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DeflateGate: Instant Thoughts and Analysis on Wells Report Punishment

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It's hard to come to terms with what just happened. Let's come together to work it through.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Let's pick up the pieces.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has been suspended for the first four games of the season for conduct detrimental to the integrity of the league, because he "was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities" and because he refused to give them his phone.

The New England franchise was penalized a record $1 million, along with a 2016 1st round pick and a 2017 4th round pick due to their history of transgressions (ie: 2007 SpyGate) and because they declined to make locker room attendant Jim McNally available for a fifth interview. McNally and John Jastremski has been suspended from work indefinitely, and have to be reinstated by Troy Vincent, the man who issued the penalty, along with commissioner Roger Goodell.

It should be noted that Vincent spent his career with the Bills and Dolphins (as well as the Eagles). Goodell once worked for the Jets.

Maybe that last part should be squeezed into a footnote.

The Wells Report has more holes than a sponge, but it was able to clean up the mess the league started all the same. Vincent made it clear in his statement to Brady that he received the spark notes version of the Wells report, but didn't do any critical thinking on his own part before coming to his own conclusion.

If Vincent and Goodell only read the headlines (pages 1-21) and ignored all responses then their reaction makes sense.

But here's a breakdown of what you'd find if you read the report:

1. Brady specifically asked for the footballs to be at 12.5 PSI, and the team's standard was 13.0 PSI.

Brady also stated that, at some point, he felt a football that was inflated to 12.5 psi, and decided that should be the target for all future games because he did "not ever want to get near the upper range again." In addition, Brady stated that he suggested that the Patriots give the game officials a copy of Rule 2 when they delivered game balls prior to each game, so that the officials would know that it was not necessary to inflate them further. He claimed that doing so would help ensure that the officials did not alter the footballs he had approved. (pg. 40)

John Jastremski to his fiance on October 17th: I just measured some of the balls. They supposed to be 13 lbs... They were like 16. Felt like bricks (pg. 86)

All signs point to the Patriots requesting and using footballs within the legal limits. Now whether or not the Patriots did anything to the footballs after the refs reviewed is another question (and one without an answer in the report), but there are zero signs that New England prefers underinflated footballs.

2. Jim McNally only works home games. So who was doing the cheating on the road?

McNally's schedule has been limited to home games for the past two or three seasons. Prior to that, he would travel with the team to certain road games. He explained that he stopped traveling with the team when additional full-time personnel were added to the equipment staff. (pg. 42, footnote 22)

The report doesn't address how the Patriots would have deflated it while in Indianapolis, which is where the Colts claim their suspicions were raised.

3. Walt Anderson believes he used the gauge with the logo, all the calculations were done based on the non-logo gauge. They use his memory when convenient.

Although Anderson's best recollection is that he used the Logo Gauge, he said that it is certainly possible that he used the Non-Logo Gauge. (pg. 52)

The report is so certain of Anderson's memory, even though he: 1) can't remember the gauge he uses (pg. 52); 2) can't remember which team's footballs he measured first (pg. 52); 3) couldn't recall that the Patriots had 13 footballs instead of the standard 12 (pg. 68).

By using the non-logo gauge for calculations, the Patriots are found out of range. If the report used the logo gauge, as Anderson recalls, then the Patriots would be within the legal range.

4. The NFL didn't record the measurements before the game, therefore making their data useless.

When tested, all of the Patriots footballs—both game balls and back-up balls— registered on the lower-end of the permissible inflation range. Anderson recalls that most of the Patriots footballs measured 12.5 psi, though there may have been one or two that measured 12.6 psi. No air was added to or released from these balls because they were within the permissible range. According to Anderson, two of the game balls provided by the Patriots measured below the 12.5 psi threshold. Yette used the air pump provided by the Patriots to inflate those footballs, explaining that he "purposefully overshot" the range (because it is hard to be precise when adding air), and then gave the footballs back to Anderson, who used the air release valve on his gauge to reduce the pressure down to 12.5 psi.

According to Anderson, when tested, most of the Colts footballs measured 13.0 or 13.1 psi. Anderson believes that there may have been one or two footballs that registered 12.8 or 12.9 psi, but recalls that it was "pretty evident that their target was 13." Because the Colts balls all measured within the permissible range, no air was added to or released from the footballs. (pg. 52)

The gauge is just one factor for a flawed analysis. The other is that there is no recording of the original football pressures. The report just assumes the 12.5 PSI for the Patriots and 13.0 PSI for the Colts is the original. But because it's unknown, this sort of science experiment won't pass a third grade science fair. When we're looking at hundredths of a PSI, an admitted 0.3 PSI swing is a fairly large range.

Additionally, the officials misrecorded one of the Colts four half time measurements, which means that they only had three viable data points- and they weren't even viable because their original levels weren't recorded (pg. 69, footnote 41)

5. The officials showed zero regard for inflation accuracy.

Pages 69 and 73 covers the halftime and post-game measurements of the footballs. Of the four footballs tested, the Colts have a range of 0.45 PSI, which is roughly 50% of allowed window from 12.5 PSI to 13.5 PSI. This means, along with their own admission, that not only did the the refs not ensure all of the footballs were inflated to the same level, but that the officials were completely fine with a wide range around the target pressure. So it stands to reason that the league did not inflate all of the Patriots footballs to the same level.

Additionally, the officials gave the Patriots second half footballs that were inflated to roughly 13.75 PSI (math derived from page 73), with one of them measuring 13.65 PSI immediately after the game. The report conveniently throws out the post-game calculations (pg. 73, footnote 44) when the numbers don't prove useful.

6. If the Ideal Gas Law is followed, the Patriots are within the allowed pressure range.

For example, using the most likely pressure and temperature values for the Patriots game balls on the day of the AFC Championship Game (i.e., a starting pressure of 12.5 psig, a starting temperature of between 67 and 71°F and a final temperature of 48°F prior to the balls being taken back into the Officials Locker Room), these equations predict that the Patriots balls should have measured between 11.52 and 11.32 psig at the end of the first half, just before they were brought back into the Officials Locker Room. (pg. 200 of the .PDF, pg. 40 of the Exponent report)

It just so happens that the Patriots average PSI (which makes the most sense to use since the officials didn't measure, and certainly didn't guarantee a 12.5 PSI level) is 11.49 PSI, which is on the higher end of their projected 11.32-11.52 PSI range. So New England's footballs had their expected pressures.

The Wells Report showed such a blatant disregard for not just scientific integrity, but also for the search of actual truth. The Patriots footballs were exactly as they should have been in that scenario- but because of the incomplete data recordings by the officials (and by trying to sneak in a false data set of three as the base case?!) the entire scientific experiment fails scrutiny. The league should be appalled.

Additionally, there was a willful disregard for any context offered by the Patriots with respect to the communication between the New England coworkers. There were multiple times where it was implied that either: 1) the officials weren't inflating the footballs correctly; 2) the Patriots desired to have their footballs at the lower level of the allowed range. There was absolutely zero communication of playing with footballs below the legal limit.

The Patriots are right to dispute these results and they should win any decision if taken outside the rulings of the NFL offices. This whole decision smells and it's because the report is trash. Garbage in, garbage out.