In light of yet another postseason controversy, the Patriots find themselves with another headache after it was revealed that during the AFC championship game against Indianapolis, New England provided footballs for the game that were below air pressure specifications . What has been named "deflate-gate," this recent mess is nothing new for Bill Belichick and the Patriots. The previous gate suffix NFL scandal surrounded the taping of opposing teams signals from the sideline back in 2007. The aura of cheating that has surrounded the Patriots since then has only been confirmed by the AFC championship game antics. Some will look to these rule bending tactics as clear evidence of cheating, believing that the team is undeserving of playing in the Super Bowl. Others will point out that deflated footballs would not have helped the team rush 40 times for 177 yards, far less than significantly changing the 40-7 ending score.
It's obvious that the Super Bowl will go on as normal this year without any recourse in regard to the deflate-gate scandal, which is completely fair. You can't do that to the fans or the players, to take away what they have been able to do all season just because of one game. From a more practical standpoint, two weeks would not be enough time to fully investigate the issue in order to properly determine chain of command and proper punishment. The most appropriate course of action for the NFL would be a punishment that affects the future and one that would discourage any further rule bending/breaking, especially considering Belichick and the organization being repeat offenders. Several options could be considered after the completion of the NFL postseason.
Take Away Draft Picks
This would be a very good option if you are really trying to hit the team where it hurts. The Patriots number one goal is to win. One way to punish or detract further questionable tactics would be to take away something that would give the team a much greater chance at winning than a few pounds of air pressure ever could. Getting talented players in the draft are a huge part of future team success and of course winning. Recall back to the spygate controversy of 2007, both coach Bill Belichick and the organization were fined as well as a 2008 first round draft pick taken away. Since this is a second offense, more drastic measures should be taken. A higher fine will not likely have the affect, because the club surely would trade money for having an edge in the game. That seems like a somewhat reasonable trade-off, so long as it results in wins. The Patriots would however feel that trading a slight game edge for a few young draft selections would be enough to detract them from engaging in this in the future. Consider a punishment that took away the 1st and 2nd round draft picks from New England and you could imagine how Belichick might be less inclined to do something like this again.
Suspension Of Belichick
This would be a reasonable course of actions if the NFL found during an investigation that the coach was clearly accountable for the deflated balls. Blame would be placed more on one person in this case and less on the organization as a whole. Of course, loosing one of the best coaches of all time for any amount of the regular season in 2015 would seem like a punishment to everyone from players to fans. There is a similar example recently that we can look to for a comparison. Another gate suffix, this time involving New Olreans in 2012 where head coach Sean Payton faced a season long suspension as well as various suspensions for other members of the coaching staff. This example does not compare directly in regard to it's severity. In the instance of the Saints, Payton was basically bribing players on the team to take out and injure other players. In the case of the Patriots, nobody was maliciously targeted in any way, nor was anyone's health or safety being disrespected. Both cases do show a level of cheapness to the game that some will flat out call cheating. A comparable suspension in the case of Belichick could for the first 3-6 games of the 2015 regular season.
Taking Away Salary Cap Space
Again, a direct fine to the coach or organization would be pretty pointless as winning is actually more important than money to the organization. If a team can do something that they believe will give them an edge in a very important game and all they have to do is pay some money for that edge, then they will more than likely do so. Just like taking away draft picks, reducing the salary cap space will have a negative impact on the roster and the ability to compete for wins. The coach and organization can pay fines without it having an impact on the team, they cannot, however, lose cap space without an impact.
There is a possibility that during the investigation, no clear evidence can be found that a direct order came from the coach or higher ups. This could lead to someone low down being the scapegoat for the whole thing claiming that he/she was a "rogue" agent, similar to what happened with the IRS-gate involving President Obama and bridge-gate surrounding Govenor Christie. Consider that it would be most beneficial to the credibility of the NFL for this scandal to just disappear. An investigation could easily drag on long enough for people to lose interest, giving way to a very under the radar outcome. Something like a fine and a "rogue" assistant being blamed/suspended/fired.
Although the actions of deflate-gate hardly had much of an effect on the outcome of the AFC championship game, the Patriot's Super Bowl XLIX will be surrounded with doubt as well as the dynasty Bill Belichick has created. This doesn't take away from our need as fans to want to see a fair fight, we want to know that everyone is playing fair. That's why we have rules penalties, supenssions, fines, salary cap, and officials, but does secret video tape or under inflated balls really account for 6 Super Bowls and a 171-62 record? If it did, then every coach in the NFL would be doing it. No matter what, the players still have to line up against someone on the other side of the ball, hit pads and beat him. They have to execute and play the game, and the Patriots have been doing that very well for a very long time in the NFL.