"Inept" is the only word that describes the New England Patriots’ handling of the "deflate-gate" controversy.

Four days after allegations broke that the club had illegally deflated 11 of 12 game footballs in the AFC championship game against the Colts, coach Bill Belichick stood before dozens of cameras and print reporters denying he had anything to do with it. The theatre of the absurd had begun.

A few hours later, poster-boy quarterback Tom Brady faced the same news media throng and spent 30 minutes defending how he prepares footballs before a game. Looking a bit sheepish, Brady also denied any knowledge of air being taken out of the balls. Say hello to the second act.

These press conferences -- not mandated by the league -- violated the No. 1 rule in crisis communications management: never speak definitively until you have all the facts. Granted the controversy had drawn unparalleled interest nationally (even globally on Twitter), but that does not obligate anyone from the Patriots organization to stand before the press in what took on the form of a “turkey shoot.”

That was the particular case with Brady. Typically folksy and at ease with the press, this time his body language was shaky and he seemed uncomfortable with the entire process. Unnecessarily put in this position, Brady had to answer a question like: “Is Tom Brady a cheater?” “I don’t believe so,” Brady said. Once again, his answer was somewhat unconvincing.

This entire news media debacle could have been completely avoided if these news conferences never occurred.

Two days later, on Saturday, act three began. Belichick conducted another impromptu press conference, now claiming that that deflation of the balls was likely due to “atmospheric conditions.” The coach, appearing defiant and emotional, said there was “no intent whatsoever” to break the rules.

Appearing like a cross between a coach, frustrated preacher and rookie physicist, the coach said he was embarrassed about the time he’s had to spend on this issue while trying to prepare his team for the Super Bowl. Belichick said he was 100 percent sure the Patriots had nothing to do with deflating the balls, and he’s done with the mess.

But is he really out of the woods?

The Patriots fell into a trap that happens to many organizations when their integrity is in question: they overreact.

Put simply, the Patriots over communicated in the face of intense news media pressure. The problem with this flow of information from the club is that the NFL, the final authority on deflate-gate, has not completed its investigation.

In fact, the league is taking this issue very seriously. Leading the charge is Ted Wells, a prominent New York-based criminal lawyer. Wells is the lawyer who investigated the Miami Dolphins’ bullying scandal. He created a 142-page report after analyzing text messages, emails, league policies, medical and security files, and piles of other materials.

As events unfolded, it was as if the team and its owner were operating in parallel universes. While Belichick and Brady were exposing themselves to cameras and creating a circus-like atmosphere, Patriots owner Robert Kraft issued a 180-word statement that was right on target.

Kraft’s statement was succinct:

On Monday, I received a letter from the league office informing me that they would be conducting an investigation into the air pressure of the game balls. Immediately after receiving the letter, I instructed our staff to be completely cooperative and transparent with the league’s investigators. During the three days they were here, we provided access to every full- and part-time employee the league’s representatives requested to speak with and produced every communication device that they requested to search. It is an ongoing process that the league and our team are taking very seriously.

“I very much support the league’s desire to conduct a complete investigation and welcome the appointment of Ted Wells to lead the process. Competitive balance and the integrity of the game are the foundation of what makes our league so special and I have the utmost respect for those principles. Our organization will continue to cooperate throughout the league’s investigation. Meanwhile, our players, coaches and staff will continue to focus on our preparations for Super Bowl XLIX and the many challenges we face as we prepare for the Seattle Seahawks.”

That statement was “all” the team needed to say about deflate-gate.

By feeding into the media firestorm, Belichick and Brady gave the story legs for a week...and it continues. There’s another future consequence that’s a by-product of over communicating: the creation of a video record that may come back to haunt the individuals involved and the club.

One never knows when an unexpected event may occur. In this case, for example, what if a former ball boy comes forward and tells the world he deflated footballs while working for the Patriots?

While the NFL’s handling of deflate-gate hasn’t been perfect, the league has acted with constraint, choosing to issue a written statement late in the week. For its part, the NFL has kept away from press conferences and video opportunities. Maybe it learned something from the Ray Rice controversy.

As the official Super Bowl week unfolds, it will be interesting to see if the Patriots can shake off deflate-gate and get back to the task of preparing for Seattle.

Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen had it right in a piece he authored in the Sunday paper:

Deflate-gate is a grossly exaggerated morality play, an Oliver Stone script, a media event created by many who want you to believe that football is a metaphor for life, a mirror to our collective national soul.

“But football’s just a game, a diversion from a far messier real world, a game in which incredibly talented and conditioned athletes are merely modern and much better compensated gladiators.

“And, like the Romans, we run to the coliseum.”

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Richard Nicolazzo is managing partner of Nicolazzo & Associates, a strategic communications and crisis management firm headquartered in Boston, Mass.