Mike Florio of NBC Sports and ProFootballTalk.com joined Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday to discuss Deflategate and the NFL’s campaign against Tom Brady and the Patriots. To hear the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
When asked if Deflategate would have taken on its persona if Chris Mortensen had not reported the false information leaked by an NFL source, Florio determined it difficult to hedge either way.
“Well, it all depends on when that would have come out,” he said. “If the real PSI numbers would have come out before the ripcord was pulled on the Ted Wells lawnmower, then I think the Patriots would have been able to shout down the PSI numbers fairly quickly. … First of all, we’ve got two pressure gauges being used before the AFC championship game that vary by 0.45 PSI. Hard to make any reliable conclusions about anything. But on one of the gauges, it shows that the PSI numbers at halftime were fully in line with what the ideal gas law would have predicted, and I think Ted Wells never arrives on the scene. This falls into the category of inconclusive.”
Florio lauded the NFL’s public relations team for influencing the public perception of Brady’s guilt by implying that he destroyed his cellphone, the latest effort by the league to discredit Brady publicly.
“It was a genius PR effort by the NFL start to finish, beginning with 11 of 12 footballs two pounds under the minimum and ending with the, ‘Tom Brady destroyed his cellphone,’ masterfully handed to Stephen A. Smith last Tuesday morning,” Florio said. “And I know he gets sensitive about the perception that he was used by the NFL. Well, Stephen A., you were used by the NFL. They picked the right guy to hand this to. He blazed a path, he got the idea out there. … Four hours later, ‘Oh my gosh, Tom Brady destroyed his cellphone.’ That was locked in and I went through that. … They dropped this ‘Tom Brady destroyed his cellphone’ and I’m like, ‘Hey, I can stop worrying about PSIs and I can quit worrying about whether Ted Wells should have been able to extract a confession from Beavis or Butthead with those text messages he had and I can feel like it’s finally over and they got it right: Tom Brady destroyed his cellphone.’
“And you had to read through every page, every word, every footnote, 20 pages, single-spaced, the Roger Goodell ruling to see that there were flaws in this conclusion that Tom Brady destroyed his cellphone. But from a PR standpoint, people … shut it down. They turn it off because they believe the NFL and the NFL has sold them on these buzzwords that make them believe that there’s no reason to take a closer look at this.”
Though he says he doesn’t believe the NFL specifically sought to bring the Patriots down a peg, Florio said some parties involved were willing to jump to unproven conclusions.
“I don’t think it was the NFL generally. I believe that there were people who were poised and anxious and ready to jump to a negative conclusion,” Florio said. “When the Colts made the complaint during the game, they decided, ‘OK, let’s see if we can catch them,’ and once they started seeing those readings under 12.5 [PSI], not understanding how the ideal gas law works, not having ever checked PSI measurements at halftime of any game or after any game or ever … that’s when this thing started down the path. The moment the false information was leaked to [Mortensen], that’s when I believe … that somebody below Roger Goodell understood that in the aftermath of the Ray Rice debacle, Roger Goodell could not afford to ever be perceived as going too easy on anyone again.
“Nobody ever says boo when he goes too far. When he doesn’t go far enough, as he did with Ray Rice, questions are raised about his competence and fitness for the job, so I think somebody recognized that, ‘You know what, once we get this thing rolling, there’s nothing the commissioner can do. He’s got to see this through, he’s got to be perceived as tough, he cannot afford to be soft on anyone after what happened with Ray Rice.’ That’s the only way I can explain the blatantly false information given to Mortensen by multiple sources. … We know now that on one of those two gauges, three of the four Colts footballs … were under 12.5 [PSI], so more falsehoods being perpetrated by the league. It’s clear now that this stuff was coming from the league office. The Patriots and no one connected to the Patriots would have been leaking it that way while arguing there has to be tampering on the part of the Patriots.”
Following are more highlights from the interview. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.
On what’s keeping Mortensen from apologizing: “Mort is in a tough spot and I feel bad for him. If you have multiple high-level people at the league office who are determined to tell a falsehood and they are reinforcing that falsehood, No. 1, what can you really say? And No. 2, you should be very upset because you’ve been lied to, and frankly, if you just keep your head low and fight through it, you have a lot of equity with those folks in the future about getting accurate information, because they owe you big time for unwittingly being their sword in all of this. The goal for ESPN and for Mort was to lay low and hope it all goes away.”
On if NFL executive Mike Kensil should be fired: “I don’t know. … The NFL needs to do exactly what those emails the Patriots released on Friday begged the NFL to do. They need to turn the microscope back onto themselves and they need to figure out who it was and who were the people [who leaked false information]. And Mortensen can’t give up his sources, but there’s got to be a way. … You’ve got to be able to figure out who it was that was calling Chris Mortensen, texting Chris Mortensen, emailing Chris Mortensen on or about January 19th, 20th, and you can get to the truth about who was in communication with him and you can get to the truth about who was disseminating that false information and you can make your decisions accordingly.”