When the NFL released the 20-page, single-space ruling upholding the four-game suspension imposed on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady without also releasing the transcript, it was impossible to verify the accuracy of any conclusions reached in the ruling. The transcript has now been released, and plenty of comparing-and-contrasting is going on.
The idea for this one comes from Doug Kyed of NESN.com, who compared a key conclusion drawn by Commissioner Roger Goodell regarding Brady’s credibility to the raw testimony generated in Goodell’s presence. And it’s clear that Goodell’s characterization reflects an incomplete (at best) review of the overall testimony.
At page 8 of the ruling, Goodell writes: “Mr. Brady testified that he was unable to recall any specifics of [his] discussions [with John Jastremski] and he suggested that their principle subject was the preparation of game balls for the Super Bowl. But the need for such frequent communication beginning on January 19 is difficult to square with the fact that there apparently was no need to communicate by cellphone with Mr. Jastremski or to meet personally with him in the ‘QB room’ during the preceding twenty weeks of the regular season and post-season prior to the AFC Championship Game. . . . The sharper contrast between the almost complete absence of communications through the AFC Championship Game and the extraordinary volume of communications during the three days following the AFC Championship Game undermines any suggestion that the communications addressed only preparation of footballs for the Super Bowl rather than the tampering allegations and their anticipated responses to inquiries about the tampering.”
Within that quote, the ruling drops the following footnote: “In response to the question, ‘Why were you talking to Mr. Jastremski in those two weeks?,’ Mr. Brady responded, in sum: ‘I think most of the conversations centered around breaking in the balls.’ For reasons noted, I do not fully credit that testimony.”
(Before going any farther, there’s a subtle blurring of the lines between the text of the ruling and the footnote. The text suggests Brady said he and Jastremski “only” discussed football preparation; the footnote quotes Brady as saying “most” of the conversations focused on breaking in the balls.)
Basically, Goodell thinks Brady was trying to conceal or downplay that fact that he talked to Jastremski about the tampering allegations. If, under that theory, Brady was trying to hide that fact that he and Jastremski talked about the allegations, Brady would ultimately be trying to hide the fact that were hoping to get their ducks in a row, for illegitimate purposes.
If Brady had testified consistently throughout the hearing that they only discussed getting footballs ready for the Super Bowl, that would indeed be a little curious — even though Brady testified that he wanted to be sure that the 100 balls (not 12) used for the Super Bowl would be properly broken in, without the use of Lexol, which would have made the balls slick if it would have unexpectedly rained while the retractable roof at the University of Phoenix Stadium was opened. (Brady said it had rained after New England’s last game in Phoenix; it also rained there on several days during the week preceding the game.)
But here’s the thing. Brady ADMITTED on multiple occasions that he talked to Jastremski about the tampering allegations.
At page 79, Brady testified that he texted Jastremski “You good, Johnny boy?” because Jastremski was “obviously nervous [about] the fact that these allegations were coming out that they would fall back on him.”
Later, at page 130, Brady testified while explaining an 11-minute call with Jastresmki on January 19, the day after the AFC title game: “I don’t remember exactly what we discussed. But like I said, there was two things that were happening. One was the allegations which we were facing and the second was getting ready for the Super Bowl, which both of those things have never happened before. [Editor’s note: It wasn’t the first time Brady went to a Super Bowl, but it was the first Super Bowl for the Patriots with Jastremski in that specific job.] So me talking to him about those things were unprecedented, you know, he was the person that I would be communicating with.” (Emphasis added.)
At page 144, Brady further elaborates on the reasons for phone calls with Jastresmki on January 19, 20, and 21: “[T]he initial report was that none of the Colts’ balls were deflated, but the Patriots, all the Patriots’ balls were. So I think trying to figure out what happened was certainly my concern and trying to figure out, you know, what could be — possibly could have happened to those balls.” (Emphasis added.)
To summarize, the ruling concluded that Brady testified that he didn’t speak to Jastresmki about the tampering allegations, which caused Goodell to disregard Brady’s denial of “awareness and consent” to the deflation scheme: “[T]he unusual pattern of communication between Mr. Brady and Mr. Jastremski in the days following the AFC Championship Game cannot readily be explained as unrelated to conversations about the alleged tampering of the game balls,” Goodell wrote at page 8 of the ruling.
But Brady testified — on multiple occasions — that he and Jastremski talked about the situation. And why wouldn’t they have talked? At that time, the NFL had told the Patriots that one of their footballs was measured at 10.1 PSI, ESPN had reported that 11 of 12 footballs were two pounds under the 12.5 PSI minimum, and the NFL had informed the Patriots that none of the Colts footballs measured below the 12.5 PSI minimum. Apart from the fact that each of these three contentions weren’t factual, they gave Brady plenty of reason to be talking to Jastremski, not to line up a lie but to try to figure out how someone could have taken so much air out of the footballs.
We now know that no one took that much air out of the footballs. For now, the new wrinkle is that the NFL forgot, conveniently or otherwise, that Brady had admitted talking to Jastremski about the tampering allegation when concluding that Brady had failed to admit to such communications, and in turn concluding that his denial of awareness and consent to a deflation scheme wasn’t believable.