The report was part Truther-ist (the only thing missing was a picture of Barack Obama's birth certificate), part serious, but mostly comical. Seriously, key parts of it were patently absurd, so absurd it led to a torrent of jokes on social media. The Patriots' response to the Deflategate report will give The Daily Show material for years to come.
The response's lack of weight belies its significance. It wasn't done just to rebut the NFL investigation's conclusions. It was a message. It was a hilarious, caps-locked message, a poor one, but a productive message nonetheless. It was a way for the team to continue to get party loyalists to believe it. The voluminousness of it gives the rebut a superficial density, and believers will grasp on to it, like a raft in a heavy seas.
It was also a message to the NFL: Eff you and your Wells report. This is Robert Kraft, team owner, telling Roger Goodell the fight is just beginning. The Tom Brady appeal. The looming legal battle that is perhaps to follow. Neither side is backing down. The popcorn is only just beginning to bounce around in the microwave.
The problem for the Patriots is this document provides more problems (and chuckles) than it does serious challenges to the NFL's findings. Oh sure, the team makes some fair points, and the chapter on the ideal gas law is fine. There's a Nobel laureate as part of the report. But if the report was so serious, why were so many on social media mocking it? Not a few. Not a handful. Almost everyone.
(Before Pats fans, in all their head-stuck-in-sand glory, continue to label me a hater, read my arguments for Brady's greatness, like this and this. I've championed the Patriots many other times—like saying Robert Kraft might be the best owner of all time. Yes, I've written that, too. None of that has changed. But I can still believe those things while believing Brady cheated his ass off. OK, back to the story.)
The NFL could have screwed up this investigation. That's accurate. Brady is still the best to ever play quarterback. That's accurate. The Wells report is partially flawed. That's accurate.
There is also something the Patriots released from April that's truly interesting. The Patriots claim the Colts—who got this ball rolling—also cheated. It is indeed a fair question to ask: If the Colts cheated, why weren't they punished with the same harshness the Patriots were? The Patriots releasing this information shows they are willing to go scorched-earth on the league. Nuke everyone else as everyone else tries to nuke them.
The problem is the Patriots aren't willing to admit, in any way, that this all looks—at best—highly suspicious. To non-Patriots fans, to non-haters, it's fairly clear Brady was cheating. What the Patriots released not only fails to clear Brady, it actually does the opposite. There are several problems with the report, including:
The Deflator. In an all-time act of unmitigated gall and pee-on-my-leg-and-tell-me-it's-raining chicanery, the Patriots maintain that when Jim McNally refers to himself as the Deflator, it's because he's a fat dude trying to lose weight.
"'Deflate' was a term they used to refer to losing weight," the Pats' report stated.
That...that...that's it? That's how the team is explaining the use of that word? Next up for the Patriots: The Tom Brady referred to in the Wells report is actually Cindy Brady.
The fact the Patriots actually think that explanation will fly shows what kind of cocoon they're in. That excuse will only work in New England. Outside of New England, everyone is mocking it. Because it's just not believable. In any way.
It doesn't matter that McNally and cohort John Jastremski had used deflate in that context before Deflategate. The context they use the word in the Wells report clearly demonstrates they are talking about deflating footballs, not deflating human beings.
Why were they suspended without pay? This is a key point, and it's not answered in the Patriots' response. If Jastremski and McNally truly did nothing wrong, as the Patriots maintain, why were they suspended indefinitely without pay? The report stays away from that because it is, indeed, pretty damning for the team.
Just jokesters. The team says the texts were all just jokes, not serious. Again, laughable. And, again, why suspend two guys if you think they were just kidding around?
The phone calls. The Wells report makes, I think, a legitimate point about the flurry of phone calls from Brady to McNally and Jastremski. Wells basically portrays it as everyone getting his story straight. The Patriots contend the calls were Brady showing concern over the upcoming media frenzy.
Wrote the Pats' report: "Mr. Brady is used to the limelight and to critics; Mr. Jastremski is not. Since Mr. Jastremski prepared the footballs, it was reasonable to expect that this media attention would focus on him. It was also reasonable to expect that (as happened) Mr. Jastremski's boss would question Mr. Jastremski to see what, if anything, he knew. Mr. Brady's reaching out to Mr. Jastremski to see how he was holding up in these circumstances is not only understandable, but commendable."
Tom Brady: just a good dude checking in on a few of his homies.
Anyone who covers the Patriots (I've covered dozens of games and practices and all of their Super Bowls since the beginning of the Bill Belichick regime) knows they have the most tightly controlled team maybe in the history of football. Possibly in the history of North American team sports. No media person was ever going to get to McNally or Jastremski, and as it turns out, no one did.
Also, the fact the ultra-wound-up Brady, at a time of such stress and importance as the title game, would suddenly just send texts saying "how you fellas holding up?" is not believable.
Those things, especially that a guy naming himself the Deflator really means he was about to sign up for Jenny Craig, undermine the entirety of the Patriots' rebuttal.
So here we are now. A back-and-forth between the Pats and the NFL. The NFL's opening salvo was pretty solid. The response from New England?
Mostly a laugh.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.