look at it is that the Colts footballs were below spec by 1.4%, while the Patriots footballs were somehow deflated by 11.2%

Let me repeat that: The Patriots footballs were deflated below spec by an average of 11.2 percent.

If we assume that all of the Colts footballs were actually inflated to 13 PSI (which the referees have indicated is to the best of their recollection), then we get an average deflation of .675 PSI, a little over one-half PSI, but still far below the Patriots average of 1.4 PSI (11.2%). Even in this best case scenario for Brady and the Patriots, the Colts footballs deflated by only 5.19%, as compared to the Patriots deflation of 11.2%. In order for the Colts footballs to have deflated "naturally" by the same amount as the Patriots, NFL officials would have had to OVERINFLATE them by 0.38 PSI over the NFL maximum of 13.5 PSI. We can safely assume they did no such thing.

All we know for certain is that the Colts balls would have been somewhere between 12.5 and 13 PSI. So the 0.675 PSI number is a best case scenario for Ideal Gas Law deflation. It could be as small as 0.175 PSI.

It should also be noted that the 1.4% deflation below spec that the Colts footballs measured to could be due completely to margin of error in the measurements or the fact that the balls were wet, which can effect inflation to a minute degree...

Like around 1.4 %.

To put it another way, the Colts footballs deflated by far less than the Patriots footballs. This single established fact is de-facto PROOF that the Ideal Gas "Law" cannot account for the deflation levels of the Patriots footballs.

The argument has been made by Patriots fans that under the IGL, the balls would have rapidly re-inflated in the warmth of the locker room. They make the assertion that because the Colts footballs were tested last, they were re-inflated more than the Patriots footballs. This is however easily falsified by simply examining the chart above, which shows the actual halftime measurements. Note that the last 3 Patriots footballs tested are all well below 11 PSI, and in fact ball #10, at 10.5 PSI, is the lowest pressure measurement recorded by either gauge. Since these measurements were done only perhaps a minute or even seconds before the Colts balls were measured, this effectively falsifies the assertion that locker room temperature affected the Patriots measurements more than the Colts.

Another way to look at it is illustrated in this helpful chart. Only 1 Patriots football even came close to the 12.5 PSI minimum.

Chart showing Patriots football inflation levels as measured at halftime of the 2014 AFC Championship Game. Red dots indicate the LOGO gauge, blue dots the non-logo gauge.

Another factor which discounts the so-called “Ideal Gas Law” theory is the question of variability. It is well established that all of the Patriots footballs were inflated to 12.5 PSI before the game. If the IGL was actually a factor, it would not only apply equally to both the Colts and Patriots footballs (it does not, see above) but it would also, within a very narrow band, apply equally to all of the Patriots footballs.

Patriots ballBlakemanPrioleau

To give one example, it is hard for a temperature-based theory to explain why Patriots ball #2 tested fully 0.6 psi lower than Patriots ball #1 when both ball #1 and #2 started before the game at the same PSI. If temperature is the major factor, the Patriots PSI should stay roughly the same, or gradually increase, as subsequent balls are tested; instead, the PSI of the footballs changed substantially from one ball to the next. In fact, the difference between the least and most deflated Patriots footballs was 1.35 PSI, a variation of almost 12% between the 2 footballs. This variation by itself is enough to completely discredit the “Ideal Gas Law” theory.

It should also be noted that if the deflation were actually caused by needles being stuck into the balls, this sort of variation is exactly what one would expect to see.

But of course, there’s more.

Of the 11 Patriots footballs tested on the calibrated non-logo gauge, ALL 11 measurements were below spec by at least 0.65 PSI, well beyond the margin of error for the calibrated gauge. In fact, NONE of the Patriots footballs were even over 12 PSI much less the 12.5 PSI minimum standard on the calibrated “non-logo” gauge. And, ONLY ONE was above 12 PSI on the non-calibrated “logo-gauge.” This gives an average of 11.1 PSI for the 11 footballs tested, and an average of 1.4 PSI below the minimum spec of 12.5 PSI for the 11 footballs tested. As we have already established, the maximum deflation under the so-called “Ideal Gas Law” is 0.675 PSI, as demonstrated by the Colts footballs, which we can be certain were not tampered with. Even in the “best case” IGL scenario, there is 0.725 PSI deflation in the Patriots footballs which cannot be accounted for. Another way to look at it is that fully half of the deflation of the Patriots footballs simply cannot be accounted for by natural means.

Given all this, we can safely reach the following conclusions:

1.      The so-called “Ideal Gas Law” cannot account for the deflation of the Patriots footballs, even under the most generous scenario.

