Now that the 243-page report by Ted Wells has been released, we now know that it is highly likely that the Patriots intentionally deflated footballs in the AFC Championship game. It's hard to imagine that Tom Brady had nothing to do with it. Why would team personnel deflate footballs without the order coming directly from a coach or the quarterback? Tom Brady claims that the deflated football scandal isn't going to taint their Super Bowl win, but most NFL fans across the country are getting quite tired of the Patriots antics. Spygate.... Deflategate... what's next?
In my last article on this subject, titled "Data reveals strong evidence that the Patriots have been cheating since 2007, I dove into research conducted by football analyst Warren Sharp on how the Patriots have had a drastic drop in the number of fumbles since 2007. To recap, the league changed a rule that came into effect for the 2007 season that allowed visiting teams to bring their own footballs to road games. Tom Brady was one of several quarterbacks who addressed this issue and requested the NFL change the rule. Sharp looked at the number of fumbles starting in 2007 and found that the Patriots went from an average fumbling team in the early 2000's, to a team that rarely ever fumbles from 2007 to 2014. Deflating footballs is one explanation for this statistical anomaly since a deflated football is much easier to hold onto, especially in wet-weather games.
Sharp's analysis spawned me to do my own research, focusing not on teams as a whole, but rather on individual running backs. I gathered data on all major running backs that the Patriots have had on their squad since the late 1990's. Remember, Bill Belickick became coach in 2000. I also focused my data around the rule change that went into effect in 2007. Therefore, there's a dividing line for 2006 and earlier, and 2007 and later. My thought is, if the Patriots were found cheating in the AFC Championship game, it's highly likely they've deflated footballs before. Perhaps they have been doing it for years.
Player: Team - carries, fumbles
Laurence Maroney: New England 2006 -- 175 carries, 1 fumble
Laurence Maroney: New England 2007-2009 -- 407 carries, 3 fumbles
Fred Taylor: Jacksonville 1998-2008 -- 2,428 carries, 20 fumbles
Fred Taylor: New England 2009-2010 -- 106 carries, 1 fumble
Kevin Faulk: New England 1999-2006 -- 632 carries, 11 fumbles
Kevin Faulk: New England 2007-2011 -- 232 carries, 0 fumbles
BenJarvus Green-Ellis: New England 2008-2011 -- 510 carries, 0 fumbles
BenJarvus Green-Ellis: Cincinnati 2012-2013 -- 498 carries, 5 fumbles
Shane Vareen: New England 2011-2014 -- 217 carries, 1 fumble
Stevan Ridley: New England 2011-2014 -- 649 carries, 8 fumbles
Danny Woodhead: New York Jets 2009, San Diego 2013-2014 -- 136 carries, 1 fumble
Danny Woodhead: New England 2010-2012 -- 250 carries, 1 fumble
*All data taken from ESPN statistics.
Upon examining the data, we see that neither Laurence Maroney nr Fred Taylor had a big change in their fumbling ratios. Maroney had a 175/1 (carries/fumbles) ratio in 2006. In 2007 and beyond he had a 136/1 ratio, slightly worse but a slight change and nothing to make note of. Taylor had a 121/1 ratio with Jacksonville and a 106/1 ratio with New England, also not a big change. However, when we begin looking at Kevin Faulk and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, the numbers are off the charts.
Faulk was New England's prime running back during their three Super Bowl wins in the early 2000's. (On a side note, this data does not give us any reason to believe the Patriots were deflating footballs during their first three Super Bowl wins). Faulk had a 93/1 ratio from 1999-2006. From 2007-2011 Faulk had 232 carries and did not fumble once. That is a massive change. BenJarvus Green-Ellis has a bit of a different story since he did not play in the NFL before 2007, but he left New England after the 2011 season and played in Cincinnati for two seasons. During his four seasons in New England, Green-Ellis had 510 carries and no fumbles. Zero. In his two seasons in Cincinnati, he had 498 carries and five fumbles. That is a 100/1 ratio, which isn't out of the ordinary. That's a pretty average fumble rate for NFL running backs. But his 510/0 ratio in New England is staggering.
One running back that has fumbled a lot in recent years is Stevan Ridley, who's had eight fumbles in four seasons with the Patriots. However, Ridley didn't played before 2007 and he also hasn't played for any other team. It will be interesting to see how he performs for the New York Jets beginning in the 2015 season. Shane Vereen had a 217/1 ratio at New England from 2011-2014. It will also be interesting to see how he performs at San Diego in the 2015 season.