Will NFL's Deflategate coverage be counterproductive?


Will NFL's Deflategate coverage be counterproductive?

Ted Wells was insistent on Tuesday that the NFL didn’t want any of this. An investigation, a suspension, draft pick penalties.

Maybe he’s right. After all, he said he examined the Patriots’ cries of league bias with a “sharp eye.”

But it’s apparent the league’s broadcasting and digital arms have decided to make the best of it. Once the NFL released its punishment of the Patriots on Monday, the NFL Network and went all DeflateGate, all the time.

Through Monday night and all day Tuesday, the NFL Network featured wall-to-wall coverage of the punishment and fallout for the Patriots.

Wells’ conference call Tuesday afternoon was the content refill that kept the machine churning into Wednesday. It’s not going to let up anytime soon.

We aren’t suggesting the NFL shouldn’t cover Deflategate. Neither are we saying its coverage has shied from guests who claimed the punishment was too severe.

But the sometimes giddy tone of the coverage doesn’t match the grave moralizing of Troy Vincent in his announcing the discipline. Or any of Roger Goodell’s pursed-lip appearances peppered with words like “integrity” and “duty.”

It’s like laughing at a funeral.

Big deal, right? Nobody’s going to be offended but the Patriots and people in New England, and if the Patriots didn’t want an investigation and everything that came with it, maybe they shouldn’t have monkeyed with the footballs or been more forthright from the start. The Patriots are part of a league and that league created a news appendage that weighs in on the news the league creates. Robert Kraft knows that better than anyone.

All true.

But when Tom Brady’s attorneys are asked to make their case the league was biased, they can point to the tone of the coverage. Or the convenient timing of the report’s initial release – right after the NFL Draft concluded. By the time Wells’ report was made public the analysis and introductions of all the incoming players was complete and Wells report – which somehow took 103 days to finish – magically dropped into the void.

The aim wouldn’t be proving the NFL set a trap to help its web and TV ratings. The aim would be showing that, once the investigation began, an ancillary benefit existed for the league that was unique to this team and unique to this player. The NFL Network and capitalized on that with their coverage.

The NFL may not have wanted this, as Wells said. But their media platforms have surely come to embrace it. And, ultimately, it gave the league office – and Roger Goodell – a chance to dispel the notion he was in the bag for Kraft and hopelessly over his head in managing anything but money.

You guys ever heard of the movie, “Wag the Dog”? If you got this far, check out this link. The movie had an interesting plot.


Brady insists he was throwing it away on back-breaking pick: 'Shouldn't happen'

Brady insists he was throwing it away on back-breaking pick: 'Shouldn't happen'

PITTSBURGH -- You could rattle off Tom Brady mistakes Sunday as if they were freak reindeer.

There was a near-pick on first down and another on a screen. There were overthrows late, and a fadeaway prayer in the face of pressure he thought he'd seen.

And you'll recall the fourth-quarter pick, a heave off his back foot that looked like a desperation shot to Julian Edelman or Rob Gronkowski.

"I was just trying to flick it out of bounds," Brady said. "I didn't want to take the sack. Shouldn't happen."

Brady, whose play in clutch-and-late situations has so often bailed out the Patriots, did not have all the answers in his team's 17-10 loss to the Steelers. He finished 25-for-36 for 279 yards, a touchdown and a back-breaking interception with 7:43 remaining in the game and the Patriots down, 14-10.


It was the second straight week in which a Brady decision wiped points off the board.

Last weekend against the Dolphins a missed touchdown to Chris Hogan was followed up by a sack taken on third down with no timeouts. This time, though pressured by two Steelers, it was his choice to try to throw it away in Edelman's general vicinity. Joe Haden was there in coverage to make the easy interception. 

"They made some plays," Brady said. "We certainly had some opportunity out there and I give them credit because they made important plays when they needed to. But our defense played great. Special teams played great. But we have to do better offensively. Tough loss."


Brady was clearly frustrated when he took the podium after the game and answered questions about Rob Gronkowski's lack of production (two catches for 21 yards on five targets), his team's road struggles, and its first five-loss season since 2009. 

He seemed miffed at the way the Patriots handled the crowd noise (four false-start penalties, including one on the final drive). "I mean, we work on it so much. I don't think that's surprising us." And he didn't really hold back when asked about the three holding penalties his offensive line incurred (including one by Shaq Mason on the final drive). "Obviously there's holding on every play in the NFL. That's what we do. We hold. It's just whether you get called or not . . . I haven't seen them. What do you guys think? Hard to tell? That's how I felt."

When Brady was asked to lead his offense on a game-winning drive, they stalled, stalled again, and ultimately failed. 

Likely hoping to avoid a game-ending pick in the game's final moments, Brady overthrew into the Steelers end zone twice, not giving Gronkowski or anyone else a chance to make a play. On the last play of the game, Brady drifted away from pressure when he didn't really need to -- much like he did on the miss to Hogan in Miami -- and his pass fell incomplete. 

"It's not any one thing," Brady said after. "It's a lot of things collectively."

Over the better part of the last two decades, it's been unusual to lump Brady into that collective mess when things go wrong. But there was no doubt on Sunday that his play was among the issues his team had offensively.

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Game Story: Patriots sloppy in loss to Steelers

Game Story: Patriots sloppy in loss to Steelers

Analysis and post-game sound from the Patriots 17-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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