FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- On Wednesday, I shared some initial thoughts after reading the executive summary of the Wells report. I've since read the complete report.
To me, the text messages between equipment assistant John Jastremski and officials locker room attendant Jim McNally remain the most damning part of the report and naturally lead to the question of whether there was a deliberate attempt to violate rules. But the dangerous part about the text messages is that we can't be assured of their context; Patriots counsel relayed that it was all humor, while investigators deemed otherwise. Another damning part for the Patriots, to me, was how McNally's initial story to investigators about taking footballs directly to the field, which was later proved false, put his credibility in question.
While on the subject of credibility, I want to share a few thoughts on areas in which the Wells report significantly dropped the ball and, in my opinion, appeared to be serving a pro-NFL agenda.
11 Patriots footballs vs. four Colts footballs. In rejecting Patriots coach Bill Belichick's explanation about the science of how PSI in footballs will naturally drop in certain conditions, the Wells report concluded that the average rate of drop in 11 Patriots footballs was significantly more than the average rate of drop in four Colts footballs.
Why 11 to four? Because officials measured only four Colts footballs, as they were running out of time before the second half began. This simply isn't fair to take a larger sample size and compare it to a smaller sample size. For example, I could just as easily pick the initial four Patriots PSI measurements (a drop from 12.5 to 11.80, 11.20, 11.50 and 11.00 from alternate official Dyrol Prioleau), match them up with the four Colts measurements (a drop from an estimated 13.0/13.1 to 12.35, 12.30, 12.95 and 12.15 from Prioleau), and come to a different conclusion that the drop rates of PSI between the two teams were close. Also, it's clear when matching the PSI readings between the two alternate officials that there is margin for error in the readings. Thus, I rejected the Wells report's explanation for dismissing the role of science based on their usage of this uneven data between teams.
Role of Brady's autographs. In building their case against the Patriots and Tom Brady, the Wells report focused in part on autographs/memorabilia that Brady provided McNally. It was framed in the context that he was giving him things in exchange for a favor. I personally find that hard to believe -- or should I say "more not than probable."
First, Brady has been extremely generous with many Patriots staffers in this area during the past 14-15 years; it is also widely understood in NFL circles that equipment managers work at extremely low wages and it is commonplace for quarterbacks/players to tip them and/or provide them with items as a show of appreciation (in addition to others in similar roles). Thus, I rejected the Wells report framing Brady's autographs/memorabilia as anything outside of normal procedure, and it made me question whether the investigators understood the workplace they were investigating.
Manipulating public perception. At the March owners meeting, commissioner Roger Goodell said: "If there was anything that we as a league did incorrectly, we'll know about it in that report.” I didn't see much of that in the report, if anything at all. Specifically, I was curious whether there would be any mention of reputation-damaging leaks from the league office that helped manipulate public opinion, ultimately setting the stage for the release of the Wells report.
Thus, I came away from parts of the report questioning whether this was more about serving a pro-NFL agenda than getting to the truth.