The Wells Report on the Patriots and DeflateGate has been released. We will evaluate and break it down.
I just completed reading the Wells Report and this is Ted Wells' conclusion:
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. 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.
Upon reading the evidence laid out, I have to agree with Wells that it is more probable than not that a member of the Patriots personnel was involved in some circumvention of the rules with regards to the standards for footballs. It is less clear whether or not Tom Brady had directed this course of action. Bill Belichick, the staff, and the rest of the team is exonerated.
Wells presents two main cases for why it is probable that members of the Patriots were actively involved in the adjustment of the footballs:
1) Text message and phone discussions amongst key characters. The lead characters in the report are Jim McNally (Patriots locker room attendant), John Jastremski (Patriots equipment assistant), and Tom Brady (Patriots quarterback).
2) Scientific reasoning with regards to atmospheric pressure impacting the football's air pressure.
Both points add key evidence in supporting the claim that the Patriots were actively involved, but neither really implicates Brady as strongly as Wells suggests, although there is definite potential of knowledge.
With regards to the characters, Jastremski was responsible for preparing the footballs for game day and has been in close contact with Brady. McNally carries the footballs from the locker room to the field, but Brady notes that he doesn't really know or have a connection with him.
Text messages exchanged between Jastremski and McNally are obvious reasons for concern:
7. In addition to the messages described above, before the start of the 2014-15 season, McNally referred to himself as "the deflator" and stated that he was "not going to espn……..yet." On May 9, 2014, McNally and Jastremski exchanged the following text messages:
McNally: You working
McNally: Nice dude....jimmy needs some kicks....lets make a deal.....come on help the deflator
McNally calls himself "the deflator" and it's pretty hard to find a context where that makes sense. Both also reference "the needle" multiple times in discussions with regards to football inflation. This text communication happened before the 2014 season, but the league was unable to find evidence that this was a long standing issue. The league was, however, able to find evidence of a Patriots staffer introducing unapproved footballs back in 2004.
Wells hypothesizes that McNally brought the footballs into the bathroom and deflated them prior to the start of the AFC Championship game. The officials say that McNally took the footballs without their permission and that they were looking for them prior to the game. They claim they typically accompany McNally to the field. The Patriots are on record saying that McNally would often take the balls to the field by himself.
According to Anderson, other members of the officiating crew for the AFC Championship Game, and other game officials interviewed during the investigation, the removal of the game balls from the Officials Locker Room by McNally without the permission of the referee or another game official was a breach of the standard operating pre-game procedure. No official could recall another time that McNally had removed game balls from the Officials Locker Room and taken them to the field without either receiving permission from a game official or being accompanied by one or more game officials.
While these are differing statements, they both implicate different things. The refs saying they would bring McNally to the field implies that he wouldn't have been able to deflate the footballs in prior games. The Patriots offer a story saying that this instance of bringing the footballs to the field was fairly typical.
Wells implies that McNally would not have deflated the footballs without Brady's instruction, which is in line with what Brady has said openly. Wells also points to multiple gifts from Brady to Jastremski as kickbacks for taking care of the footballs.
It seems like the evidence points to two possible origin points for the genesis of deflation. One is the aforementioned text communication back in May of 2014. Another is the October game against the Jets, when Brady complained to his equipment staff that the footballs were overly inflated.
McNally: Tom sucks...im going make that next ball a fuckin balloon
Jastremski: Talked to him last night. He actually brought you up and said you must have a lot of stress trying to get them done...
Jastremski: I told him it was. He was right though...
Jastremski: I checked some of the balls this morn... The refs fucked us...a few of then were at almost 16
Brady complaint that the referees ovreinflated the footballs instead of keeping them at his favored 12.5 PSI range is supported by Jastremski's text response. It seems, in the report, that the inflation of footballs came under greater scrutiny by Brady and the equipment staff after this Jets game.
The Colts raised a concern to the league prior to the AFC Championship game, notifying Mike Kensil, Dean Blandino, and an eventual host of NFL staffers became aware. They held meetings prior to the game with the refs with regards to expectations and concerns about the Patriots footballs. One piece of evidence worth noting is a complete eyeroll:
They also cited unspecified chatter throughout the League that the Patriots prefer their footballs softer than other teams and that visiting teams should be on guard when playing at Gillette Stadium. They could not identify a specific source for this information or reference particular conversations.
It would have been nice if they could have kept the obvious mudslinging out of the conversation and from potentially influencing the final narrative.
