Investigating the Investigator: Patriots Release Report on Wells Report

Belichick Brady

The New England Patriots today issued their own report on the Wells Report.

The lengthy document, “The Wells Report in Context,” nitpicks, with varying degrees of success, the NFL’s investigation of possible skullduggery involving ball pressure in the AFC Championship Game. The single, crucial point upon which the Patriots appear to nail Wells involves his inexplicable decision to reject the testimony of referee Walt Anderson on which gauge he used to measure game balls prior to the Patriots-Colts contest.

“What is the consequence of rejecting Anderson’s statement that he used the Logo gauge pre-game?” the new report asks. “The Ideal Gas Law, according to the League’s consultants, establishes that the psi of the Patriots footballs at halftime would have been 11.32 to 11.52 due solely to the temperature impact on the footballs. (pg. 113). With the Logo gauge, 8 of the 11 Patriots footballs are in the Ideal Gas Law range and the average of all 11 Patriots footballs was 11.49 — fully consistent with the Ideal Gas Law’s prediction of exactly what that psi would be.”

In apparently accepting Ted Wells’s decision to reject the recollection of its own referee entering his 20th season in the league, the NFL suspended Tom Brady for four games and took $1 million and two draft picks from his team. “The Wells Report in Context” looks to be a preview of some of the quarterback’s arguments in his appeal, which faces a filing deadline today.

“Mr. Anderson’s recollections are adopted by the investigators for the pre-game psi numbers,” the Patriots report notes in juxtaposing Wells’s belief of a 12.5 psi pregame Patriots reading and then disbelief of Anderson’s memory on what gauge he used to take that reading. “His recollection that he used the Logo gauge pre-game is the premise of the investigators’ justification for League officials not reinflating Colts footballs at halftime. But his recollection of which gauge he used pre-game is rejected when assessing the psi drop for the Patriots footballs. There is no rationale for this flip-flopping on whether Mr. Anderson’s recollections were correct. And it is clear that the investigators, not happy with his recollections on this point, pushed the issue so he would state that, despite his best recollection, it was ‘possible’ he used the other gauge.”

In a response more geared to public perception than to Ted Wells, the Patriots attempt to rebut the widespread notion that any quarterback would feel the difference between a 12.5 psi ball and an 11.5 psi ball:

no player or game official noticed that any below-regulation footballs were being used in the first half. Who handled the footballs the most during the first half of the AFC Championship Game? The game officials. They handled Patriots game footballs before and after each of the over 44 offensive Patriots’ plays. They held the footballs. They put them on the ground. They lateraled them. They caught them. They could even compare them with the Colts footballs they also handled. No single game official noticed anything different about the footballs. In sum, even those experienced in handling footballs cannot tell if they are at or a psi or two below regulation. The footballs remain firm and hard.

Rather than convincingly rebut Wells on a few important points, the Patriots report takes on many relatively trivial matters, and fails to persuade in some instances. For example, the team defines the term “deflator” as used by the two game-day employees at the center of the investigation as referring to weight loss. “Mr. Jastremski would sometimes work out and bulk up — he is a slender guy and his goal was to get to 200 pounds,” the Patriots contend. “Mr. McNally is a big fellow and had the opposite goal: to lose weight. ‘Deflate’ was a term they used to refer to losing weight.”

Elsewhere, the report proves more convincing in noting the wildly different readings on the same ball by different gauges—i.e., from 11.0 (Colts) to 11.75 (ref) on the intercepted ball—and referee Walt Anderson’s decision to give Pats employee Jim McNally permission to remove the game balls from the officials locker room before the game against the instruction of league rules.