The long-overdue Ted Wells report was released this week to shed some light on the Patriots' "Deflategate" controversy from the AFC title game. And it's doesn't appear to be very good news for star quarterback Tom Brady. We examine.
Was It Really Worth It Patriots?
First off, do I think that slightly underinflated footballs helped the Patriots smash the Colts in the AFC Championship Game? Absolutely not. It was only a 17-7 New England lead at halftime with the underinflated balls and the Pats outscored the Colts 28-0 in the second half when the balls were at the correct psi. I played a bit of football. Does a slightly underinflated ball make it a tad easier to throw and catch? Yes. It's simply easier to hold on to, thus making it harder to fumble.
The Wells Report 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."
And also 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."
I think the text messages released make it clear that Brady was in on this and he flat-out lied when saying at a press conference that he didn't know who McNally was or what his job responsibilities were. That's not really in question. And this has been going on for probably at least a few seasons.
Now it's up to Roger Goodell to discipline the Patriots, although Coach Bill Belichick and everyone else in the organization was cleared. But Goodell also might be tired of the Pats skirting the rules in the wake of Spygate several years back. So while Brady is a lock to face some sort of suspension and fine, any team punishment isn't clear.
Waiting On Goodell
Most "experts" believe that Goodell has to hammer Brady or else the league office will lose respect from almost every other player because it went soft on the team NFL's "Golden Boy." One report has the league even considering a year suspension because it simply can't tolerate an uneven playing field. And make no mistake: this is cheating.
I would expect a punishment next week. I believe it's somewhere between 2-4 games for Brady. BetOnline has released NFL win totals, but for obvious reasons the Patriots' is off the board. As are their NFL odds to win the AFC East again. New England remains +700 to win the Super Bowl. That's the only Pats futures odd you can bet right now.
Brady's current No. 2 is Jimmy Garoppolo, a second-round pick out of Eastern Illinois last season. He got into six games last season in mop-up duty. He played a fair amount in the regular-season finale against Buffalo because the Patriots had already clinched the top seed in the AFC. He was 10-for-17 for 90 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions in a 17-9 loss. Overall, he was 19-for-27 for 182 yards and a touchdown on the season.
Would New England try to sign a veteran if the Brady suspension is at least four games? Michael Vick is still out there. So is Matt Flynn. Maybe the Pats try to talk Kyle Orton out of retirement? He was decent at times last season with Buffalo.
Let's say Brady's suspension is four games. Let's look at the Pats' early schedule:
Week 1 vs. Steelers: Originally the Patriots were 6.5-point favorites for the NFL Kickoff Game but that's off the board too. It would be a black eye for the NFL for arguably its most popular player to be suspended for this showcase game, but Goodell has no choice. Of course the Patriots won't have suspended running back LeGarrette Blount, but Pittsburgh will be without suspended running back Le'Veon Bell and that's a much bigger deal than Blount being out.
Week 2 at Bills: New England has totally dominated this series since Brady entered the NFL. But none of those Bills teams had Rex Ryan as the head coach, and he lives to beat the Patriots. Buffalo ended a six-game losing streak to the Pats in that Week 17 win last season, but again that meant nothing to New England. Who would have thought the Bills, with either Matt Cassel or E.J. Manuel, might have the starting QB edge in this matchup?
Week 3 vs. Jaguars: Hard to see Blake Bortles winning at New England after what he showed as a rookie, but Bortles also is considered a much better future pro than Garoppolo.
Week 4 BYE: This is where things get interesting. Would the NFL cut New England a break and suspend Brady for only three games, allowing him the bye week to get back in the swing of things? Know this: the last eight suspensions in the NFL that have been over a game have come in the form of an even number.
Weeks 5-6 at Cowboys, at Colts: This could well be the Patriots' toughest two-game stretch of the season. The TV networks would go ballistic if Brady couldn't play in these. The Dallas matchup is the CBS national late afternoon game on Oct. 11 and the Indianapolis game is Sunday night, Oct. 18. How ironic would it be for Brady to return from suspension against the team that turned in the Patriots? That would get monster ratings.
NFL Free Pick: For your NFL picks, Brady gets four games and the Patriots go 2-2 in those, losing to the Steelers and Cowboys.