If there is one thing that can be said about the manner in which the New England Patriots have handled the process through which the league investigated accusations of the team deflating footballs, through the release of the findings of said investigation to the recent announcement of the disciplinary actions stemming from those findings, it is that they have, from the top down, been resolute in their admonition.
Starting with head coach Bill Belichick’s impromptu science lesson on the eve of the Super Bowl and going all the way up to the accusation from Don Yee, the agent for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, the organization as a whole has been consistent in its righteous indignation, with even Brady’s father chiming in.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft has been perhaps the most incredulous in his disgust with investigator Ted Wells and with the perceived severity league’s package of discipline, which included a $1 million fine for the franchise, the forfeiture of a 2016 first-round draft pick, and a four-game suspension for Brady.
Following the release of the Wells report, Yee issued a statement calling it “a significant and terrible disappointment”, and more than intimated that there was an intention within the investigation to confirm a conclusion previously established rather than actually reaching a conclusion based on the evidence gathered through the investigation.
Yee’s suggestion that the league authored a sting operation to set the Patriots up during the AFC Championship game is comical for multiple reasons, not the least of which being the fact that the league in no way encouraged New England to engage in the deflation of footballs.
They simply didn’t inform the team that they would be looking. It’s more like a police car pulled to the side of the highway with a radar gun tracking drivers exceeding the speed limit.
Beyond that, teams regularly report to the league on activity that they suspect other teams of engaging in prior to the meeting of those teams that the former would like the league to be cognizant of and to watch out for beforehand. Most certainly the Patriots and all 32 teams have done this.
It is interesting to see how drastically the organization’s opinion of Wells has turned over the course of the investigation, with the proceedings having been initiated with the blessings of Kraft, who, according to Wells, “publicly said he welcomed my appointment”.
During the course of the investigation, it became clear that the organization was growing uncooperative, from Brady’s refusal to turn over electronic communications despite assurances of safeguards pertaining to privacy and protection, to the league’s unwillingness to provide Jim McNally for follow-up questioning—in fact, not even informing him of the investigation’s request for a follow-up.
I cannot recall another instance in which one team from every level of the organization has ever been so belligerent in its opposition of the league, including the Saints, who were slammed for Bountygate a few years ago. Their unwillingness to accept Wells’ findings after learning that it doesn’t favor them has been ugly to watch, and I don’t suspect anything but a complete exoneration of wrongdoing would save them much face in the court of public opinion at this point.