Newspapers don’t have the same clout they used to. But when two of the most venerable -- the New York Times and the Washington Post -- inveigh on a topic, their voices carry significant clout.
And in the past few days, both have taken a flamethrower to Ted Wells’ report on Deflategate, the investigation in general and -- in the case of Sally Jenkins in the Post -- Roger Goodell.
Jenkins picked up where the Times left off, speaking to one of the men who wrote an American Enterprise Institute evaluation of the Wells Report. Stan Veuger told Jenkins the scientific work done to justify the notion that it was “more probable than not” that the Patriots deflated footballs prior to the AFC Championship “was really clumsy. It’s the kind of mistake you’d see in freshman statistics class.”
In her forceful column, Jenkins wonders what Goodell will do with the truly independent work of AEI, which lifts a leg on the purportedly independent work of Wells:
Does Goodell stand by the conclusions of the Wells report, dig in and refuse to budge — thus establishing that he’s incapable of fairly considering evidence and is a serial abuser of his powers? Does he try to parse and sidestep the AEI analysis, by claiming that the scientific evidence is just a small part of the case against Brady? Trouble with that is, more than half of the Wells report’s 243 pages is taken up by pressure gauges and pounds-per-square-inch analysis — all of which must be thrown out according to AEI. If the balls weren’t deflated, then what’s left? One e-mail exchange, in which Brady complained that some game balls against the New York Jets were ludicrously overinflated. Is this evidence of ill intent? Hardly. Brady’s solution to the over-inflation was to suggest the refs check the rulebook. Not the act of a cheater.
Or does Goodell do the right thing and rescind Brady’s suspension on the basis of the new info in the AEI report — thus admitting that the league spent millions on a railroading farce? There is trouble for Goodell in this option too, because it suggests that the league office under Goodell’s leadership is either incapable of executing a proper investigation, or unwilling to.
Brady’s appeal of his four-game suspension begins Tuesday. Goodell said he was open to any new information Brady could provide, that he wasn’t “wedded” to the findings of the Wells Report. As Jenkins suggests, this is a treasure trove of new information.
There’s little that AEI or Jenkins unearthed that hasn’t already been discussed locally over the past few months by those who’ve scrutinized the actions of the NFL and the Wells Report.
The plain truth -- which we’ve stated -- is that Goodell got lashed to the front of a runaway train by his minions on the scene in Foxboro for the AFC Championship Game. They began an investigation and leaked bad information on a presumption. Within hours of the game’s end, there was no way for Goodell to apply the brakes. Hiring Wells, paying $5 million for a bag-job investigation, and handing down unprecedented penalties just got the train moving faster.
Since then, the presumption and the Wells Report have had a scientific sledgehammer taken to it. And the league has kept trying to soft shoe away from its own complicity in creating the mess.
Goodell’s last, best chance to get out from under the embarrassment is Tuesday. But you can’t really expect the NFL to get circumspect now, can you? The time, effort, money and posturing have been too great. This blanket party the league threw for the Patriots can’t end with Goodell helping the franchise and Brady to their feet, dusting off the front of their shirt and saying, “Okay, you can go. You’ve had enough.”
No matter how many people join the chorus calling BS on the whole process, it seems unlikely Goodell will check his pride and stand down. And the train will keep rolling right into court.