PFT’s Mike Florio was the guest on this week’s Glass Half Empty podcast. In this first part, we talked a lot about Ballghazi, which has had elements from the very start that remain baffling. As you’re presumably aware, Tom Brady had his appeal hearing with Roger Goodell on Tuesday. With the way every other twist and turn has been highly public during this saga, why didn’t the NFL just televise the event? And what did Adam Schefter mean when he reported that Brady was testifying under oath? Could he actually go to jail for perjury in this kangaroo court?
From there, we traced back to the beginning of Ballghazi. With the amount of time that Ted Wells had to compile this investigation, and the over $5 million in cost, shouldn’t he have been able to uncover more compelling evidence than a text message in which a Pats attendant called himself the deflator? Given what they did find — and that the footballs 11 of the 12 footballs didn’t, as originally reported by ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, measure statistically significantly underweight by 2 PSI — were the stated conclusions of the Wells Report too severe versus how guilty they actually proved Brady was?
“As for the science, I think that has been sufficiently debunked by people like the American Enterprise Institute,” Florio said. “We’ve been making the point for weeks now you can’t take four Colts footballs — and that’s the comparison, you’ve got 11 Patriots footballs — and if the real numbers had come out early on, the Patriots would have been able to shout this down as normal application of the Ideal Gas Law. And oh by the way, the NFL is using two different gauges, which differ by up to .45 PSI, which is embarrassing in and of itself. But those numbers didn’t come out.”
“And when they finally did come out,” he continued. “You had Ted Wells working with the company Exponent, which, among other things, has been the expert witness in a case arguing that secondhand smoke doesn’t cause cancer — which is a ludicrous proposition, but it just shows you that there are companies out there that will give you whatever opinion you’re paying for. It happens all the time, and it’s easy to get jaded about when you’re a lawyer, but it just shows that there’s companies out there that will give you whatever opinion you’re paying for. These companies will give you something scientific that proves whatever it is you want, and plenty of people, including me, believe that’s what happened here.”
Florio said that given the evidence they had, it was incumbent upon Wells and his team of $1,000/hour white shoe lawyers to get Jim McNally and/or John Jastremski to crack, which they failed to do. “If these guys didn’t crack, if they didn’t confess, maybe there’s nothing to confess to,” he said. “Either way it’s incomplete. The science is bad, the non-scientific evidence is incomplete, and it was all cobbled together in a 243-page report that I believe that Ted Wells believed he was expected to reach. Regardless of whether he was expressly told that, or it was implicit, I believe that Ted Wells thought he was expected to find the Patriots were guilty, and he did the best that he could to come to that conclusion, and ultimately I think what he did wasn’t good enough.”
We compared the flaws of other major investigations that took place under Roger Goodell — Bountygate, Ray Rice, and Richie Incognito — and Florio said that a common thread in all of them was that “the NFL reaches a decision early on about what it wants to do, and they start from the ending point, and they work backwards to justify that knee-jerk gut-level reaction that someone at the league office gets.” In the case of Bountygate, there was overzealousness, and with Ray Rice the NFL was not nearly zealous enough.
Florio believes it was the failure of Goodell to react decisively in the Rice debacle that enabled those beneath him to seize on this Patriots situation. What would be the optics if he went light again, on the Golden Boy of his confidante Bob Kraft’s team? The numbers initially reported by Mortensen set the story into overdrive, and all of the Tom Brady and Bill Belichick press interactions before the Super Bowl were conducted under belief that those measurements were accurate.
After NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported on Super Bowl Sunday that many of the Pats’ footballs were “just a few ticks” below the PSI requirement, Florio says that he tried to get the League office to be transparent about the differently reported measurements, which were recorded at halftime of the AFC Championship Game, and was rebuffed.
“I think that they deliberately delayed the process of getting the real numbers out because having the false numbers out there kept the Patriots feeling like they were on the ropes when the reality was that they were on ropes that weren’t even there,” Florio said. “We didn’t get the truth until May. That is the one fact that bothers me more than anything in this entire ordeal, and that’s the one fact that causes me to believe that someone was out to get the Patriots. The false information was put out there, or deliberately not corrected.”
Tomorrow, we’ll be publishing the second part in which we walk through the story of Mike’s career