Brady appears to be at the center of the investigation now thanks to two team eployees who complained about him frequently via text. (USA TODAY Images)
The Wells Report was released on Wednesday and 243+ pages later, the determination appears to be that the Patriots did, in fact, knowingly release air from the footballs leading up to their showdown with the Indianapolis Colts prior to the AFC Championship game.
Or at least that’s what the report claims. ¬†The report appears to go the complete opposite of most legal outlets in that it’s basing the ruling based on assumptions and innuendo instead of concrete evidence.¬† The bad news is this will likely¬†now going to convict the Patriots more so in the court of public opinion, which is essentially much worse. ¬†Owner Robert Kraft (who the report rules out as being involved in the alleged scandal) had previously challenged the NFL shield by demanding an apology if they were cleared of any wrongdoing. ¬†Now that it’s over, while Wells hasn’t done that, the report has done a good job of trying to protect Kraft but has¬†slammed the Patriots back down coming off of their first Super Bowl win in nearly a decade.
It’s a disappointing outcome¬†and before we get into it further, for those of you who don’t feel like rifling through it all, here’s a full rundown of the major parts of the report:
WHAT THEY FOUND:
The term “more probable than not” will likely go down as the next term that will be echoed in the coming years thanks to this report. ¬†Since the league doesn’t have definitive proof of what happened, the Wells’ report is basing their ruling on what they believe instead of what they can prove.
“For the reasons described in this Report, and after a comprehensive investigation,¬†we have concluded that, in connection with the AFC Championship Game, it is more probable¬†than not that New England Patriots personnel participated in violations of the Playing Rules and¬†were involved in a deliberate effort to circumvent the rules,” the report read. ¬†“In particular, we have concluded¬†that it is more probable than not that Jim McNally (the Officials Locker Room attendant for the¬†Patriots) and John Jastremski (an equipment assistant for the Patriots) participated in a deliberate¬†effort to release air from Patriots game balls after the balls were examined by the referee. Based¬†on the evidence, it also is our view that it is more probable than not that Tom Brady (the¬†quarterback for the Patriots) was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of¬†McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls.”
The report did go on to say that despite reports in regards to the team introducing a non-approved kicking ball into the game, the investigation cleared them of that in the part that read,¬†“Based on the evidence, the investigation has further concluded that that there was¬†no deliberate attempt by the Patriots to introduce to the playing field a non-approved kicking ball¬†during the AFC Championship Game.”
In the coming days the guys who appear to be the ones who will take the most heat for this investigation are McNally and Jastremski, as well as Brady for their supposed¬†roles in this debacle. ¬†The rumors are already swirling regarding a suspension of Brady, with Vegas even going so far as to take the Patriots and Steelers game off the board as they wait to find out if the veteran signal caller will be on the field for week one of the regular season.
And what is the “damning” evidence against them? ¬†A series of text messages summarized on page eighteen of the report that seem to suggest¬†the biggest thing that’s leading up to the assumption that McNally and Jastremski knowingly broke the rules and seemingly did so under the direction of Brady.
According to the report, here is a summation of some of those conversations, with commentary in the report of the reasons¬†why they feel these were key components in their investigation:
“- The inflation level of Patriots footballs and McNally‚Äüs impact on¬†the inflation level of the balls (‚Äúim going make that next ball a¬†f****n balloon‚ÄĚ; ‚ÄúMake sure you blow up the ball to look like a¬†rugby ball so tom can get used to it before Sunday‚ÄĚ; ‚Äú16 is¬†nothing…wait till next sunday‚ÄĚ);”
“-¬†Jastremski‚Äüs plan to provide McNally with a ‚Äúneedle‚ÄĚ for use by¬†McNally (‚ÄúCan‚Äüt wait to give you your needle this week :)‚ÄĚ; ‚ÄúF**k¬†tom….make sure the pump is attached to the needle…..f***in¬†watermelons coming‚ÄĚ);”
“- McNally‚Äüs request that the ‚Äúneedle‚ÄĚ be surrounded by cash and¬†new sneakers and other items of value to be received by McNally¬†(‚ÄúBetter be surrounded by cash and newkicks….or its a rugby¬†sunday‚ÄĚ; ‚ÄúMaybe u will have some nice size 11s in ur locker‚ÄĚ;¬†‚ÄúRemember to put a couple sweet pig skins ready for tom to sign‚ÄĚ;¬†‚ÄúU got it kid…big autograph day for you‚ÄĚ; ‚ÄúNice throw some kicks¬†in and make it real special‚ÄĚ);”
“- McNally‚Äüs references to Brady as the catalyst for Jastremski‚Äüs¬†offers of sneakers and clothing (‚ÄúTom must really be working your¬†balls hard this week‚ÄĚ; ‚ÄúTom must really be on you‚ÄĚ); and¬†15″
“-¬†That game balls for a Sunday game would not be deflated because¬†of anger at Brady (‚ÄúThe only thing deflating sun..is his passing rating‚ÄĚ).”
