Patriots

Patriots

There seem to be three separate camps when it comes to Tom Brady and whether or not he asked minions to let a puff or two out of a football now and then.

The first camp holds those who say, “Of course he did.” Their best evidence is weird text messages between John Jastremski and Jim McNally and McNally going into a bathroom for 90 seconds before the AFC Championship Game. And the fact that in 2007, the Patriots videotaped opposing coaches sending in defensive signals. Lotta people from across the country in that camp.

The second camp has people that say, “You must be out your mind!!!!” Their best evidence is that there is no hard evidence provided by the $5 million Wells Report, which proved that things shrink in the cold. This is known as The Constanza Law or The Ideal Gas Law. Lotta people from around here in that camp.

Camp three? I find myself spending time there. It’s a place where people see the Wells Investigation as a bag job/witch hunt and the hard evidence generated lacking. But the circumstantial evidence – while shaky – is still odd enough to make us think, “Yeah, maybe there was something done at some point, but that ain’t enough to put someone’s rep in front of a firing squad.” I don’t know how many are many in here.

The most plausible scenario in my mind has been that, too often footballs sent to officials for final inspection came back overinflated, spurring agitation in Brady.

 

Last October’s game against the Jets when, Jastremski alleged in text messages, that game officials allegedly inflated balls close to 16 PSI prior to the game, illustrated this. Brady was apoplectic balls were too hard, Jastremski told McNally of his frustration and McNally was irritated at the criticism. Jastremski went on to note that the officials “f***** us.”

From the Wells Report:

"When interviewed, Brady claimed to have known nothing about the permissible inflation range set by the NFL Playing Rules or the inflation range targeted by the Patriots until after the Patriots game against the New York Jets on October 16, 2014. Similarly, Jastremski claimed to have never read Rule 2 prior to that game, although he acknowledged being generally aware of the permissible inflation range and of Brady's preference for footballs set 'closer to 12.5 than 13.'

"According to Jastremski, before the October 2014 game against the Jets, it had been his practice to inflate Patriots game balls to a level between 12.75 and 12.85 psi without thinking much about it, simply because, according to Jastremski, that had been the range targeted by his predecessor. According to Brady, Jastremski and other Patriots personnel, during the October 2014 Jets game, Brady complained angrily about the feel and inflation level of the game balls. He told Jastremski between drives that the balls felt 'like bricks' and were heavier and harder to grip than they had been when he approved them prior to the game. Although Jastremski believed during the game that Brady was simply being competitive, he tested the air pressure of the game balls the next morning, discovered that many of them were over-inflated, and told Brady that he was right."

Jastremski knew McNally was the last guy to see the balls and that McNally was to remind officials not to pump them up if they were in the 12.5 PSI range (which he did, according to Walt Anderson, prior to the AFCCG). I can see McNally keeping an eye out for officials casually pumping air in and then, if the opportunity arose, finding the overstuffed balls and hitting them with the needle to bring them back in line.

Right thing to do? No. But if the people charged with checking the balls weren’t going to be fastidious about it, what recourse was there? And the NFL ruled years ago – at the behest of Brady and Peyton Manning – that quarterbacks should be able to have their footballs prepared to their specs. Letting out a wrongly inserted puff would be just righting a wrong.

Over the weekend, I found an ex-NFL quarterback – a 12-year-veteran – who envisioned the scenario similar to me.

Speaking to Dan Leberfeld of Breitbart.com, the ex-QB said the officials paid no attention. Ever.

“Problem is, officials don’t care,” said the anonymous player. “Why do you think Tom Brady was so pissed off in the Wells Report after a Jets game? A football was like 16 PSI. How does a football get to 16 PSI? I’ll explain why because NFL officials working the game did that. Why? It means that prior to the game, officials checked the footballs and with no regard or care in the world at all just inflated a football nonchalantly and [an official] most likely said to himself.

‘Should be good now, feels a lot harder.’ Why would they care? They don’t have to throw or play with the thing.

 

“I know personally because I’ve had it happen to me,” he continued. “I would tell my ball boy, who I paid $200 a week, to scrub the footballs and prepare them to present to NFL officials at 12.5 PSI. Then all of a sudden during the game when one of my footballs was introduced into [the] game by officials, and it did not feel right, I’d tell [the] official to ‘get rid of that ball.’ I would explain to [the] official, ‘What the hell did you do to that ball? It’s not what I introduced to you guys, you over inflated it.'”

Wells wasn’t charged with investigating the officials or league personnel, according to February emails exchanged between counsel for the league and the Patriots. So far, the NFL – Roger Goodell and Ted Wells specifically – have successfully made it seem as if Wells was asked to do that and his report reflected that.

The NFL wants the water muddied on this point precisely because it knows its pregame ball-testing procedures weren’t uniform. Or precise. In fact, Anderson came in for praise from Wells because he was actually an official who did the test himself instead of passing it off to someone else.

Breitbart’s ex-QB sniffed that out, saying: “Egg is on the NFL’s face! Because there is no protocol or standard. I wanted my footballs like Tom. Legal, but on the low end. Right at 12.5 PSI. I knew on a hot day to tell [the] ball boy introduce them to officials at 12 psi knowing they would expand by time 4:30 ET game would start, they would be right as rain when officials tested them. But officials would always screw them up inflating them to ridiculous levels or leaving [the] opponents’ ball in play despite our offense being on field at a change of possession. You just knew as a QB to stay on their ass during the game and manage it.”

If the NFL’s interest was in figuring out what – if anything – happened and why, they may gotten Wells to generate some productive conclusions. Instead, before halftime ended, the Patriots were presumed to have been deflating footballs and the search for evidence proving that was on.

This mess, the ex-QB says, is on the NFL.

“Once prepared footballs are turned over to officials prior to any game, the NFL assumes ownership and responsibility to secure and inspect,” the retired veteran holds. “The NFL did not do that this in AFC Championship Game, despite prior knowledge of a problem.”