While NFL observers await Commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision on discipline after the release of the New England deflation investigation findings on Wednesday, and while some might ponder how Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s legacy could be affected by the controversy, there is one group that might have had its reputation bolstered by the Wells Report: NFL officials, particularly referee Walt Anderson.
The Wells Report depicts Anderson, a 19-year NFL veteran, as an organized, by-the-book, detail-orientated referee.
“It is obvious that he approaches his responsibilities with a high level of professionalism and integrity,” the Wells Report investigators wrote.
Through its research, the investigators found that Anderson “is one of the few referees who personally tests the inflation levels of game balls prior to the game, rather than delegating that responsibility to another member of his officiating crew.”
The report goes into detail on how Anderson tested the footballs before the AFC title game, noting he had not one, but two air-pressure gauges, and used a gold pen to mark the footballs that were tested. He also marked the spare footballs in case they were to be used during the cold, wet game in Foxborough, Mass., but only after asking NFL senior director of officiating Alberto Riveron for permission.
Riveron is also a major player in the Wells Report; he alerted Anderson to Colts G.M. Ryan Grigson’s concerns about New England’s footballs before the game, as did NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino. Then, after the Colts expressed concern about the inflation level of a ball intercepted by linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, Riveron was one of the NFL officials pushing for the Patriots’ footballs to be checked, passing word to the officials to bring the footballs in at halftime. Riveron was also part of the initial testing of the football the Colts reported to be softer than usual, finding the ball was below 12 psi.
Then, at halftime, Riveron oversaw the testing of the Patriots’ footballs, instructing Anderson to go through his normal routine. Two officials tested 11 Patriots footballs and four Colts footballs, with the Patriots’ footballs all found to be less than the minimum 12.5 psi and the Colts’ football all within NFL rules.
No matter how the NFL proceeds after the deflation investigation, this much is certain: the NFL’s officiating system, from management on down, comes out well in the Wells Report. Some may dispute the report’s findings, and some may wonder why the NFL did such a deep dive on the matter of air in a football, but the officials involved were depicted as organized, communicative and diligent.