Much of the talk surrounding Super Bowl 2015 has been about “Deflategate” and the accusations of the New England Patriots cheating in the AFC Championship. While some believe the controversy has been overblown, there is speculation that the team, specifically head coach Bill Belichick, could face a harsh punishment.
ESPN first reported that 11 of New England’s 12 footballs in Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts weighed significantly less than what the NFL requires. Considering Belichick’s history of trying to circumvent the league’s rules, some believe he could be suspended for the Patriots' game against the Seattle Seahawks.
While it seems inevitable that Belichick and the Patriots will face a penalty for the scandal, it remains likely that the head coach will still be allowed on the sidelines for the year’s biggest game. Bovada.lv has set the betting odds of Belichick being suspended for the Super Bowl at +750. The odds of Belichick coaching the Patriots on Feb. 1 have been set at -1500.
Belichick might be safe for the near future, but his status for next season remains in question. It isn’t expected that the head coach will be suspended for his role in the deflated football controversy, but it might not come as much of a surprise if he’s forced to sit out a game in the 2015 season. The odds of Belichick being suspended for at least one game, even if the ruling comes after the Super Bowl, are +150. There’s a -200 chance he doesn’t get suspended at all.
When New England and Belichick were found guilty of what appeared to be a much more serious infraction in 2007, the head coach was not suspended. He was fined the maximum of $500,000 for his role is “Spygate,” and the team was docked a first-round selection in the following draft.
At a press conference on Thursday morning, Belichick denied having prior knowledge of the team playing with deflated footballs. The head coach said he had no explanation for what happened against the Colts, claiming he wasn’t even aware of the process that goes into inflating and approving game balls, before the news of the scandal broke.
"I had no knowledge of this situation whatsoever until Monday morning," Belichick told reporters.
A few former NFL quarterbacks have come to New England’s defense, saying it’s common for players to tamper with footballs. Brad Johnson even admitted to paying $7,500 to have footballs scuffed before he helped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Oakland Raiders in the 2003 Super Bowl.
"It really does seem totally ridiculous that this story has been blown so far out of proportion,” former NFL MVP Boomer Esiason told CBS Sports. “If you look at the footballs that the quarterbacks are playing with and throwing for the last six or seven years, just realize that everybody is doing the same thing."
On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that NFL officials said it was “too early” to know what kind of punishment the league would hand down.