On January 18th of 2015, the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots were suiting up to crown an AFC Champion and decide which team was worthy to represent the conference in Super Bowl 49. Even before the opening coin toss, however, the story of the day had already secretly been written- via a letter to the NFL from the Colts front office. Inside this letter, Indianapolis issued a statement that other teams had whispered for years- the New England Patriots are using footballs that are not inflated to the league’s minimum standards.
Then at halftime of the AFC Championship game, the Colts demanded an immediate intervention by officials when they realized that an intercepted football by linebacker D’Qwell Jackson appeared to be softer than their own footballs. That’s when referees officially stepped in and discovered that ten of the eleven Patriot’s footballs were well under the mandated threshold for pounds per square inch (PSI), which is believed to have provided a competitive advantage.
How much of an advantage? Under-inflated footballs are somewhat easier for the quarterback to throw and also easier to catch, especially in inclement weather. That’s not the point here though- it really doesn’t matter if there was a benefit from Deflategate or not. What really matters is the intent to bypass the very strict rules that 32 NFL teams agree to follow, and how a person/team being questioned about breaking those guidelines ultimately responds.
For example, did former Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams gain a competitive advantage from frequently smoking marijuana? Of course not, but the league suspended him anyway because rules are meant to be followed. Williams even had a social anxiety disorder that made his self-medicating a little more acceptable by public standards, yet he was prepared to accept whatever punishment the league passed down.
In the Deflategate scandal, however, we see no such acceptance of guilt. New England head coach Bill Belichek held a press conference to disprove the experts. Team owner Robert Kraft demanded a public apology before an investigation even took place. Brady outright denied any involvement whatsoever and preached to the media about how important fairness was in football-
The message was universally clear from the entire organization- there was no guilt to be found from the staff or players inside Gillette Stadium. Yet the complete Wells Report, which was released earlier this week, shows that the Patriots footballs mysteriously disappeared just minutes after being weighed in by officials. Video evidence shows that Jim McNally, a 32 year veteran employee with the Patriots organization, ducked into a nearby bathroom with the footballs without permission from the referees. McNally’s official job title is “locker room attendant” and the Patriots have stated that he has nothing to do with handling game-day footballs. That responsibility falls to employee John Jastremski, who spends the week prepping footballs to Brady’s strict standards.
Here are where things begin to get interesting though; an inspection of McNally’s test messages to Jastremski shows ample discussion around Tom Brady’s displeasure of the inflation-rate of footballs used in games. McNally even refers to himself at the “Deflator” and demands continual compensation for altering the footballs on game days-
May 9th, 2014-
McNally: You working
McNally: Nice dude….jimmy needs some kicks….lets make a deal…..come on help the deflator McNally:: Chill buddy im just <expletive> with you ….im not going to espn……..yet
October 17th, 2014-
McNally: Tom sucks…im going make that next ball a <expletive> 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…
October 24th, 2014-
Jastremski: I have a big needle for u this week
McNally: Better be surrounded by cash and new kicks….or its a rugby sunday
McNally: <expletive> tom
Jastremski: Maybe u will have some nice size 11s in ur locker
McNally: Tom must really be working your balls hard this week
October 25th, 2014-
Jastremski: Size 11?
Jastremski: 2 or 3X?
McNally: Tom must really be on you
McNally: 11 0r 11 half……2x unless its tight fitting
Jastremski: Nah. Hasn‟t even mentioned it, figured u should get something since he gives u nothing
The report also shows that on January 10th, 2015 (the day before the Patriots/Baltimore divisional playoff game) McNally received two autographed footballs and an autographed game-worn jersey from Brady in the Patriots equipment room. Jastremski was present for the exchange of “thank you” gifts as well, which is certainly damning for the Patriots organization.
Since the first text messages mentioning “the deflator McNally” date back to before the start of the 2014 season, it is Ted Wells’s opinion that these events may have been ongoing across multiple seasons with Tom Brady’s full knowledge. After all, why would McNally reference Brady owing him for “deflating services” during the off-season if there wasn’t cheating involved in the 2013 season as well? Business Insider points out the McNally was investigated by the league for tampering with game balls as far back as 2004 (where he switched out practice balls during games), which gives a completely new perspective on Brady’s legacy as a professional. It seems likely that he has cheated throughout his entire career.
Additionally, it is worth noting that Brady refused to grant access to phone records, text messages and other communications that could further self-incriminate his involvement, which in itself violates league policies during an official investigation. Add it all up and it leads to serious trouble for the former Super Bowl MVP.
Although Baltimore head coach Jim Harbaugh denies it, numerous sources have stated that the Ravens had tipped off the Colts prior to the AFC Championship game instead of directly filing a complaint with the league. Other rumors have surfaced for years regarding Brady’s rule-breaking PSI preferences, yet no team had the courage to put their suspicions in writing in the form of an official NFL inquiry. And that begs the question- would the Patriots be crowned the reigning Super Bowl champions right now if this was brought to light sooner?
Again, it’s not about advantages at this point; it’s about the integrity of football and having the character to rise above temptation when an opportunity presents itself. It appears that the New England Patriots have succumbed to that temptation since at least 2013, and possibly as far back as Tom Brady’s rookie year in 2000. Remember, McNally has been behind the scenes and doing the Patriot’s dirty work since 1983…so who knows the true start date of the Patriots Deflategate scandal.
One thing is crystal clear though; 21st century scandals simply do not remain hidden thanks to the technology we use to communicate within our lives. Tom Brady was doomed from the very start of this investigation and his claims of innocence will only scar the Patriots organization for years to come.
What do you think is a fair punishment by the NFL for Brady and the Patriots organization? Should they set a clear example that will not soon be forgotten? I eagerly await your opinions.