2.      The remaining deflation MUST have been caused by human intervention, i.e. an equipment guy nicknamed “The Deflator” taking the balls into a locked room and sticking needles in them.

I wish to say here flatly that I do not believe temperature or the so-called “Ideal Gas Law” accounts for ANY of the deflation of the Patriots footballs. After the balls were re-inflated at half time, none of them lost any pressure at all. This, along with the other lines of evidence cited above, falsifies the Ideal Gas Law scenario.

Brady's Known Preference For Deflated Footballs
Tom Brady

It has been firmly established that Tom Brady preferred low inflation on the footballs he used. When questioned at his appeal hearing, Brady evaded direct questioning on his preference for low inflation of footballs at least 12 times. He repeatedly stated that he had never concerned himself with football inflation.

“Ball pressure has been so inconsequential, I hadn’t even thought about that.”
"It (ball pressure) was something that never crossed my mind."
"I never have thought about the ball, the air pressure in a football.”

In fact, these are all lies. Brady admitted in 2011 that he liked his footballs to be as deflated as possible.

Brady told WEEI-AM on Nov. 14, 2011, via, "When Gronk scores -- it was like his eighth touchdown of the year -- he spikes the ball and he deflates the ball. I love that, because I like the deflated ball." The ESPN Boston radio station has subsequently attempted to delete the recording of the interview, which was once linked here.

Despite the Boston radio station's attempt to scrub the interview from the internet, it is clear that Brady had a preference for deflated footballs, and his evasive answers under questioning by the NFL are an attempt to hide that fact. This falls in the category of MOTIVE.

Brady led the charge to let QBs “prep” their own Game Balls

In 2006 Brady (and to a lesser extent Payton Manning) lobbied the NFL for a rules change which would allow visiting teams to "prep" their own footballs prior to games. Brady was quoted in the Palm Beach Sun-Sentinel at the time as saying “The thing is, every quarterback likes it a little bit different. Some like them blown up a little bit more, some like them a little more thin, some like them a little more new, some like them really broken in.

Brady was successful in his lobbying efforts and gained access to the Patriots game balls for the 2007 season. Previously the home team had control of the footballs used in all NFL games.

Looking at Brady's stat lines, it's easy to see why he lobbied so hard for this change. Prior to the 2007 season, Brady was actually a fairly mediocre (to use Richard Sherman's favorite word) quarterback. In his first six NFL seasons, Brady made the Pro Bowl 3 times (but never first team All-Pro), threw 147 touchdown passes and was on 3 Super Bowl winning teams. He was Super Bowl MVP in the 2001 and 2003 seasons. However, he was never league MVP during any of these seasons and had a passer rating of just 74.2. As a comparison, Trent Dilfer has a career passer rating of 70.2. Brady also had 121 turnovers in his 1st six NFL seasons, 43 fumbles and 78 interceptions. In fact, he never had less than 12 interceptions in any full season as a starter. 

After the 2007 season (excluding 2008 when he only played part of one game because of a knee injury), when Brady had obtained access to the footballs so he could "prep" (i.e. deflate) them, his numbers exploded. In 2007 alone, he threw 50 touchdown passes, 22 more than his previous career high of 28. In the next 8 seasons before being caught in the ongoing deflation scheme, Brady threw for more than 30 TDs five times. His completion percentage from 2001-2006  is 61.9%, with a then career best of 63.9% in 2001. After gaining access to the footballs in 2007, his completion percentage jumps to 64.81%, with a career high of 68.9% in 2007, a full five percentage points above his high-water mark established in the pre-deflation era. 

In the seven full seasons in 2007-2014 Deflation Era , Brady threw for 245 touchdowns. Compare this once again to the mere 147 he threw in his first six full seasons from 2001-2006. 

Brady's turnovers also dramatically dropped in the 2007-2014 Deflation Era. After accounting for 121 turnovers in the 6-year pre-deflation era, he had only 91 in the 7-year Deflation Era, 65 interceptions and only 26 fumbles. 

Brady's overall passer rating also jumped in the Deflation Era. After a Dilfer-like 70.4 passer rating from 2001-2006, Brady soared to a Hall of Fame level of 101.91 over the next 8 years. 

So after the 2007 rules change to allow Brady access to the footballs before games, his touchdowns, completion percentage and passer rating all skyrocketed, while his turnovers plummeted. It isn't difficult to figure out why. Deflating the footballs allowed Brady to grip the ball better, throw it more accurately and hang on to it better when taking a hit. It seems indisputable that his ascent from mediocrity to Hall of Famer was at least partially, if not primarily, fueled by illegally altering footballs.

In short, after deflation, he was the GOAT (Greatest of All Time). Before deflation, he was Trent Dilfer.

Next, the fumbles...