Thursday, September 10, 2015

NFL Deflategate: Patriot Fumble Watch

(Updated December 2017)

The New England Cheatriots fumbled 14 times in 16 regular season matches in 2015 followed by 27 total fumbles in the 2016 regular season and 13 fumbles in 2017. 54 fumbles in 48 regular season matches over 3 years = 1.1/match or just above their 1/match fumble average over the previous 8 regular seasons from 2007 through 2014. 

However, the Cheatriots fumbled 12 times or 3/match in their first 4 Brady-less matches of 2016 while he was serving his suspension for lying about instructing the Cheatriot equipment managers to deflate his footballs from 2007-8 to 2014-15. In 44 Brady regular season games in 2015, 2016 and 2017, only 42 fumbles. Will there never be any end to the Brady Cheatriot's low-fumble magic? 

I predicted that we would see the Brady Cheatriots averaging around the NFL average of 1.5 fumbles/match. But, so far Friend-of-Trump Tom he is maintaining his uncanny knack of leading a low-fumble offense.

Before the 2007 season, the National Football League (NFL) changed the rules to allow quarterbacks to prepare their own footballs for use when their teams had the ball. Over 8 regular seasons from 2007 through 2014, the New England Cheatriots averaged 15.125 fumbles/year or just under 1/game. Over the 8 prior regular seasons from 1999 through 2006, the Patriots averaged 24.75 fumbles/year or just over 1.5/game. 1999-2006 was not an unusual period of high fumbling for the Patriots. Over 14 years from 1993 through 2006, the Patriots averaged 25 fumbles/year.

There is no statistically significant evidence confirming that the Cheatriots were fumbling less from 2007 through 2014 because under-inflated footballs are easier to grip and harder for defensive opponents to knock loose. The Atlanta Falcons experienced a very similar decline in fumbles over 2007-14 vs. 1999-2006. And the Detroit Lions experienced a rise in fumbles/year of almost +6. It is difficult to imagine that even the Lions were deliberately over-inflating their footballs.

Now that there has been so much controversy, the NFL has likely been watching football pressure carefully starting with the 2015 Super Bowl. Just for fun, I have been keeping track of the number of New England Cheatriot fumbles. There is so much year-to-year variation in team fumbles that it is not possible to predict any team's fumbles for a given year. But, I expected Patriot fumbles over the 8 years from 2015 through 2022 to come closer to the NFL average of about 22/year than the 2007-14 Patriot average of 15/year.

I have to admit my deep disappointment that there was not yet any circumstantial evidence from the fumble record for the 2015 through 2017 seasons to indicate that Donald Trump supporter Tom Brady was cheating with his prepared footballs from 2007 through 2014.

The 2016 regular season results were more promising until Brady returned from his suspension for cheating and lying. Hard to believe that Brady is the key to the unusually low team fumble total from 2007 through 2015, his 12 matches in 2016 as well as 2017 so far, but there is at least circumstantial evidence pointing that way.

At this point, I am not planning to track Cheatriot playoff fumbles 2008-2015 vs. 2016-2022. I don't have the time to go back to look up Cheatriot playoff fumbles 2008 to 2015. But, 1 fumble in 2 playoff matches in January 2016 was consistent with no evidence so far that deflated balls from 2007-8 to 2015 playoffs were partly responsible for New England's unprecedented run of success, particularly regular season success, from 2007 to their 2015 Super Bowl triumph.

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