New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick played Pontius Pilate at a nationally broadcast press conference on DeflateGate — the scandal over deflated air pressure in the team’s footballs during the AFC championship.
Belichick, who ended the press conference abruptly after 11 minutes, said he was “shocked” by the revelation and claimed he “never talked to any player or staff member” about football air pressure. Belichick said repeatedly he “had no explanation for what happened.”
His press conference may have added to the controversy. He said reporters would have to check with his quarterback (Tom Brady) to learn more about Brady’s air pressure preferences. An old tape of Brady surfaced yesterday where he indicated he preferred lower inflated footballs to throw. Belichick appeared to shift the focus to Brady with the comment.
Belichick’s situation is complicated by baggage. The NFL fined him a half-million dollars for his role in 2007 SpyGate, when the Patriots broke the rules by using videotape to steal signals. He is also known as incredibly detail oriented, making the “I knew nothing” defense more difficult to believe. It is Belichick’s job to know what his staff may or may not have done.
After fumbles over domestic violence, concussions and bounty money, to name a few, the NFL Commissioner’s current credibility makes resolution of the latest problem more difficult. The NFL assumes it has an unlimited supply of passes for public relations messes. This is risky thinking.
In the meantime, DeflateGate is far from deflated.
The writer is a communication crisis expert and former sportscaster.