For the first time in two months, Roger Goodell finally says something about Deflategate. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)
If you remember back when Roger Goodell gave the world his robotic, tedious, soul-sucking press conference after the Ray Rice fiasco, he repeatedly talked in monotonous lawyer-speak about the need for “transparency” going forward. So to prove he meant what he said, he gave us … what? One waste-of-time press conference at the Super Bowl and then nothing since. That is until this week’s Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback column, where the Commissionerbot 2000 finally answered some questions about Deflategate. Sort of:
The MMQB: [W]e’re at the two-month anniversary of the AFC Championship Game and the investigation into allegations that the Patriots deflated the football or footballs in that game. How much thought did you give that you needed to get it resolved so it’s not hanging over the league? It seems like it’s been hanging over the league for two months. Was there any thought in your mind to try to get it resolved that week so that it didn’t mar anything associated with the Super Bowl?
Goodell: No. I think the most important thing is to get the right information, to get the facts and to get the truth. And not to make any judgments until you get that. We have been very careful on that. We followed the facts. We took the information. We determined that we should bring Ted Wells to further the investigation. We haven’t given him a timetable except to be thorough, be fair and get to the truth. When he’s completed his report, that will be made public as well as to all of us.
The MMQB: Is two months to investigate that too long?
Goodell: Again, I think that if you’re going to be thorough, it takes time. You’re having to meet with a lot of people. I guess it’s always too long, because you want to get to that issue and deal with it. It’s important not to exert any pressure to short-circuit or do anything other than be fair and transparent.
The MMQB: Can you say that the first time that you heard about this was after the game?
The MMQB: You know that there’s a storyline out there that you knew about the deflating and wanted to catch them in the act.
Goodell: Let’s just short circuit this a little bit. I’m not going to get into what we knew and when we knew it because that’s part of what he’s investigating. … I can tell you that I was not personally aware of it until after the game.
I have two takeaways from this. First of all, of course Goodell is right to give Ted Wells all the time he needs. Investigations of this magnitude can take months if not years. The Salem Witch Trials lasted from February 1692 to May 1693. The McCarthy Hearings went from 1950 to 1956. Hell, the Spanish Inquisition went on for centuries. Witch hunts aren’t just something you slap together. It takes time to make something out of nothing. So by all means, let’s give Wells infinity if that’s how long he needs to get to the bottom of the grave national crisis that was some air possibly missing from some footballs.
The second and much bigger point is this business of whether the NFL set up a sting operation to catch the Patriots. Or, to put it in terms of an actual historic scandal, what did the commissioner know and when did he know it?
And now we have at least a partial answer. Because Goodell’s verbiage is very telling here. The fact that Wells is looking into when exactly someone in the league was tipped off to the idea is way, way more pertinent to what went on in that AFC championship game than anything that would register on an air pressure gauge.
And back at the NFL combine in mid-February we had the Colts’ own GM Ryan Grigson saying straight out that prior the title game his team “notified the league about our concerns. We went into the game, we had some issues.” But now the commissioner of the league is saying he “personally” knew nothing about it until after the game.
So the question then becomes who did the Colts talk to? And why, if ball pressure is so critical to the integrity of the game that even the rumor that some of the balls weren’t up to spec became THE national news story for an entire week, then why didn’t those people bring it to the man in charge?
Now allow me to answer my own question: Because this was a sting operation from the jump. Most likely involving former Jets executive/longtime Bill Belichick-grudge holder Mike Kensil, and quite possibly some others in the league office. This was the Colts, with an assist from John Harbaugh and the Ravens along with NFL executives playing the long con. And the more this Wells investigation drags on, the clearer it is that this stopped being about how Tom Brady likes his footballs, whether Belichick is really Mona Lisa Vito, and how long Patriots ball boys spend taking a whizz, and all about that.
So I’m glad Roger Goodell chose to descend from Mt. Olympus to share a few words with us mortals. Because even when he’s saying nothing, he says something.