14 weeks and over 100 days after the New England Patriots were suspected of deflating footballs during the AFC Championship game, the Ted Wells' law firm hired by the NFL to investigate the matter has finally come out with its report implicating two Patriots personnel employees and quarterback Tom Brady for their involvement in the scandal. It's about time too.
In a document that spans over 138 pages, the investigation finds that the Patriots "were in violation of the NFL Playing Rules and were involved in a deliberate attempt to circumvent those rules." More specifically the investigation does implicate Brady for having some knowledge of what both went on during the scandal.
"It is more probable than not that Tom Brady was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of Jim McNally and John Jastremski involving the release of air from the Patriots game balls."
The two men in question are Jim McNally, a part time employee for the Patriots, responsible for delivering game balls, and John Jastremski, a Patriots equipment assistant who were the main culprits in the scandal. The duo plotted out ways to change the physical dimensions of the football to fit the preferences of Brady, whom the reference in text messages obtained in the investigation.
It was McNally who was the man that took the footballs into the bathroom for 90 seconds, and the report seems to indicate that that was enough time for him to deflate the balls with a needle. Regardless both McNally and Jastremski are cooked. Neither will be employed by the Patriots nor any NFL franchise for that matter ever again. They compromised the league and acted like they were above the rules. They have to pay the price.
But here is the kicker, why would two regular joe's do this by themselves with full knowledge the consequences would be detrimental for either of them in the end? That is why Brady is the real culprit here. He instructed both Jastremski and McNally in preparing the ball to his liking and got away with it until now.
Text messages obtained and revealed by the Wells' report show that Brady and Jastremski were in constant communication about DeflateGate with Brady saying to Jastremski "You didn't do anything wrong, bud." Not to mention the text messages between McNally and Jastremski date back to a Jets game in October of last year.
I find it hard to believe that the AFC Championship game was a first time event orchestrated by these three. I suspect, as has been the case with the Patriots in the past, that they have been deflating footballs for several seasons until they got caught. How can I support this? One word: SpyGate. The Patriots were caught red handed in 2007 for stealing signals only to have it be revealed they had been spying on people for years under Belichick. Who's to say deflating footballs hasn't been an established practice. Obviously McNally was pretty good at it since he took the air out of 11 balls in 90 seconds.
Since this story has broken Brady has acted like it's no big deal, while Brady's father and his agent do the dirty work taking pot-shots at the legitimacy of the allegations.
Now the question is what will the NFL do? Rumors are running rampant that Brady will face a suspension. Some say the entire 2015 season. Others say 6-8 weeks. Some say 2-4 weeks.
Now the pressure is on Roger Goodell to get this right. He screwed up big time last year when he should have thrown the book at wife abuser, Ray Rice and didn't do it. Rice was subsequently thrown off the team in Baltimore, and Goodell had egg on his face. In turn he suspended Adrian Peterson for the year after he was accused of beating his son.
While deflating footballs isn't as bad as hitting a wife or child, cheating is still a disgrace to the shield. Inspite of whatever feelings Goodell may have for the Patriots and his buddy, Robert Kraft he needs to drop a heavy penalty on the Patriots and make it count.
Remember this is the same Commish who dropped the bomb on the New Orleans Saints when their organization was found to be involved in a pay-to-injure scam known as BountyGate. Shouldn't the Patriots see similar treatment here?
Suspending Brady for the year is asking a lot, especially with Goodell calling the shots, although I am sure the Jets, Dolphins and Bills will all love it. At the very least Brady should be suspended the first four weeks of the regular season. He can still attend training camp, but can't play until late October. If Brady misses even a month of regular season action it could do severe damage to the Patriots chances to repeat. They likely will lose all of those games without him, and will have an uphill climb the rest of the way. The Patriots would also have to deal with the embarrassment of celebrating a Super Bowl title on Opening Night amid Brady missing his first game in prime time on national televison.
In turn, if I were Goodell, I would suspend Belichick the first four games of the year too. While Belichck wasn't found with any wrong doing, the fact that he allowed anything like this to happen on his watch makes him guilty by association. Suspending the man behind the true history of violence by the Patirots would be huge.
Fines and loss of draft picks will also be considered, and should be thrown in as well. Goodell might as well go all in. In addition to suspensions of Belichick and Brady, the Patriots should be fined double of what they were in 2007 when Spygate came out. In addition, they should have their first round picks for the next two seasons taken away from them.
While we won't know until this week what Goodell decides to do, he better get it right, and levy a penalty that satisfies the entire league and shows the country that the Patriots are not above the National Football League.