It’s “more probable than not” that the Patriots violated NFL rules by deflating game balls before the AFC Championship Game and that quarterback Tom Brady was at least “generally aware” of what was happening. That was the finding of the Ted Wells Report, which was finally released Thursday, 103 days after Wells began his investigation.
In the report’s first pages, Wells’ findings state: “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”.
On May 11th, Adam Schefter reported that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season, that the Patriots will lose a 1st round draft pick in 2016 and a 4th round draft pick in 2017, and that the team was fined $1 million.
There are other recent cases that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will analyze for potential punishment. The Patriots’ involvement in Spygate in 2008 included head coach Bill Belichick’s $500,000 fine, New England Patriots’ $250,000 fine, and a loss of 2008 1st round pick in the NFL Draft. For the Saints’ involvement in Bountygate in 2012, there was a $500,000 fine for the New Orleans Saints, loss of a 2nd round pick in the 2012 and 2013 NFL Draft, and suspensions for head coach Sean Payton, defensive coordinator Gregg Robinson, general manager Mickey Loomis, and assistant coach Joe Vitt.
More recently, the Cleveland Browns were levied serious punishments for their GM texting the sideline during games Browns and the Atlanta Falcons were also harshly punished for utilitizing artifical noise for the past two seasons.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Indianapolis Colts Accused The New England Patriots of Using Deflated Balls in The AFC Championship Game
The NFL investigated whether the New England Patriots intentionally deflated game balls during New England’s 45-7 thrashing of the Colts in the AFC championship game. Deflated game balls can be easier to grip during bad weather such as the rainy conditions like those at Gillette Stadium on the night of the AFC Championship Game.
The aftermath of the Colts involvement in Deflategate has been ugly for the organization in many ways. Primarily, they lost by 38 points to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, losing an opportunity to show that they are a Super Bowl contender in the AFC. Potentially more harmful than the loss is the schism in the hierarchy for the Colts; reports incidate that Colts GM Ryan Grigson knew about the deflated balls before the game. The same report states that when this was brought to the attention of Colts head coach Chuck Pagano at halftime of the AFC Championship Game, when it was only a 17-7 Patriots lead, Pagano felt like he lost the focus of the team for the second half.
Both Pagano and Grigson are in the last year of their contract with the Colts and the team would be in dire straights if they lost the former Executive of the Year in Grigson and the very successful head coach in Pagano.
2. There Have Been Conflicting Reports About How Many Balls Were Substantially Deflated
After the Colts’ allegiations were founded, the NFL investigated the claims of deflated balls. The NFL hired lawyer Ted Wells, who the NFL has utilitied previously for the bullying scandal with Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito. He also is looking deeper into three other NFL situations as well as Deflategate. The since rectified Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons situations listed above were moderated by Wells. The lawyer is also investigating if New York Jets owner Woody Johnson potentially tampered in regards to the recruitment of Darrelle Revis. The Falcons received a $350,000 fine and the loss of 5th round draft pick in 2016 for their infractions and the Browns received a $250,000 fine and GM Ray Farmer was suspended four games for their infractions.
The issue that Patriots officials had was with how many balls were significantly underinflated. Most reports have 11 of the 12 game issued balls for the Patriots as underinflated, but saw only one ball as significantly underinflated. An NFL.com article stayed that although 11 of 12 balls were underinflated, only one was two pounds under the league minimum. The further examination of the balls was the major issue for Ted Wells.
Rule 2, Section 1 of the NFL Rule Book says that the balls must be a certain weight, length, width and even color. Rule 2, Section 2 of the NFL Rule Book addresses the preparation that goes into getting the game balls ready. This is a process that includes the teams providing their own balls and the refs checking and marking them. These are the two rules that Ted Wells deliberated on and how he decided the guilt (innocence) of the Patriots.
3. An NFL Employee was Fired for Attempting to Sell One of the BallsNFL employee Scott Miller was fired for taking a kicking ball out of circulation and intending to sell it (Twitter/@toddjthomas)
On February 17th, the story was back in the news again, as Kelly Naqi of Outside the Lines reported that Jim McNally, an official’s locker room attendant for the Patriots tried to introduce an unapproved special teams ball into the game. Naqi reported that alternate official Greg Yette was alerted by the improper markings on the ball and thought that it was odd that a locker room attendant was allowed field access. When Yette noticed the issue, he notified the NFL’s vice president of game operations, Mike Kensil, who was at the game in the press box.
On February 19th, the story took a bizarre turn, information showed that an NFL employee removed the ball from the opening kickoff from the playing field. The removal of the ball created an issue for the NFL and an interesting plot twist in Deflategate. First, the employee was in defiance of the NFL rules for selling the ball; the ball could have been given to a charitable effort but not for his own profit. Secondly, and more pertainent to the investigation, the NFL employee was seen bringing a ball back onto the field via in-stadium video, after McNally was also seen giving a ball to officials on in-stadium vieda. There is no evidence of foul-play between McNally, the NFL employee, and the footballs, but the circumstantial evidence is something that the NFL looked more deeply into.
Scott Miller, the named NFL employee was fired for attempting to sell game used balls from the AFC Championship game.
4. The Wells Report Was Released on May 6, 2015
Although firm punishment has not been stated, the Wells Report found that the Patriots knew about the deflated balls.
Furthermore, there is discussion between John Jastremski and Jim McNally, two equipment assistants about the balls:
NFL reporter Adam Schefter confirmed that the NFL is investigating further displicine for Jim McNally, John Jastremski, and Patriots quarterback Brady.
The Wells Report did fully exonerate Patriots owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick, Head Equipment Manager Dave Schoenfeld, and said there there was not an attempt to enter a kicker’s ball unjustly.
5. Tom Brady May Face The Most Hefty Punishment
The Wells Report stated that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was not cooperative with the investigation and knew about the usage of deflated balls:
There was discussion between Patriots game-day employee McNally and NFL referee Walt Anderson about the PSI of the balls, but the report stated that McNally’s “legitimate job responsibilities as Officials Locker Room attendant did not involve the preparation, inflation or deflation of Patriots game balls.”
Jastremski and McNally discussed the PSI of the ball after the Jets-Patriots game on October 17, 2014. Tom Brady complained that the PSI for the balls were 16 in that game and their was this text message exchange:
“McNally: Tom sucks…im going make that next ball a f**** 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 f***** us…a few of then were at almost 16 Jastremski: They didnt recheck then after they put air in them
McNally: F*** tom …16 is nothing…wait till next sunday
Jastremski: Omg! Spaz”
Tom Brady complained about the PSI of the balls in that game against the Jets and McNally and Jastremski continued to talk about the PSI of balls in text messages, with McNally referring to himself as “the deflator“. McNally has worked for the Patriots for the past 32 seasons.
Furthermore, more evidence in regards to tampering is found on the 10th page of the Report:
“On January 10, 2015, immediately prior to the game between the Patriots and the Ravens, in the Patriots equipment room with both Brady and Jastremski present, McNally received two footballs autographed by Brady and also had Brady autograph a game-worn Patriots jersey that McNally previously had obtained.”
Although their is more evidence for McNally and Jastremski, there is circumstantial evidence linked Brady’s awareness. The main issue in the Wells Report was the increase in communication between Brady and the game-day employees:
“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).”
The report also stated that Brady invited Jastremski into the quarterback room on the day of the AFC Championship game. It also stated that Brady alerted Jastremski that there would be questioning on the deflated balls.
The text message read:
“FYI…Dave will be picking your brain later about it. He‟s not accusing me, or anyone…trying to get to bottom of it. He knows it‟s unrealistic you did it yourself…”
You can read the full report here: