Deflategate verdict: Maybe? After what seems like 1000 days but is actually only 103 days the Wells Report re: Deflategate has been issued. And the verdict of “Maybe” only serves to offer renewed challenges to the commissioner of the NFL. After an exhaustive study and lengthy report the best the the Wells Report can do is issue an unconditional guess. The report puts the commissioner in the hot seat again as he tries to make a ruling that will please a host of different parties and enhance the image and reputation of his league.
The quarterback for the New England Patriots is at the forefront of the story in the media. The quarterback is the most visible player on most teams and the New England quarterback is one of the most visible players in the entire NFL. The challenge for the commissioner Roger Goodell is how to punish the New England quarterback Tom Brady when there is zero proof that Mr. Brady instigated or participated in deflating the footballs below the league minimum. There is ample proof that Mr. Brady wanted the footballs he used to be at the lowest acceptable level per NFL rules. However, nothing indicates he did anything to lower the footballs below the acceptable level.
Two men who worked for the Patriots are accused of tampering with the footballs used in at least one NFL game. There is a lot of circumstantial evidence to suggest they MIGHT have lowered the PSI in the footballs but no definitive proof. And certainly no proof of any sort that their goal was to prepare footballs below the league minimum. It does appear they worked hard to insure the footballs used were at or near the 12.5 psi level required by the league and demanded by the team’s quarterback.
Ted Wells is the primary investigator for the NFL on this matter. Mr. Wells makes a ton of assumptions in his report including who to believe and who not to believe. However, he offers no evidence to support a violation of the rules of the NFL. The best he can do is to state “it is probable that Patriots personnel deliberately deflated balls during the AFC championship game in January” and that the Patriots quarterback was “at least generally aware of the rules violation”. Thus his report is as subjective as it is factual. I doubt Mr. Wells would want to be the lawyer in a court case defending his report. This places even more pressure on the commissioner in his attempt to make a ruling.
The commissioner Roger Goodell is back in the hot seat. He has a report which inflames the media and many other constituencies. However, the report does not give him clear support in making a ruling. Once he does make a ruling he can again expect the NFLPA [National Football League Players Association] to challenge his ruling if any fine or suspension is given to Mr. Brady. He cannot afford to lose another battle over one of his rulings. Plus, it appears Mr. Brady and his legal team will challenge any negative ruling by the commissioner. The Brady team has already challenged the validity and professionalism of the Wells Report saying it “contains significant and tragic flaws”.
The commissioner has given his first indication that the decision may be too much for him. Mr. Goodell has again put his needs first above the needs of his league, owners and players. He has stated the decision on Deflategate will be made by his associate Troy Vincent. This is the clearest indication possible that the Wells Report is deeply flawed. Mr. Goodell has clearly given the impression he wants to distance himself, and his tarnished image from the report and the matter at hand. He gets paid to make the tough decisions but has punted this decision.
The decision by the NFL office will be crucial, in my opinion in determining the future of Mr. Goodell in his position. If another of his decisions is challenged and overturned the NFL owners may finally react and determine if they selected the right man for the job of commissioner. They cannot be happy with his decision to delegate this decision.
In the interim Mr. Goodell remains on the hot seat.