NFL quarterbacks play at an elite level — even the worst NFL quarterbacks play at such a high level that the difference between Jermaine Kearse catching and not catching the NFC game-winning TD was inches. (Don’t believe me? Check out the coverage in the highlights here).
Inches, not feet, determine completions, sacks, tackles, fumbles, and deflections. NFL Football is not a Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa home run derby circa 1998. The vast majority of plays are determined by inches, fractions of inches, and fractions of seconds. So what does this have to do with Deflate-gate? Why does the inflation of a football or the grip of a football matter?
Does it really matter? Sure it does. It matters because the QBs think that it does. Aaron Rogers likes his slightly over-inflated, Tom Brady likes his under-inflated. The ability to throw a football accurately, long distances, and on time in the face of very large men coming to crush you is a skill that less than 30 men in the world possess.
Being a QB is hard enough under perfect weather conditions. If you can get an advantage that makes it easier or more comfortable to throw the football then you take it.
So here is a hypothetical question: what if the inflation of the footballs really did affect how the Patriots played on offense and the how the Colts played on offense?
What if Tom Brady outperformed Andrew Luck because of the bad weather in Foxborough? What if Brady could grip the ball and throw more effectively because the footballs that the Patriots were using had less air in them than those that the Colts were using? What if the bad weather and air pressure of the football were just enough to make Andrew Luck suck?
For those of you who think this a bunch of hooey, think about this: in baseball there is a concept called “command.” If a pitcher is on and can control his pitches he has “command” that day. If not he will probably get shelled.
Last year in the NL Playoffs, Clayton Kershaw, the unanimous 2014 Cy Young Award winner, was shelled for 8 earned runs. How does this happen you ask? Well the answer is he didn’t have command. Now lets apply this concept to the NFL.
What if one team under-inflating their footballs was actually a difference in the outcome of the game? What if Tom Brady is just getting old and this is a way to make him seem like his younger self? Don’t think this is possible? See Mark McGuire Circa 2001, Shaun Alexander circa 2006-2008, Steve Young 1997-1998. Players get worse in a hurry. It happens.
While it is true that the Patriots won the game 45-7 and that they ran the ball down the Colts’ collective throats, we can’t ignore the fact that maybe, just maybe, the under-inflation of the balls had more of an effect on the game than we might think.