The NFL isn’t interested in wiping out suspicion it tried to catch the Patriots red-handed with flat balls in the AFC Championship Game.
It isn’t going to detail how the suspicions that allegedly began with an e-mail from the Colts equipment man caused an immediate rush-to-judgment by the suits at Gillette that night.
It isn’t going to admit that, prior to that night, it had no idea just how far a cool January night would drop the PSI in a football set to 12.5 PSI when it left the locker room.
It’s not going to reveal if it tried to ferret out the propaganda minister who gave bogus numbers to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, the lit match dropped into a gas tank of national indignation in the days after the Patriots beat the Colts 45-7.
And the league won’t tell me why, if Ted Wells was allegedly going to investigate the league’s comportment in his report, he was telling the Patriots in early February that he wasn’t.
I e-mailed Greg Aiello, the NFL’s VP of media relations on Thursday and asked him about Wells’ allegedly telling the team that the league wasn’t going to be scrutinized by Wells in his investigation.
I'm finding something incongruous in both Roger and Ted Wells' insistence that Wells also included the league and its demeanor in his investigation.
On February 7, Patriots attorney Daniel Goldberg emailed Jeff Pash to protest Wells' telling the Patriots that the league would investigate itself internally and that the league was not under Wells' purview. The email came under the subject "Scope of Investigation" and was released by the Pats in the "Wells Report Context" rebuttal.
Pash did not correct Goldberg on that point, only reiterated a guarantee of no prejudgment.
So if Wells was not charged with reviewing the league, how can both he and Roger insist a review was done?
And that's not even raising the issue of how perfunctory Wells' "findings" about the leagues demeanor and actions were which Roger seems to credit as being exhaustive.
So what changed after February 7?
Tom: I do not anticipate that we will comment further on the Wells report.
Wells and Goodell are working together to give the impression Wells scrutinized the people that hired him. He didn’t. He was, in fact, told not to, as e-mails between Patriots attorney Daniel Goldberg and league attorney Jeff Pash shows.
This dog-and-pony coverup Wells and Goodell are putting on critically undermines Wells’ findings and the basis on which the Patriots penalties were based. If Wells wasn't allowed to look at how the NFL behaved and is now, in fact, pretending -- with Goodell's aid -- that he did, how can anyone believe in the NFL's integrity? (They really love that word, I've found.)
Wells’ first attempt to cover for the NFL came on Page 21 of his 243-page report. A paragraph which simply stated he found none of the bias the Patriots alleged:
"At various points in the investigation, counsel for the Patriots questioned the integrity and objectivity of game officials, various NFL executives and certain NFL Security representatives present at the AFC Championship Game or otherwise involved in the investigative process. We found no evidence to substantiate the questions raised by counsel. Specifically, we identified no evidence of any bias or unfairness. We believe that the game officials, NFL executives, NFL Security representatives and other members of the NFL staff who participated in the testing of the footballs and the subsequent investigative process acted fairly, properly and responsibly."
Why, precisely, does Wells believe that? Did he audit the phones and texts of league employees in an effort to determine who gave bogus information to Mortensen? Did he speak to Aiello or anyone else in the media-relations arm of the league to try and establish where the leaks were coming from? Aiello isn’t on Wells’ interview list.
Was there a review by Wells of texts, e-mails or phone records to establish why David Gardi from the league’s Game Operations office sent an e-mail to Robert Kraft stating that all the Colts balls measured at halftime were conforming when, in fact, three of the four balls measured were not? How did Gardi’s letter the day after the game stating the league had a “preliminary finding” the balls may have been tampered with after the official inspection compromise the investigation by causing the Patriots to feel prejudged? Did that impact at all the reluctance of Tom Brady to share his electronic correspondence?
Did Wells ask Mike Kensil, another Game Operations lieutenant, whether whether and why he would tell a Patriots equipment man that the team was in “big f****** trouble” during the game?
Why is there no mention made of the fact that Sean Sullivan, the Colts' equipment man who suggested via an e-mail that the league measure the balls during the game, actually took it upon himself to measure the ball that ended up on the Colts sideline? Sullivan emerges not only as the one who dropped the dime initially but found the “evidence”, and he escapes specific scrutiny in the Wells investigation.
There was a lot for Wells to plow through if he was so inclined. Obviously, he wasn’t inclined. Because the league told him it wasn’t his jurisdiction. And now he and Goodell are trying to pretend it was.
When I asked Goodell on Wednesday why Wells’ report didn’t provide any introspection, Goodell replied, "I think Ted Wells did address that in his report. I asked him specifically when I engaged him to evaluate the league’s conduct to determine what we could have done differently. He was very clear in the report, so I would disagree on that point."
It’s vogue these days to call Roger Goodell a liar. I don’t think he’s a liar. But I do think his response to me was a lie.
Wells was not clear in the report as to what the league could have done differently. He wasn’t even engaged in looking at things the league could have done differently. Not only does Goodell know that, he also knows Wells was called off that chase by February 6.
Wells also knows he was charged with making pretend. When I asked Wells on his conference call why he labored to say the NFL didn’t conduct a “sting,” Wells answered:
“The Patriots were all over me from day one about why the NFL did not warn them of the complaint and alleging it was a sting operation. That came from the Patriots to me and I responded to it. I investigated that issue, the Patriots asked me to investigate that issue, and I did not find that there was a sting. What the facts showed was just the opposite. When the Colts made the complaint, no one at the league office took the complaint seriously. They flipped the complaint via e-mail to the operations people so they knew about it, they told the refs. Walt Anderson thought it was just a normal complaint. You get these types of things all the time. Nobody paid that much attention to it. There was no sting operation and I addressed it because the Patriots urged me to look at that issue and I did. Now I want to say this, there’s a policy question one can ask, whether you tell another team about a complaint or not, that’s not a sting operation. That’s a discretionary policy issue and that doesn’t have anything to do with my report. But there was no sting and that issue was addressed because the Patriots raised it.”
The report took 103 days to release. Why wasn’t there more documentation of this portion of the investigation aside from -- literally -- a footnote stating an opinion?
If Wells were truly independent and -- as we come to find out -- not charged with looking at the league, why in that instance did he veer off to include a footnote that “cleared” the league of bias?
Unfortunately, Deflategate fatigue has settled in for many. After almost five months, there will be diminishing interest in this Wells-Goodell coverup of the NFL’s own investigatory misconduct.
“What’s it matter at this point if the league was biased and misled the public about Wells investigating it?” people will reason. “Those texts said ‘Deflator’ and talked about needles. Tom Brady wouldn’t give up his phone. And he called John Jastremski more than he ever had after the NFL started snooping.”
That, clearly, is the conclusion Wells hoped would be reached. And, for the most part, it has been.
But Wells’ cozy and financially beneficial relationship with the league and his token effort to absolve the league of bias with a paragraph that Goodell paints as exhaustive is proof that the shadiest dealings in this mess didn’t happen in Foxboro. They happened on Park Avenue.