The NFL’s long-awaited report on Deflategate named Wednesday two Patriots team staffers as culpable in circumventing league rules on air pressure in game footballs in the AFC Championship, and said QB Tom Brady was probably was at least “generally aware” of it.
Pats owner Robert Kraft, who vehemently defended his club at the Super Bowl, followed up on the 241-page report by independent investigator Ted Wells by calling its conclusions “incomprehensible,” but said there is no appeal that is worth the trouble.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, a longtime personal friend of Kraft’s, has the report. The league’s disciplinary committee headed by Troy Vincent will decide on a punishment within “days,” according to ESPN.com.
A PDF of the entire report can be found here. The report’s principal conclusion:
For the reasons described in this Report, and 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 (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 said neither coach Bill Belichick nor team management knew of the doctored footballs.
The report, via ESPN.com, quoted a text exchange beteween McNally and Jastremski from Oct. 14, 2014, after a Patriots-Jets game in which Brady was said to have complained angrily about the air pressure in the footballs. The evidence is stronger than most observers imagined:
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
Texts from Jan. 7, 2015, 11 days before the AFC title game, described requests from McNally for shoes and signed footballs from Brady in exchange for deflating the balls.
McNally: Remember to put a couple sweet pig skins ready for tom to sign
Jastremski: U got it kid…big autograph day for you
McNally: Nice throw some kicks in and make it real special
Jastremski: It ur lucky. 11?
McNally: 11 or 11 and half kid
The Patriots beat Indianapolis 45-7 and then beat the Seahawks 28-24 in the Super Bowl, 28-24. Deflategate was an early week sideshow in Phoenix, with Kraft unexpectedly taking the podium at the team’s arrival press conference and denouncing the claims and the pending investigation.
If no evidence was found, Kraft said, “I would expect and hope the league would apologize to our entire team, and in particular to Coach (Bill) Belichick and Tom Brady, for what they’ve had to endure this week.
“I’m disappointed in the way this entire matter has been handled and reported upon. We expect hard facts rather than circumstantial, leaked evidence to drive the conclusion of this investigation.”
Even though Kraft Wednesday castigated the investigation for its lack of hard evidence, the statements by those involved, including McNally, who called himself “the deflator,” strongly supports the notion that ball delflation was a standard part of the pre-game routine, deliberate and systematic, initiated by Brady and carried out by team employees.
Brady, one of the greatest QBs in NFL history with four Super Bowl wins, will have a hard time talking his way out of this. Even though the deflation story often has been mocked as a trifling episode that indeed had no influence in the game’s outcome, for Brady to even bother to seek such an edge calls into question his judgments, and reinforces the lingering franchise reputation as cheaters.
The 2007 “Spygate” episode, in which the NFL fined the Patriots and docked a draft choice for using a video camera to spy on the Jets, will again gain fresh profile as evidence that the Belichick regime will do anything to gain an edge, however small.
Cary Williams, then a Philadelphia Eagles cornerback and now a free-agent signee of the Seahawks, mentioined in August a popular sentiment around the NFL.
“One fact still remains: They haven’t won a Super Bowl since they got caught. They are cheaters,” Williams said. That lasted until February, when the Seahawks came up a yard short. But now, the Patriots’ legacy renews.