“-¬†Text messages most plausibly read as describing a conversation between¬†Jastremski and Brady during which Brady mentioned McNally and said¬†that McNally must have ‚Äúa lot of stress‚ÄĚ trying to get the footballs ‚Äúdone‚ÄĚ¬†(‚ÄúTalked to him last night. He actually brought you up and said you must¬†have a lot of stress trying to get them done…‚ÄĚ).”
“- Text messages from McNally referring to himself as the ‚Äúdeflator‚ÄĚ and¬†suggesting that he might contact the media (‚Äújimmy needs some¬†kicks….lets make a deal…..come on help the deflator‚ÄĚ;”
The team apparently had their own counsel involved during the investigation, and contended that the text messages between McNally and Jastremski referring to the inflation levels of the footballs and the rest of their conversations weren’t serious and shouldn’t have been seen as anything more than “attempts at humor and hyperbole.” ¬†The report disagreed, saying, “We also find these claims not plausible” and appears to be focused on¬†that evidence as¬†being a big key in the investigation and subsequent findings.
Another fact in the investigation is McNally’s apparent recollection of his brief bathroom break on the way out the field that night, where he claims he dropped the ball bag to his left and “used the urinal to his right.” ¬†The bathroom apparently doesn’t contain a urinal, which in the report seemingly has them questioning what happened in there during the one minute and forty-seconds that he was in there for.
To top it all off, they also claim that it was the first time they could recollect that the balls were taken out onto the field without permission, which left officials¬†in a panic trying to figure out where the¬†footballs¬†were before eventually realizing McNally had¬†already brought them out.
These facts are why they feel the¬†Patriots are¬†guilty of breaking the rules, with the text messages between the two employees being the most damning.
WHAT WAS BRADY’S ROLE?
The talk so far seems to be focused on Brady as the lone potential person outside of team employees who might be punished as a result of their findings, which, given the evidence they have,¬†is hard to imagine a suspension being handed down.
Here’s what the report says about Brady’s role in it all:
“We nevertheless believe, based on the totality of the evidence, that it is more¬†probable than not that Brady was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of¬†McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls,” reads the report. ¬†“Evidence of¬†Brady‚Äüs awareness appears in text communications between McNally and Jastremski.”
The report goes on to cite the veteran’s involvement in the 2006 rule change that allowed visiting teams to prepare game balls in accordance of the preferences of their quarterbacks, and then goes on to point out that during the interviews for the investigation Brady denied¬†“having been aware of Rule 2 or the minimum inflation¬†level until 2014,” and throwing in a snide “(despite approximately fourteen years as an NFL quarterback).”
They also appeared to be unhappy with the fact that Brady “declined to make available any documents or electronic information¬†(including text messages and emails) that we requested, even though those requests were limited¬†to the subject matter of our investigation (such as messages concerning the preparation of game¬†balls, air pressure of balls, inflation of balls or deflation of balls) and we offered to allow Brady’s¬†counsel to screen and control the production so that it would be limited strictly to responsive¬†materials and would not involve our taking possession of Brady’s telephone or other electronic¬†devices. Our inability to review contemporaneous communications and other documents in¬†Brady’s possession and control related to the matters under review potentially limited the¬†discovery of relevant evidence and was not helpful to the investigation.”
Needless to say Brady’s unwillingness to turn over his texts and emails didn’t sit well with the investigation, and now he’s in the spotlight. ¬†They believe that while he may not have directly deflated the balls he was aware of what was going on, basing it purely on the moaning and groaning of a couple of team employees who were complaining about him via text. ¬†Those quotes are mentioned repeatedly all throughout the report, which uses them over and over again as their reasoning behind their conclusions.
The report’s constant repeating¬†about the text messages, which inferred Brady’s concern over the state of the footballs leading up to the football game and McNally and Jastremski’s frustrations over it, appears to be where¬†the vast majority of the conclusion centers, especially¬†given how many times they’re referenced. ¬†That’s a pattern throughout the report and it’s amazing how many times in general things are repeated throughout it. ¬†To make matters worse,¬†the report¬†gives more of an¬†opinion and includes snide inferences of what they feel happened instead of an unbiased assertion of the facts and timeline of events to reach their conclusion.
As far as the punishment is concerned or the fallout, that remains to be seen. ¬†Kraft seemed disappointed with the outcome but¬†appears tired of arguing about the topic. ¬†For now¬†he¬†seems resolved to whatever is coming next, by a league that appears to have gotten what it wanted.
‚ÄúWhile I respect the independent process of the investigation, the time, effort and resources expended to reach this conclusion are incomprehensible to me,” Kraft said in his statement on Wednesday. ¬†“Knowing that there is no real recourse available, fighting the league and extending this debate would prove to be futile. We understand and greatly respect the responsibility of being one of 32 in this league and, on that basis, we will accept the findings of the report and take the appropriate actions based on those findings as well as any discipline levied by the league.‚ÄĚ
The good news is, it’s finally over. ¬†The bad news is the worst might not yet be, and for now we’ll just have to sit back and wait to see what happens next.