Author's Note: This article was written last night, before today's statements from Owner Bisciotti denying the claims below. My words still hold true, however.
On San Diego’s "Mighty 1090" Radio this Friday, ESPN's Sal Paolantonio was on air. Eventually the conversation led to 'Deflategate' and the impending decision on Tom Brady's appeal, in which Paolantonio revealed some insightful 'insider info'.
"[By reducing the suspension] you’re angering some of the hard-core owners out there," said Paolantonio. "I know who they are and I’m gonna name ‘em right now: Jim Irsay of the Colts. Steve Bisciotti of the Ravens and others in the AFC who believe the Patriots have gotten away with murder for years and have not been publicly punished properly."
Key words here are: "and others in the AFC". Keep those in mind as we move on.
Today, Sal's words were brought to most fans with the aforementioned headline, 'Report: Ravens, Colts owners most vocal against Brady'. The article caught fire, receiving 2.5k Facebook shares, 250+ Tweets, and over 1000 'upvotes' on Reddit. The thing was, the headline was very deceiving, and that's not the only thing wrong with the article.
In it, Comcast Sportsnet New England's 'Patriots Insider' Tom Curran alludes to quite a few things that simply aren't true, and paints the Ravens in a bad light.
Allow me to break down Curran's flawed agenda.
"In the Divisional Playoffs, the Patriots beat the Ravens, embarrassing them (and former Patriots defensive coordinator Dean Pees, now in the same role with the Ravens) with a gadget formation that led to a momentum-changing touchdown. Ravens coach John Harbaugh accused the Patriots of duping the officials."
First off, the team wasn't embarrassed, rather, they were deceived by some creative play-calling. Secondly, Harbaugh was not some 'whiny brat' who pointed fingers at the Patriots. He had some very legitimate concerns concerning how the refs handled the situation.
"We wanted an opportunity to be able to identify who the eligible players were", Harbaugh explained, "because what they were doing was they would announce the eligible player and Tom (Brady) would take it to the line right away and snap the ball before (we) even figured out who was lined up where. The officials told me after that they would give us the opportunity to do that, which they probably should have done during that series but they really didn't understand what was happening."
In no part of this do I see Harbaugh accusing the Patriots. It wasn't what they did, but how the situation was addressed by the officials that aroused Harbaugh. In the aftermath, even Steelers' Owner Art Rooney II sympathized with Harbaugh, saying "We have these rules where a player has to report [to the referee]. The referee is supposed to make sure the defense is notified on who reports. I thought Baltimore had a legitimate gripe about how that was handled."
"The Ravens-Colts ties are strong with former Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano being the Colts head coach."
Of course our 'ties are strong'. Remember when the Colts used to be in Baltimore, but then left in the middle of the night, and left Baltimore without NFL football for a decade? We remember.
Saying our ties are strong just because a former coordinator is now another team's head coach is absolute hogwash. That 'argument' could be made for practically any staff member who left for another team.
"The following week, former Ravens front-office man and current Colts GM Ryan Grigson forwarded a letter from his equipment man to the NFL offices. The letter accused the Patriots of deflating footballs."
"Ryan Grigson... that's a name I've never heard of in Baltimore" was what I thought to myself as I was reading the article.
Sure enough, a quick Google search shows that Grigson has never been a part of the Ravens organization.
The author seems to allude that the Ravens "tipped off" the Colts about under-inflated footballs. Coach Harbaugh himself has refuted the claims, and all evidence points to the Ravens not suspecting a thing. Even Grigson's own claim placed prior to the game doesn't reference the Ravens.
"prior to the AFC Championship Game, we notified the league about our concerns that the Patriots might be using under-inflated footballs". According to the NFL’s investigation, "Grigson, Sullivan, and other members of the Colts equipment staff referenced the Colts Week 11 game against the Patriots in Indianapolis. During that game, Colts strong safety Mike Adams intercepted two passes thrown by Tom Brady… the intercepted footballs appeared to be coated in a tacky substance and seemed spongy or soft when squeezed." (Wells Report, p. 46.)
The NFL's very own investigation also found the Ravens absent from such affairs.
And finally, as if Curran's agenda wasn't clear enough.
"Except for, perhaps, the fact that Pees was interviewed by Ted Wells during his lengthy investigation. Nothing from Pees was shared in the Wells Report but it shows another Ravens tie to the proceedings."
Big surprise here. Of course Pees was interviewed. Wells left no stone unturned, and interviewing the Ravens Defensive Coordinator (who the Patriots had played just a week before) would be a no-brainer. It would also make sense that nothing from Pees was shared in the report, since most signs point to the Ravens having no knowledge of any manipulated balls.
It's worth noting that Ravens Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg was also interviewed during the investigation.
I found that quite a few people commented that Curran is a Patriots "homer". While I am not a frequent reader of his work, I'd be inclined to agree with that sentiment based on what I've read.
This becomes quite clear once you get to the 'thesis' of his article.
"Obviously, the Ravens and Colts would stand to benefit greatly on the field if Brady were suspended for a quarter of the season. They are among the AFC’s more competitive teams. And the Patriots are an impediment to their success."
In Curran's mind, the Ravens and Colts (and their owners) have collaborated to take down the Patriots. This simply isn't true. Especially when you consider the Steelers face the Patriots in Week 1, in the eyes of many, this is a 'free pass' for the AFC North rival Steelers if Brady is on the sidelines.
It's more likely that Bisciotti and Irsay (and a large majority of other owners) are lobbying for what they think is best for the league, whatever that may be. After all, they are business owners. Anything that tarnishes the league reputation can get them right where it hurts most, their wallets.
I can't speak for the Colts, but the recent Patriots-Ravens rivalry is one of the NFL's best. The games are extremely competitive, and always headache-inducing. It's filled with respect on both sides (for the most part). I can't help but respect the football mastermind that is Bill Belichick, one of the best QBs ever, Tom Brady, and a respectable owner in Mr. Kraft. To think that the Ravens and Colts would orchestrate an effort to hinder the Patriots is preposterous.
'Deflategate', or 'Ballghazi' has been a disaster since the beginning. What started with petty accusations over slightly under-inflated footballs has snowballed into a four-game suspension for Tom Brady. The evidence is slim, the competitive benefit of said under-inflated footballs is small, yet the consequences were large. While it may not be the popular move, or the one that makes the league look the best, lifting the suspension is the right thing to do. Justice must be served.