The NFL suspended Tom Brady four games and snatched $1 million and first- and fourth-round draft picks from the New England Patriots based on the Wells Report’s Deflategate findings. The Brady punishment’s odds of surviving appeal appear somewhat less than the quarterback’s odds of entering the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Though the Patriots remain impotent to appeal the discipline, options abound—including a lawsuit and a league appeal—for Tom Brady. The league’s past indifference to ball tampering, the bungling of the matter by NFL referees, and the Wells Report’s reverse-engineering a guilty verdict based on an assumption of skullduggery all indicate that Tom Brady stands a better chance of starting 16 games this season than he does of starting 12.
Here are the top-ten reasons why an honest and impartial arbiter will toss the suspension:
#10. Ted Wells Judges 100 Seconds Enough Time to Deflate Balls But 13 Minutes Not Long Enough for Refs to Test Balls?
If a Dutch teenager could solve a Rubik’s cube in less than six seconds, then it’s certainly possible that a beer distributor from New Hampshire could deflate a bag of unwieldy prolate spheroids in 100 seconds before the AFC Championship Game. Whether he did or not, we don’t know because the bathroom door shielded his activities. But the possibility, like the possibility the he merely took a leak himself, is not implausible, so this supposition by Wells, though entirely speculative, surely does not fall into the “outrageous” category. It’s when the investigator shifts the conversation to the Colts balls that he reveals a prejudice. Wells states (p. 70) that “it is estimated that the footballs were inside the [referee] locker room for approximately 13 minutes and 30 seconds” at halftime. But that (p. 7) “[o]nly four Colts balls were tested because the officials were running out of time before the start of the second half.” Get it? Wells finds 100 seconds ample time for one guy to deflate 12 footballs in a cramped bathroom but 810 seconds too brief a period for a room full of referees to gauge even half that number of Colts footballs.
#9 Wells Report Labels Texts Undermining Case a ‘Joke,’ Texts Buttressing Case Dead Serious
When the text messages of Patriots employees undermine Wells’s case, they joke. When the texts support Wells’s case, the texters display unmistakable earnestness. So, when ball handler Jim McNally threatens (pp. 5, 13, 77, 78) to overinflate pigskins to the size of a “rugby ball,” a “watermelon,” or a “balloon,” he clearly jests, according to Wells, as he does (pp. 15, 80) when he says, “The only thing deflating sun..is [Brady’s] passing rating.” But when he calls himself, in the same chain of texts, the “deflator,” he writes in all seriousness even if in a “joking tone,” according to Wells. In every instance, the language dismissed as “jokes” undermines the case and the language seized upon as serious, which appears as a reading-between-the-lines reach, suggests guilt. When the beleaguered ball handlers insist the texts represent kidding around, Wells (p. 80) states: “We do not view these explanations as plausible or consistent with common sense.” All kidding aside, the interpretation says more about the interpreters than the interpreted.
#8. Ted Wells Doesn’t Really Know the Pregame Pressure Levels
The entire Wells Report is based on an assumption that all of the Colts balls measured at 13.0 and all the Patriots balls measured at 12.5 before the game despite referee Walt Anderson conceding some variation (p. 52). Wells admits that the NFL referees did not bother to document the pregame measurements despite the Colts tipping off the NFL to their suspicions and the NFL warning the referees to watch for ball pressure. And despite the halftime measurements showing considerable fluctuations (p. 8) from ball to ball and considerable fluctuations in measurements of the same ball from referee to referee, the report insists on using neat, consistent pregame measurements of 13.0 for each Colts ball and 12.5 for each Patriots ball. Wells accepts the uniform 13.0/12.5 measurements in part because of “the level of confidence [referee Walt] Anderson expressed in his recollection” that the balls came in around those levels.
#7 After Relying on Walt Anderson’s ‘Best Recollection,’ Wells Disregards It
Here’s where things get interesting. According (pp. 51-52) to Anderson’s “best recollection,” he used the gauge with a Wilson logo and “the long, crooked needle,” calibrated by Wells’s scientists as finding higher pressure readings, to gauge balls before the game. This is important because if the ref used this gauge that Wells’s scientific consultants measured as taking consistently higher readings, then this would force Wells to rely on this particular gauge for halftime readings. Relying on this gauge clears eight of eleven Pats balls. But in this instance, Wells decided to dismiss Anderson’s “best recollection” and maintain that Anderson used the other gauge before the game. That certainly helps his case but it’s difficult to think of anything that helps one come to that conclusion. His scientists—going against the testimony of a referee entering his twentieth season in the NFL—claim (p. 116) that “Walt Anderson most likely used the Non-Logo Gauge to inspect the game balls prior to the game.” Why? As Mike Florio, who outlines this scandalous aspect of the report, writes: “That’s how investigations that start with a predetermined outcome and work backward unfold.”
#6. The Refs and Their Gauges Fluctuated Greatly
The halftime pressure readings on each ball vary considerably from referee to referee. There is no uniformity in one ref’s readings showing higher or lower than the other’s, suggesting human error or defective equipment. But either of these possibilities kills Wells’s case, so he offers a theory explaining this away. He maintains (pp. 116-117) that “it appears most likely that the two officials switched gauges in between measuring each team’s footballs.” While Clete Blakeman’s readings uniformly measure .3 to .45 psi lower on the Patriots balls than Dyrol Prioleau’s readings, Blakeman’s readings consistently run higher, but on just three of four Colts balls, than Prioleau’s. Apart from this inconsistency that raises serious questions about the digital gauges, their batteries, and the people running them, the Wells Report’s raw data—in contradiction to the narrative—definitively answers that at least one of the gauges, or perhaps one of the refs, erred. How else to explain the .3 to .45 psi variances on all of the balls?
