The report is in on “Deflategate” and it does not look good for either the Patriots or Tom Brady. As we discussed earlier, Coach Bill Belichick insisted at the earlier press conference that he not only had no idea how the balls were deflated in New England’s AFC title game against Indianapolis in January. He claimed utter ignorance about virtually anything to do with the subject of air pressure and footballs. He was followed by quarterback Tom Brady who, despite previously saying that he preferred underinflated balls, said that he could not tell that the balls were deflated (even when a Colts employee could immediately feel the difference and report it). It is the immaculate deflation. It just happened by some cosmic coincidence over(1) and over(2) and over(3) and over(4) and over(5) and over(6) and over(7) and over(8) and over(9) and over(10) and over(11) again. Ted Wells does not appear to buy it though absent a confession, he could not conclusively say that the team or Brady was guilty. Instead, he concludes in this 243 page report that “We believe it is unlikely that an equipment assistant and a locker room attendant would deflate game balls without Brady’s knowledge and approval.”
Brady claimed to know nothing about football pressure in his press conference: a performance mocked on Saturday Night Live.
Wells scoffs at Brady’s denials and states “We found these claims not plausible and contradicted by other evidence.” The report found that Brady “was at least generally aware” of all the plans to prepare the balls to his liking and that it was “more probable than not” that two Patriots employees – officials’ locker room attendant Jim McNally and equipment assistant John Jastremski – carried out the plan. McNally is accused of demanding expensive shoes and signed footballs, jerseys and cash. Communications are described as basically a swag grab. One email said “Remember to put a couple sweet pig skins ready for tom to sign.” Another said “Nice throw in some kicks and make it real special.” The report notes that Brady had virtually no communication with the men for the prior six months and then had six telephone calls in three days.
The report does note that, while Brady was known to prefer deflated balls, he actually did better in the second half of the game after the balls had been pumped back up to regulation level.
The next question is now how the NFL will respond. “More probable than not” may be the best you can get without a confession and it has been enough in past disputes. The Patriots could be facing yet another serious sanction in an organization that is viewed as having a highly checkered past and problematic team culture.
While owner Robert Kraft called the conclusion “incomprehensible,” it is the account of the Patriots that seems incomprehensible. McNally took the game balls into a bathroom in the short period between the testing and the resumed game. Referee Walt Anderson’s said that he was surprised when he was unable to locate the previously approved footballs at the start of the game – the first time that had happened to him in 19 years.
The question is whether a penalty would reach just the Patriots or whether it would extend to Brady or Belichick (who seems less of a focus of the suspicions). There could be another draft pick loss or even a suspension of the player and the coach for the next season. That would be a lessen to every team since the Patriots did not need to deflate the balls to beat the Colts. The way the game went, it looked like Brady could have been throwing beachballs and reached the same result.