5. Aaron Rodgers
Grudge Factor: 2
Obviously, Rodgers has no direct involvement in any of the multiple assaults on the Patriots over the last couple of seasons. But he makes the list as a sort of unindicted co-conspirator of those who did. New England will not and should not ever forget that in the weeks prior to the Deflategate conspiracy being put into motion, the Patriots played at Green Bay. And in the middle of that game, Jim Nantz and Phil Simms had a big chucklefest between themselves about how Aaron Rodgers told them he likes his footballs inflated above the legal limit. How he’ll have them over-pumped and hope the officials don’t notice. It did not register even the slightest with America or Pats fans. Just another disposable anecdote in a season filled with them, used once and then thrown away.
Until Tom Brady got accused of preferring his footballs underinflated and it became a national scandal. Then it became obvious that Brady is considered Rodgers evil twin by the rest of the country. The Goofus to his Gallant. Brady’s supposed (and denied) tampering with the balls is an outrage; Rodgers’ admitted tampering is a funny story.
Funny thing about that, though. Since the crackdown on the care of footballs began, Rodgers has put together the worst stretch of quarterbacking of his career. In 2014, he won the league MVP, led the league with an interception percentage of only 1.0 and had a passer rating of 112.2 Last season his passer rating fell off a cliff to 92.7 and this year it’s down to 88.4. And his interception percentage has more than doubled to 2.2. Meanwhile, using the same, allegedly carefully calibrated balls as Mr. Discount Double Check, Brady has just put together arguably the best back-to-back games in the history of the quarterback position.
So who’s the one who needs to cheat to win?
Misery Index: 4
4. New York Jets
Grudge Factor: 4
Like Rodgers, the Jets were a non-combatant in the Deflategate war, but they no doubt gave care and comfort to the enemy. They’re on this for committing the most blatant act of tampering in memory. And they absolutely, positively skated.
The Jets tampered with Darrelle Revis. That is a fact not in dispute. They were found guilty and apologized. And for that, they were fined $100,000. Basically pocket change to their owner, the heir to a baby powder fortune. A league that typically settles these tampering disputes by giving the team that was done dirty a draft pick from the perpetrator, did nothing to help the Patriots after they lost the consensus best defensive back of his era.
So how are the Jets doing? They are 1-5. Monday night they lost to Arizona 28-3, produced 11 first downs total and replaced their quarterback. And Revis, to whom they’re on the hook for $39 million guaranteed, has been in and out of the lineup. And the even worse news is that they get the honor of being the only team in the regular season to face Tom Brady twice.
Misery Index: 5
Grudge Factor: 8
I don’t have to take too big a wind up describing the case against the World Wide Leader. I’ll just pitch from the stretch, shorten my delivery and say NFL’s Ministry of Truth has been point of the spear for the anti-Patriots movement.
And all that trading their integrity to make ESPN’s leash-holders in the NFL office happy has given them plummeting ratings thanks in part to epic programming like the Jets at Arizona. In the last five years, they’ve lost 11.3 million subscribers, including 4.1 million in the last year alone. That translates to $350 million in lost revenue. So I guess they can’t afford to change Chris Mortensen’s false report, which is still uncorrected on their website. Or hire someone to go find Kelly Naqi.
Misery Index: 10
2. Baltimore Ravens
Grudge Factor: 9
The Ravens were the J. Robert Oppenheimer of the Deflategate nuke. John Harbaugh was mortally offended that the Patriots outschemed him in the January, 2015 playoff game. So team staff contacted the Colts and together they plotted revenge. The business of an Indy linebacker intercepting a Brady pass and thinking the ball felt funny is a fiction. That much was confirmed by the Colts GM Ryan Grigson who admitted the Ravens alerted his office to “issues” with the footballs.
Well, since that playoff game, the Ravens have gone 8-14. They are currently in a three-game losing streak in what was supposed to be the soft part of their schedule. And Harbaugh is fielding questions about the analytics that say his team has a 19% chance of making the playoffs. In mid-October.
Misery Index: 100
1. Indianapolis Colts
Grudge Factor: 10
Since the infamous AFC title game blowout that started it all, the Colts are a sub-.500 team. The club’s pickled-brained owner followed up an 8-8 season by bringing his entire staff back. They are now 2-4 an in last place of the worst division in football. Grigson has blamed his team’s failures on the size of Andrew Luck’s contract, as if he didn’t negotiate it, sign it and write the bonus checks. And Luck, the franchise player they tanked an entire season in order to draft, whom they’re paying such an onerous amount of money to, is currently 11th in the league in passer rating, just ahead of Case Keenum and Tyrod Taylor.
It would take a heart of stone not to laugh.
Misery Index: One billion.