We Read the Wells Deflategate Report So You Didn’t Have To

Wells Report Deflategate

Val and I exchanged some text messages early yesterday afternoon. They went like this:

“Omg Wells report is out”

“There goes my afternoon”

“I’m only on page 22 and it’s upsetting”

For the third time in the past year and a half, the NFL released a hefty PDF to the public evidencing the results of an investigation into a league controversy.

(As a refresher, the Ted Wells’ 148-page report on Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito bullying incident came out in February 2014 and Robert Mueller’s 96-page report on the Ray Rice incident was released in January 2015. We didn’t get to see an official report from the 2010-2012 Saints Bountygate incident. Gee, we’d love to see the amount that ended up on the NFL’s books under the category of legal/investigative report expenses over the last few years.)

As we’ve explained before, we get our kicks from reading these reports. Admittedly it was less fun this time around considering that we are Pats fans. Not that it’s a cakewalk to read about workplace abuse and domestic violence either…

Anyway, the title of this post says it all: We read all 243 pages of the Wells report and now we’re going to tell you what you need to know.

(Oh wait, did you catch that? Yes, the report on deflated balls is 95 pages longer than the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito report and 147 pages longer than the report on Ray Rice.)

 I’m going to preface this by stating a few things:
  • We’re Pats fans, so that means our reactions reflect an inherent bias. We looked for flaws in the report, while others may be more likely to take it for what it’s worth.
  • Our dear old dad subscribes to the theory that you can make numbers show whatever you want. After taking a few statistics classes, we completely agree.
  • I (Michelle) can’t speak for Val, but I’ve been having major trust issues lately. Someone could tell me the sky is blue and depending on who said it, I would probably take it with a grain of salt. I’m learning the hard way that you can give two people the same set of facts, and they can use them very differently. One of the biggest (and toughest) lessons I’ve learned in my 20s is that everyone has their own agenda. Not everyone is a liar, but sometimes the truth is a gray area.
  • At the end of the day, the NFL is a business. Money is involved in every decision that’s made.

The Background

After their 45-7 victory over the Colts in the AFC Championship game on January 18, 2015, the Patriots came under fire for allegations of ball tampering. Like Kim Kardashian, Deflategate pretty much broke the internet. Patriots ownership, Coach Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady all denied involvement and we all learned more about ball inflation physics than we ever needed to know. The NFL announced they would have an official investigation completed. The Wells report is the result of that investigation.

High Level Synopsis

The Wells report is a collection of circumstantial evidence that builds a case against two Patriots employees and their quarterback. The report concludes that it is “more probable than not” that deliberate action by Patriots locker room attendants led to the deflated balls and that Tom Brady, Patriots quarterback, was generally aware of the activities. The report includes:

  • Air pressure readings of the 11 Patriots balls and the 4 Colts balls tested at halftime
  • The Colts’ role in alerting NFL officials of their suspicions prior to the game, as well as bringing attention to ball pressure during the game
  • General timeline regarding the game balls prior to the start of the game
  • Pertinent communication by parties of interest prior to and following the game
  • Kicking ball investigation (it was a non-issue)
  • Super science-y stuff done by an external consulting group

The Main Characters

Jim McNally (Officials Locker Room attendant for the Pats), John Jastremski (Patriots equipment assistant), and Tom Brady (Patriots quarterback) are the three key players in the report. There is a whole section of the report devoted to McNally’s responsibilities, which included being the main attendant for the Officials’ Locker Room and game day ball transport.

The Surprise

The extent to which Tom Brady is called out. Wells was clearly not a fan of Tom’s refusal to hand over text messages or the autographs/memorabilia Brady provided to the staffers, a practice which is commonplace throughout the NFL. To understand Tom’s agent’s reasoning for not handing over phone, click here.

Not a Surprise

The timing of the release of the report. Gee, the draft just concluded and although off-season programs have started, you can’t realistically expect any big headlines until training camp is in full swing. We’re shocked the report was released in May. Absolutely gobsmacked. (Can you sense the sarcasm?)

What Made Pats Fans Feel Good

The report supports that Coach Belichick and Patriots ownership appear to not be involved. Even knowing about past transgressions, Bill’s “mic drop” press conference filled with science jargon and My Cousin Vinnie references was convincing enough for us. Most of the media will never admit it, but we found it interesting that Jackie MacMullan said she owes an apology for automatically suspecting Bill’s involvement because of his history. From meeting Jackie in person and hearing stories about how Bill is not a journalist’s best friend (no duh), this was an interesting tidbit.

What Made Pats Fans Feel Bad

Pretty much everything else, especially with respect to the details in the report. The copious amount of ambiguous language was frustrating, even if it is the norm for legal documents such as these. McNally was clearly up to something as he does not come across as credible, or to be blunt, all that intelligent. We agree with Mike Reiss that some of the details of the report seem to support a pro-NFL agenda.

Favorite New Phrase

“More probable than not [he] was generally aware.” It’s more useful in everyday vernacular than “conscious uncoupling,” don’t you think? Next time we want to accuse someone of something but may not have all the cold hard facts we would like, we will leverage the same phrase used in the report to describe their conclusion regarding Tom Brady’s involvement. For example: Val, it’s more probable than not that I was generally aware of the breaking of your Skipper doll’s arm. (Apparently I broke Skipper’s arm when I was little, but I do not recollect doing so, nor was any one watching, so it remains a complete mystery as to who handicapped Barbie’s sister.) It was the investigators’ way of saying that we know Tom was up to no good, but we can’t prove it.