It turns out that Tom Brady requested special footballs against the Colts because he was expecting rain. The equipment staff prepared the footballs using gloves, instead of the normal conditioning, to provide for better grip in the elements. Jastremski inflated the footballs to precisely 12.6 PSI prior to handing them over to the refs. It should be noted that none of the exact PSIs prior to the game were recorded, but instead Wells listened to Anderson's story of events:
NFL game officials are not required to, and do not as a matter of standard practice, record in writing the pressure measurements taken during their pre-game inspections of game balls. We credit Anderson‟s recollection of the pre-game measurements taken on the day of the AFC Championship Game based on both the level of confidence Anderson expressed in his recollection and the consistency of his recollection with information provided by each of the Patriots and Colts regarding their target inflation levels.
So, to recap, the report officially introduces hearsay from the dregs of the league, and then expresses support for the memory of a ref due to the confidence in which he spoke. Wells makes a point to note how respected Anderson is in his report.
(The report also examines whether or not the Patriots had any guilt with regards to the kicking balls during the game, but it's an afterthought and no one is found at fault.
There is no mention of the NFL employee fired for stealing these footballs. Edit: yes they do in footnote 78)
When it came to the game, the league used the consulting firm to provide research on whether or not the weather could have impacted the measurements, and they've ruled out Belichick's press conference explanation.
Exponent ruled out as factors that impacted the pressure levels measured at halftime variations in the way a football is used (i.e., the amount of impact a football has sustained) and differences in ball preparation—including the vigorous rubbing described by Coach Belichick during his January 24, 2015 press conference.
Robert Kraft issued a statement condemning the outcome of this research on the grounds of many other scientific studies in the Patriots favor.
Wells also had the consulting firm perform studies that proved that the footballs could have been deflated in the time McNally was in the bathroom.
The league noted the levels of inflation in the locker room at half time, where eleven of the Patriots footballs were tested versus four of the Colts footballs. A legitimate point of concern is that the Patriots footballs were on average a) decreased roughly 0.5-1.0 PSI more than the Colts footballs; b) the range of PSI measure of the Patriots footballs was far more scattered than the measurements of the Colts.
Of course, this ignores the fact that measuring just four footballs is hardly a reasonable sample for any test with statistical integrity. But there's enough room for reasonable concern.
In the aftermath of the report, there was increased communication between Brady and Jastremski.
Additional evidence of Brady's awareness includes a material increase in the frequency of telephone and text communications between Brady and Jastremski shortly after suspicions of ball tampering became public on January 19. After not communicating by telephone or text message for more than six months (based on data retrieved from Jastremski‟s cell phone), Brady and Jastremski spoke by telephone at least twice on January 19 (calls lasting a total of 25 minutes and 2 seconds), twice on January 20 (calls lasting a total of 9 minutes and 55 seconds) and twice on January 21 (calls lasting a total of 20 minutes and 52 seconds) before Jastremski surrendered his cell phone to the Patriots later that day for forensic imaging.
These calls included conversations relatively early during the mornings of January 19 (7:26 a.m. for 13 minutes and 4 seconds), January 20 (8:22 a.m. for 6 minutes and 21 seconds) and January 21 (7:38 a.m. for 13 minutes and 47 seconds).
Brady also took the unprecedented step of inviting Jastremski to the QB room (essentially Brady‟s office) in Gillette Stadium on January 19 for the first and only time that Jastremski can recall during his twenty-year career with the Patriots, and Brady sent Jastremski text messages seemingly designed to calm Jastremski ("You good Jonny boy?"; "You doing good?"). For his part, Jastremski sent Brady text messages confirming that he was okay ("Still nervous; so far so good though") and cautioning Brady about questioning
It should be noted that Brady refused to give up his phone for evaluation, as did kicker Stephen Gostkowski.
This section seems extremely disingenuous as Wells leaves out the part of the discussion where Brady reassures Jastremski that the equipment manager "did nothing wrong." It paints Brady in the light of someone who is concerned about leaking information, instead of expressing concern for a person's well being.
Keep in mind that throughout this report, the only implication of Brady's knowledge or guilt is that the communication between Jastremski and McNally involves Brady signing autographs, expressing his appreciation for their work, and understanding that they were "under a lot of stress." That's really it.
The main reason why it seems reasonable to believe that Patriots personnel were responsible for deflating footballs is the discussion between Jastremski and McNally, where McNally calls himself the deflator. That, along with the half time measurements, is reasonable cause for concern.
However, there is zero proof that Brady directed the deflation. Brady's concern with football inflation surrounded an instance where the footballs were overinflated to 16 PSI back in October, and you can be certain that he would be upset and increase focus on football preparation after that point. But there's nothing to imply that Brady requested the footballs to fall below the 12.5 PSI limit. Any conclusion that implicates Brady seems to be a complete extrapolation with no founding beyond the notion that a staffer wouldn't amend the football without his instruction.
Ultimately, the report found what it wanted to find. It does not look good for Jastremski and McNally. The report actively crafted a narrative that would implicate Brady without real substance. All other Patriots are clear.
This report is exactly what everyone should have been expecting.