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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

'Deflategate' might tarnish legacies of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, left, celebrates

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, left, celebrates with head coach Bill Belichick after defeating the Miami Dolphins 41-13 in an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014, in Foxborough, Mass. Credit: AP / Charles Krupa

This should be a time for celebrating two of the greatest careers in sports history, a time for the coronation of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.

We should be appreciating their wondrous and unprecedented accomplishments upon their sixth trip to the Super Bowl, beginning with the first of three titles after the 2001 season. We should be anointing them the very best ever -- the brilliant tactician who rivals Lombardi and Shula and Walsh and Landry and Gibbs and Noll, and the magnificent quarterback whose accomplishments might push him past Montana himself.

Instead, we are left to talk about football deflation, air pressure, references to Joe Pesci's character in "My Cousin Vinny'' and -- most important of all -- whether there is cheating involved in the Patriots' latest trip to the Super Bowl.

It is indeed a bizarre and troubling time in the NFL, a league that has been racked by controversy that has very real human consequences related to domestic violence and now is involved in a non-stop national debate over two pounds per square inch of -- air.

Belichick put on his science cap Saturday afternoon in a hastily called news conference to discuss the variables associated with inflating footballs at indoor temperatures after having vigorously rubbed them to meet the specifications of Brady, and how experiments conducted by the team showed that there were legitimate reasons those footballs might have deflated somewhat during the course of a game.

Forget that the footballs used by the Colts were tested at the same time as the Patriots and were never under the league-mandated minimum of 12.5 psi. Channeling his inner Bill Nye the Science Guy, Belichick insisted his team did everything by the book and therefore should not be sanctioned at the end of an NFL investigation that is likely to take far longer than the week leading up to Super Bowl XLIX against the Seahawks.

"I believe 100 percent that I have personally and we as an organization have followed every rule to the letter," he said. "At no time was there any intent whatsoever to undermine the rules of the game."

For those who insist that Belichick and Brady are lying and ought to be suspended for the Super Bowl, because of the reasonable doubt that has been raised -- and not just by Belichick -- no action should be taken before the NFL's investigation is complete. The league has solicited the services of noted trial attorney Ted Wells, who oversaw the Dolphins' "Bullygate" scandal last year, and the interview process and forensics tests simply won't be done in time for a fair decision in the next seven days.

But that still doesn't take away the cloud hanging over the legacies of both men. Unless they are completely exonerated in the scandal we call "Deflategate," it is impossible to ignore the suggestion that either one of them -- or possibly both -- might have resorted to cheating.

I hope there is closure on the matter, some verifiable means of putting the controversy to rest one way or the other. Their accomplishments are too important to the history of this great sport we love to have to view them with an asterisk alongside their triumphs.

Seven years after the "Spygate" debacle tinged Belichick's legacy, "Deflategate" threatens Brady's standing.

Take away both controversies, and you can say with a clear conscience that they are the greatest coach/quarterback tandem in NFL history. That Belichick is the most brilliant tactician of them all. And that Brady stands above all others.

There may come a day when that can be said of both men. But unless and until we get definitive answers on a controversy that has turned into a tsunami of negative publicity, it simply can't be done.

I truly hope that there is some logical explanation for what happened, that there was no cheating involved and that there will be a time when we can give these two men a historic status.

I truly hope that Brady didn't think he had to resort to breaking the rules in any way, shape or form to gain an edge that his talent alone should be sufficient to achieve.

Consider: Once the footballs were inflated to an acceptable level in last week's AFC Championship Game, Brady broke open a 17-7 game with 28 unanswered points in the second half. He didn't need underinflated footballs to dominate, just as Belichick didn't need to film opposing teams' defensive signals during the Spygate nonsense. After Belichick was caught red-handed against the Jets in the season opener, he became the first coach to go unbeaten in a 16-game season. Were it not for a superior effort by the Giants' defense and a magical pass by Eli Manning and catch by David Tyree, the Patriots would have finished 19-0 and earned a fourth Super Bowl title.

That's the shame of all this. Two men whose brilliance is so far above their peers shouldn't have to resort to anything other than playing by the rules.

Belichick was busted for Spygate, was fined a record $500,000, had a first-round draft pick taken away and brought embarrassment on his organization and his team's owner, Robert Kraft.

And Brady and Belichick now could face a further stain upon their legacies.

Belichick denied any responsibility and hopes science can explain away any culpability. Brady said he didn't do it either.

Well, someone -- or something -- did it, and there has to be a reasonable explanation. If not, there will be no clarity when it comes to how we judge two men who ought to be enjoying their coronation but instead are left to deny they did anything wrong.

I hope we get answers. If we don't, there always will be questions about how we view these two men.

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