If you thought DeflateGate was ugly already, you haven’t seen anything yet. It’s just going to get worse in the weeks and likely months to come.
The Wells Report pretty much blamed Tom Brady and the New England Patriots for cheating intentionally. The language is a bit different than that due to the NFL’s standards—it says things are “more probable than not” many times because that’s how the NFL legally words these allegations—but the report came down hard on the star quarterback and the organization.
The Patriots have now released a rebuttal, which they put entirely online for anyone to read. Not only does it refute some of the claims, but it offers up its own criticism of the process. For instance, it essentially calls the whole thing a sting operation by noting that the referees knew about the chance of deflated footballs before the AFC Championship game and did nothing to stop it in advance, thereby trapping the Patriots.
It’s a mess that can be argued either way, and many people have weighed in. Brett Favre said he didn’t think what Brady did was cheating, even if he deflated the balls intentionally, because people have always done things like this to gain an edge. However, no matter what you think about it or which side of that line you fall on, get ready for a process that’s going to feel as dragged-out and overblown as possible.
Exactly how things will fall has yet to be determined, but the Patriots look to be digging trenches and getting ready to go to war. The website the Patriots put out isn’t just a few key points, but 200,000 words. That’s longer than Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and the Patriots put it together in a few days just to refute this report.
This is going to go to the courts. Perhaps multiple times. It’s likely going to drive a wedge between Roger Goodell and Robert Kraft, who has long supported the commissioner. In that, it could put Kraft against the other owners, most of whom likely still support the league. It will likewise drive a wedge between Brady and Goodell. Not that the two have that much to do with each other now, but Brady has been the NFL’s golden boy for years, and they’re going to alienate him.
The one thing that can help this process a bit is that there aren’t any tight deadlines. Brady won’t start missing games until September. The Patriots won’t lose even one draft pick for an entire year. The summer is a down time for the NFL anyway. In many regards, the league is probably just happy to have something to keep it in the news while the playoffs for the NBA and NHL are going on. It keeps the NFL relevant and important.
The NFL waited until now not just to gather evidence, but so the whole battle can be fought before football kicks off again in the fall.