When the dust has settled, the only people confirmed to have done anything wrong are Roger Goodell and his cohorts at the NFL.
That should be the headline across every platform. Whether you think Tom Brady did, or didn't, direct the equipment managers to fiddle with the footballs, the only violation that is an iron clad fact is the NFL's violation of federal law.
Listen, here's my opinion on what actually happened- and I've been saying it for a while: It all boils down to the referees not having a set process to measure footballs prior to the game because no one ever cared. The Patriots likely gave the officials the footballs a couple tenths of a PSI around the 12.5 target because that's the randomness of pressure gauges. The refs looked at the balls, shrugged their shoulders, and okayed them for play.
That's the full story. Everything else is the fallout from the league office not understanding the Ideal Gas Law.
If the Wells Report and its faulty science is to be believed, the Patriots footballs should have measured somewhere between 11.32 and 11.52 PSI. On one gauge, the Patriots measured an average of 11.49 PSI, well within the expected limit. The other gauge averaged 11.11, which means that the absolute worst case scenario was that the Patriots footballs were 0.21 PSI below the limit.
Not 2 PSI, but 0.21 PSI. Not a single quarterback could be expected to feel that difference because that's how much pressure swings when the temperature changes roughly three degrees. That happens literally every single game.
The belief that Tom Brady instructed the equipment managers to change the pressure of the footballs by a worst-case negligible 0.21 PSI looks even more foolish when held to the notion that no equipment staffer would touch a football without the quarterback's notice.
If Brady was so finicky that he wanted the footballs decreased by an unnoticeable 0.21 PSI, why would the pressure of the footballs be found in such a wide spanning range of 1.58 PSI? It's a great disconnect between reality and what the league projects Brady to have ordered.
The league shouldn't attribute malice by Brady to what was more likely just the lack of standards held by the officials, yet that's exactly what they've been doing. It's clear that the league had an end goal of proving that the Patriots did something wrong- again, likely not originating out of malice, but due to a lack of understanding of the Ideal Gas Law- and then fit whatever they could find to meet that narrative, even if the story made zero sense.
What is more probable: that Tom Brady was picky about his footballs to 0.21 PSI, yet the equipment guys set the footballs with a pregame pressure range of 1.58 PSI? Or that the officials didn't have a standard process of which to measure the footballs and just signed off on the footballs if they were near the expected range?
The fact that the league has spent so much time this offseason correcting the pregame football process lends some credence that lack of process was the root cause.
But no matter. The NFL broke federal laws in order to try and tag Brady with a crime that more-than-likely never happened. That should be the headline whenever DeflateGate is brought up in the future. The league can appeal all it wants. It's lost control of the public narrative.
And now the Patriots are on to the Pittsburgh Steelers with their Hall of Fame quarterback ready to take the field.