Lessons Learned

Think twice before you text. The most damning pieces of evidence are the text exchanges between McNally and Jastremski. Kids, it doesn’t matter if you delete suspicious texts. Like Liam Neeson, investigators will find them and then use them to kill you (metaphorically speaking, of course). Although these texts could be open to interpretation if taken out of context, any one reading them will generally find them suspicious, especially when McNally refers to himself as the “deflator.” *Facepalm*

Employee of the Year

Is not going to McNally or Jastremski. What’s kinda funny is that McNally’s texts indicate that Tom’s borderline neurotic ball preferences frustrated McNally to the point where he wanted to vindictively over-inflate balls just to get back at Tom. Let this be a lesson for all of you next time you want to complain about your boss and you choose to do it via text message.

Whoops, Our Bad

As Peter King points out, the NFL screwed up a few things during the process:

This is too important to get some facts wrong, and the NFL did. There were media leaks throughout the first week in the process, and some were based on misleading stats. According to the two-page letter apprising the Patriots of the investigation sent by NFL senior vice president Dave Gardi to Patriots officials Jan. 19, “One of the [Patriots’] game balls [inspected at halftime] was inflated to 10.1 psi, far below the requirement of 12 ½ to 13 ½ psi. In contrast, each of the Colts’ game balls that was inspected met the requirements set forth above.” In fact, the lowest of the 20 readings measuring Patriot footballs at halftime was 10.5 psi. And one of the gauges measuring the four Colts’ footballs that were measured at halftime had three of the balls below 12.5 psi.

What’s Your Definition of “Expert”?

The Wells report contains a 98-page report from Exponent, a scientific and engineering consulting company. Using pretty pictures and graphs, their report builds a case against the Patriots, indicating that physics is not the only reason for the loss of air pressure. They also tested how fast air could be removed from balls. The report also says, “In sum, data did not provide a basis for us to determine with absolute certainty whether there was or was not tampering as the analysis of such data ultimately is dependent upon assumptions and information that is not certain.” This is coming from a research firm that once argued that secondhand smoke does not cause cancer, along with some other questionable findings. (On a side note, we probably would have been a lot more invested in our high school physics classes had we known it would come in handy a decade later when defending a football team.)

UPDATE: The American Enterprise Institute issued their own independent report. The report questions the statistical analysis in the Wells report and basically says that you can’t replicate the findings unless you do some funky math.

Look Who Is Talking

  • Bob Kraft, owner of the Patriots, made a statement.
    • Oh Snap! Paraphrase: I still feel the same way I did back in January, when I told you how much this pissed me off. This report doesn’t rely on any definitive evidence. Can we talk about the Colts deflated balls? I’m offended that the report says we didn’t cooperate because we did. I’m not going to fight the report and its findings because it’s pointless. We’ll take whatever punishment comes our way, but I’m not happy about any of this.
  • Don Yee, Tom’s agent, also made a statement.
    • Oh Snap! Paraphrase: If the NFL cares so much about the integrity of the game, why did they not alert the Patriots to the Colts’ concerns about ball tampering prior to the game? Sounds like a sting operation to me. This report sucks because they left out a lot of stuff, including my client’s testimony. The NFL is a significant client of this firm, so conclusions were made first and then facts were collected later.
  • Tom Brady’s Dad, also had some words:
    • Oh Snap! Paraphrase: This is a witch hunt. The NFL is covering their own butts with this report. We should call this Framegate. (We find this interesting because Tom’s dad isn’t quoted all that often in the media.)

The Numbers

  • 243 – Total pages in the Wells report.
  • 98 – The number of pages in the report devoted to the Exponent report.
  • 67 – The number of interviews performed as part of the investigation.
  • 11 and 4 – The number of balls for the Pats and Colts, respectively, tested by the refs at halftime. Yes, that sounds like an accurate read of the population. (Oh, there’s that sarcasm again!)

The Outcome

  •  You can bet your bottom dollar the league will be changing its procedures around ball management. They already manage kicking balls more stringently and it’s an easy protocol change to make, so look for the rules to be updated for the 2015 season.
  • More than likely you’re going to see some punishments handed down from the league. Wouldn’t be surprising to see them for the team and Mr. Brady. We’re talking fines for the former and fines and suspensions for the later. If Roger (Goodell, the commissioner) takes the same approach he did with the Saints and BountyGate (“ignorance is not a good excuse”), you could potentially see Coach Belichick receive sanctions as well. All eyes are on Roger to prove that he doesn’t favor the Patriots, but he’s got to be careful because owner Bob Kraft has been one of his biggest supporters up until this debacle.
  • Jim McNally and John Jastremski are still suspended from working for the team, as requested by the NFL. It’s safe to say they won’t be considered for employment within the league anytime soon.
  • If you’re not a fan of New England, this adds fuel to your hate fire.

Want to read some different opinions? Check out Andrew Brandt’s MMQB post here. Dan Whetzel of Yahoo Sports made some good points in his Deflategate report. Boston sports writer Christopher Price basically says this is embarrassing for everyone.

– Michelle & Val


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