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Search for “new information” about #DeflateGate should include NFL’s next 333 games

Yes, the Patriots opted not to appeal the punishment levied against them by the NFL for the team’s role in #DeflateGate, even though the scientific evidence remains sketchy and unpersuasive. With Commissioner Roger Goodell openly committed to reviewing “new information” regarding the situation, an appeal from the team shouldn’t be needed to trigger further review on one very specific, critical aspect of the case.

From the beginning of pro football through January 18, 2015, the NFL tested precisely 15 total footballs at halftime of a game to determine the internal air pressure of the balls. Ignoring both the science and the fact that the NFL never had treated internal air pressure like a science, the league officials who were involved in testing the 15 footballs at halftime of the AFC title game apparently concluded that, because the readings were below 12.5 PSI, tampering must have occurred.

The Ideal Gas Law provides an alternative explanation for the drop, forcing Ted Wells and hired-gun Exponent to strain statistics and science to cobble together a words-and-numbers salad aimed at supporting what many believe was an express or implied directive to find the Patriots guilty of tampering with the footballs used in that game.

Regardless of whether the Wells report is or isn’t accurate on the scientific analysis, shouldn’t the NFL be curious about whether and to what extent the operation of the air pressure inside the Patriots footballs compares not to the four Colts footballs that sat in the locker room with their internal pressure changing as the 11 New England balls were tested twice and reinflated but to the footballs that will be used in every 2015 NFL game.

With 65 preseason games, 256 regular-season games, 11 postseason games, and the Pro Bowl, that’s 333 total NFL games to be played between now and the time the Patriots lose their first of two draft picks. With 22 balls provided by the teams for use on offense in each game, that’s 7,326 total data points that can be harvested by the NFL to compare pregame inflation to halftime inflation and postgame inflation, based on all ambient conditions and any other relevant factors.

To that end, league employees at every game should have the responsibility of: (1) logging all air pressure before kickoff; (2) testing all footballs at halftime; and (3) testing all footballs promptly after the end of the game. From ambient temperature to precipitation to normal use (especially of footballs used in domed stadiums), those 7,326 measurements give the NFL much more evidence for deciding whether or not the scientific evidence suggests that tampering actually occurred on January 18, 2015.

With the draft-pick penalties delayed until 2016 (first-rounder) and 2017 (fourth-rounder), there’s no reason not to gather the data and hire truly independent experts to analyze the numbers, trends, expansion, contraction, etc. in comparison to the Patriots footballs. If Goodell is committed to “new information,” that information would definitely be new -- and it would be far more comprehensive than the limited glimpse the NFL got from four Colts footballs that were readapting to the warmer temperature of the locker room while the 11 Patriots footballs were tested twice and reinflated.

Sure, none of this explains the text messages exchanged by John Jastremski and Jim McNally. But those text messages don’t show that tampering actually happened on January 18.

Besides, if McNally were indeed taking air out of the Patriots footballs, wouldn’t the raw numbers measured at halftime have more obviously reflected that? They didn’t, forcing Wells to explain that the smoking gun came from the relative decline in pressure between the 11 Patriots balls and the four Colts balls, ignoring the fact that the balls used by the Colts had time to adjust to the warmer temperature of the locker room before being hastily tested as the second half of the game was close to kicking off.

More importantly, if Jastremski and McNally were indeed participating in a scheme of deflating footballs, should Wells and his high-priced team of lawyers been able to extract a confession from one of them? The fact that they didn’t suggests either that Wells and company aren’t as good as advertised or that there was no confession to extract.

Either way, the science cries out for more data, and the NFL has an easy way to expand the pieces of evidence from four to 7,330 before making any final conclusions about whether the air pressures measured at halftime suggest tampering. With the issue having a degree of importance fueled by the manner in which the NFL has handled it, the NFL arguably has an obligation to the integrity of the game to conduct that study.