#5 The NFL Doesn’t Punish for Ball Tampering
Brady denies tampering. Another, some might argue better, quarterback admits it. “I like to push the limit to how much air we can put in the football,” Aaron Rodgers told CBS’s Phil Simms pre-Deflategate, “even go over what they allow you to do and see if the officials take air out of it.” Aside from the rule-breaking admission, the Green Bay Packers QB’s preference for bigger footballs brings into question whether a lack of pressure provides an advantage or caters to a preference. Additionally, Fox’s cameras caught the Minnesota Vikings and Carolina Panthers heating balls this past season in frigid Minneapolis. NFL officiating guru Dean Blandino told the teams to knock it off. Rodgers has thus far escaped both the tongue lashing and the $25,000 fine. Rule 2, Section 1 states: “The Referee shall be the sole judge as to whether all balls offered for play comply with these specifications…. the balls shall remain under the supervision of the Referee until they are delivered to the ball attendant just prior to the start of the game.” This didn’t happen. “In the event a home team ball does not conform to specifications, or its supply is exhausted,” Rule 2, Section 2 holds, “the Referee shall secure a proper ball from the visitors and, failing that, use the best available ball.” This didn’t happen.
#4. Wells Report Misleadingly Says Pats Shielded Ball Handler from Follow-Up Interview
“We believe the failure by the Patriots and its Counsel to produce [Jim] McNally for the requested follow-up interview violated the club’s obligations to cooperate with the investigation under the Policy on Integrity of the Game & Enforcement of League Rules and was inconsistent with public statements made by the Patriots pledging full cooperation with the investigation,” maintains the Wells Report. At best, the language (p. 20) proves misleading. It turns out, the Patriots made the employee in question, Jim McNally, available for three follow-up interviews. Only on the request for a fifth interrogation did the franchise say no more interviews for the game-day employee who lives 75 miles from Gillette Stadium. “I was offended by the comments made in the Wells Report in reference to not making an individual available for a follow-up interview,” Patriots owner Bob Kraft responded. “What the report fails to mention is that he had already been interviewed four times and we felt the fifth request for access was excessive for a part-time game day employee who has a full-time job with another employer.”
#3 A Whole Lot of ‘More Probably Than Not’ Adds Up to Unlikely
Judging it “more probable than not” that Tom Brady was “generally aware”—whatever that means—of an event itself judged “more probable than not” does not make for a statistically airtight, or even compelling, case. Add in all the other “more probable than not” suppositions, such as those dismissing Walt Anderson’s recollection on what pregame gauge he used or theorizing that the refs switched gauges during halftime, and suddenly a 50 percent+1 finding becomes 25 percent, then 12.5 percent, and so on.
#2 Wells Cherry Picks Data
The report’s assertions repeatedly conflict with its data on ball pressure. “Specifically, all but three of the Patriots footballs, as measured by both gauges, registered pressure levels lower than the range predicted by the Ideal Gas Law,” the report claims. This just isn’t true, which a chart presented by Wells (p. 8) plainly shows. Eight of the balls measured by referee Dyrol Prioleau showed readings at or above where Wells’s own scientists said balls inflated to 12.5 psi before the game would hit at halftime because of weather conditions. Wells states that “the Patriots balls should have measured between 11.52 and 11.32 psi at the end of the first half.” Ball 1 (11.80), Ball 3 (11.50), Ball 5 (11.45), Ball 6 (11.95), Ball 7 (12.30), Ball 8 (11.55), Ball 9 (11.35), and Ball 11 (11.35) all registered above 11.32 by Prioleau’s readings (Balls 1, 6, and 7 also did so by Blakeman’s). Put another way, three Pats balls came in above the range outlined by the scientists, three Pats balls came in below the range, and five came within the range. In response to these completely normal measurements, Wells opts to dismiss the findings of a field judge with eight years NFL experience just as he dismissed the recollection of a referee entering his twentieth season in the NFL.
#1 NFL Uses Different Ball Pressure Standard for Pats and Colts
Whereas Wells ignores the best-case-scenario readings for the Patriots and highlights the worst-case scenario ones, he exclusively relies on the highest possible measurements when discussing Colts balls. He says (p. 52) at halftime, “No air was added to the Colts balls tested because they each registered within the permissible inflation range on at least one of the two gauges used.” Notice the different standard? For the Patriots, he talks about balls not passing muster on “both gauges.” For the Colts, he employs a “one of the two gauges used” standard. Apart from whitewashing the inconvenient truth that one referee judged a majority of Pats balls where Wells’s scientists said balls inflated to regulation before the game would read at halftime, this underhanded tactic enables Wells to gloss over the fact that three Colts balls lost so much pressure after a half, despite supposedly coming in at 13.0 to begin with, that they fell short of the NFL standard on at least one ref’s gauge. Relying on the lower gauge when its suits the NFL’s purposes and then both gauges when expediency demands it, like accepting Walt Anderson’s recollections when it suits and dismissing them when it doesn’t, suggests a bias that an unbiased arbiter will likely find objectionable enough to dismiss the suspension.