Ted Wells and the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison released their findings in the Deflategate controversy Wednesday afternoon in an extensive report, according to NFL Labor (Warning: Content contains NSFW language), and the findings suggest that the New England Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady did violate NFL rules.
The key paragraph in the report reads as follows:
For the reasons described in this Report, and after a comprehensive investigation, we have concluded that, in connection with the AFC Championship Game, it is more probable than not that New England Patriots personnel participated in violations of the Playing Rules and were involved in a deliberate effort to circumvent the rules. In particular, we have concluded that it is more probable than not that Jim McNally (the Officials Locker Room attendant for the Patriots) and John Jastremski (an equipment assistant for the Patriots) participated in a deliberate effort to release air from Patriots game balls after the balls were examined by the referee. Based on the evidence, it also is our view that it is more probable than not that Tom Brady (the quarterback for the Patriots) was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls.
The report does suggest that the Patriots did not violate any rules in terms of the balls used for kicking, however.
Rob Gronkowski weighed in on the report on Bleacher Report's Uninterrupted:
As Brian Floyd of SB Nation noted, the report does not put Brady in the best light:
Jarrett Bell of USA Today provided the reaction of Brady's father:
Indeed, text messages exchanged between Jim McNally and John Jastremski seem to suggest that Brady specifically requested deflated footballs. Shalise Manza Young of The Boston Globe passed along a sampling of those texts (Warning: Texts contain NSFW language):
Andrew Abramson of The Palm Beach Post shared more of their text messages, and The Big Lead noted they also spoke on the phone:
Darren Rovell of ESPN shared an image of one of the signed items:
The plot thickens for McNally, according to Albert Breer of NFL.com:
In addition, Brady didn't fully cooperate with the report, as Adam Schefter of ESPN noted:
The report also concluded that the officials were correct in rejecting one of the balls into play during the AFC Championship Game, per Breer:
ProFootballTalk on Twitter reacted to the developments in the story:
As Andrew Brandt of ESPN.com noted, however, this report is only a tool for the NFL to use when determining any potential punishments for McNally, Jastremski and/or Brady:
Greg A. Bedard of SI.com's The MMQB passed along more about McNally, reporting that the Patriots did not make him available for a follow-up interview.
New England owner Robert Kraft addressed this notion and rejected the conclusions of the report in his statement on Patriots.com:
Throughout the process of this nearly four-month investigation, we have cooperated and patiently awaited its outcome. To say we are disappointed in its findings, which do not include any incontrovertible or hard evidence of deliberate deflation of footballs at the AFC Championship game, would be a gross understatement. In addition, given our level of cooperation throughout the process, I was offended by the comments made in the Wells Report in reference to not making an individual available for a follow-up interview. What the report fails to mention is that he had already been interviewed four times and we felt the fifth request for access was excessive for a part-time game day employee who has a full-time job with another employer.
While I respect the independent process of the investigation, the time, effort and resources expended to reach this conclusion are incomprehensible to me. Knowing that there is no real recourse available, fighting the league and extending this debate would prove to be futile. We understand and greatly respect the responsibility of being one of 32 in this league and, on that basis, we will accept the findings of the report and take the appropriate actions based on those findings as well as any discipline levied by the league.
On Thursday morning, Brady's agent Don Yee released a statement regarding the report, according to Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports:
The Wells report, with all due respect, is a significant and terrible disappointment. It’s omission of key facts and lines of inquiry suggest the investigators reached a conclusion first, and then determined so-called facts later. One item alone taints this entire report. What does it say about the league office’s protocols and ethics when it allows one team to tip it off to an issue prior to a championship game, and no league officials or game officials notified the Patriots of the same issue prior to the game? This suggests it may be more probable than not that the league cooperated with the Colts in perpetrating a sting operation. The Wells report buries this issue in a footnote on page 46 without any further elaboration. The league is a significant client of the investigators' law firm; it appears to be a rich source of billings and media exposure based on content in the law firm's website.
Yee went on to criticize the investigation's veracity, noting that "Much of the report’s vulnerabilities are buried in the footnotes"—something he described as "a common legal writing tactic."
He was also critical of the football knowledge of those who conducted the interview with Brady, also remarking that much of his client's testimony was omitted:
It is a sad day for the league as it has abdicated the resolution of football-specific issues to people who don’t understand the context or culture of the sport. I was physically present for my client’s interview. I have verbatim notes of the interview. Tom made himself available for nearly an entire day and patiently answered every question. It was clear to me the investigators had limited understanding of professional football. For reasons unknown, the Wells report omitted nearly all of Tom’s testimony, most of which was critical because it would have provided this report with the context that it lacks.
Yes continued his offensive on Friday, saying on 98.5 FM in Boston that Brady was "certain" Patriots staff had done nothing wrong, according to Doug Kyed of NESN.
If Brady does wind up being punished, he will be able to appeal any suspension, according to Michael McCann of Sports Illustrated. However, McCann noted that if the Patriots organization is punished, they won't be able to appeal the punishment.
Public opinion does not seem likely to be on the Patriots' side. Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram called them cheaters:
Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post took aim at Brady:
ProFootballTalk called for the NFL to take a strong stance against the Patriots in this issue:
Torrey Smith shared his thoughts on the situation:
Smith wasn't the only player to express interest in the eventual punishment, according to Troy Renck of the Denver Post:
Indeed, while the league ultimately has the final say in this matter, the findings seem pretty damning against Brady, McNally and Jastremski, and it would be surprising if the NFL didn't punish both Brady and the organization in some way.
Not only that, but the public—which the Spygate scandal had already scorned—has now been given another reason to distrust the Patriots organization. That could ultimately be as harmful for the legacies of Brady and head coach Bill Belichick as any punishment the NFL levies against the team.