A report by Ted Wells to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on the “deflate-gate” controversy judges it “more probable than not” that employees of the New England Patriots deliberately let air out of balls before the AFC Championship Game in January.
The report implicates two Patriots employees and suggests that pressure by quarterback Tom Brady to depressurize balls at least indirectly led to 11 balls testing below the league limit. Wells presents much circumstantial evidence suggesting deliberate intent but no smoking gun. The report concedes that the laws of physics contributed to a substantial natural depressurizing of all balls.
The investigation exonerates New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, owner Bob Kraft, and other employees of the team. It includes salty text messages directed at the team’s star quarterback from the two implicated employees, who appear to dislike their dealings with the four-time Super Bowl-winner.
Wells writes in the executive summary:
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.
The report awarded better news to Belichick than to Brady:
We do not believe that the evidence establishes that any other Patriots personnel participated in or had knowledge of the violation of the Playing Rules or the deliberate effort to circumvent the rules described in this Report. In particular, we do not believe there was any wrongdoing or knowledge of wrongdoing by Patriots ownership, Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick or any other Patriots coach in the matters investigated. We also do not believe there was any wrongdoing or knowledge of wrongdoing by Patriots Head Equipment Manager Dave Schoenfeld.
The report contains text messages between Patriots equipment personal expressing frustration with Brady over his complaints regarding overinflated footballs last season. McNally writes, “Tom sucks” and “F— Tom.” He criticizes NFL referees for inflating balls to 16 psi, well above the mandated limit, and instructs Jastremski to “blow up the ball to look like a rugby ball” in response to Brady’s hectoring on overinflated balls. In another exchange, McNally tells Jastremski, “The only thing deflating sun..is his passing rating.”
Brady spoke to investigators. But he refused to provide access to his emails or text messages. The investigators dubbed the quarterback’s refusal “not helpful.” The report conceded that “there is less direct evidence linking Brady to tampering activities than either McNally or Jastremski. 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.”
The New England Patriots defeated the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 in the AFC Championship Game. After a first half Tom Brady interception, the referees inspected the balls and found 11 from the home team not meeting the minimum. The teams played the second half with balls meeting the requirements of the rules.
The NFL directs the inflation of balls to 12.5 to 13.5 psi. The 11 balls measured by the officials at halftime of the Colts game ranged from 10.5 to 11.85.