Wednesday, June 10, 2015

De-myth-tifying the Wells Report

Whatever happens at Tom Brady’s hearing on June 23rd, there will be fans who assume Tom Brady and the Patriots are guilty. There are some who will stick to this belief, no matter how much evidence piles up to the contrary.

Nonetheless, it’s important for everyone to understand exactly what did and did not happen in this case, whether they are ready to admit it to themselves or not. If you care about the truth, please check out this very brief and reader-friendly summary of the Top 5 Wells Report Myths. And as always, keep those questions and comments coming!

Here are some handy links, in case you are looking for something specific:

MYTH #1: The Patriots’ footballs lost more pressure than what was predicted by the Ideal Gas Law.

MYTH #2: Referee Walt Anderson used the Non-Logo Gauge to measure the balls before the game.

MYTH #3: The Patriots’ footballs lost significantly more pressure than the Colts’ did, and the only plausible explanation for this is that the Patriots’ footballs were tampered with.

MYTH #4: Jim McNally’s text messages prove he was part of a conspiracy to deflate footballs after they were approved by game officials.

MYTH #5: The Patriots have been deflating footballs since at least the 2013 season.

MYTH #1: 

The Patriots’ footballs lost more pressure than what was predicted by the Ideal Gas Law. 

Status: FALSE

Even if you read the Wells Report the way Jimmy Swaggart reads the Bible, believing every word without question, the only way this is true is if Walt Anderson used the Non-Logo Gauge for the pre-game measurements, which he did not. Anderson used the Logo Gauge before the game, which, according to the Wells Report itself, means that only three of 11 Patriot footballs were below the expected limit. These three balls were short by 0.42, 0.32, and 0.12 PSI, for an average of just 0.29. Yes, you read correctly—one of the balls was only short by 0.12. And it gets better.

Logo Gauge Halftime PSI Readings As Compared to Expected Range (11.32 - 11.52)

Green = within / above expected range, Red = below expected range

The Wells Report used a “Master Gauge” which was calibrated for maximum accuracy, and even provided formulas to convert Logo / Non-Logo values to Master Gauge values. Once we convert the Logo Gauge readings to Master Gauge readings, three balls are still short—but by even less. Now the average drops to 0.22 PSI, and one of the balls is only short by 0.06. Please, I’m begging you, tell me that a 0.06 difference was the result of tampering. Please. Seriously, it would make my year.

Halftime Master Gauge Readings As Compared to Expected Range (11.00 - 11.20)

Green = within / above expected range, Red = below expected range, Yellow = less than 0.075 below expected range

Those of you out there with common sense are thinking the same thing I am. There’s no way Jim McNally went through all the time and effort to sneak the balls into the bathroom, then only tampered with three of them—and even then, only let tiny, imperceptible amounts of air out of each. But this is the Patriots we’re talking about here, so I’m sure a few of you are still sporting your tinfoil hats. Alas, not to worry: I’ve got another Ace up my sleeve, and it’s called moisture.

The formula for the Ideal Gas Law only takes pressure and temperature into account—not moisture. Anyone who watched that game knows that it was pouring down rain for the entire first half, and according to the Wells Report (Figure 26, Appendix I, page 53) the Patriots’ footballs lost about 0.40 PSI (0.38 on the Master Gauge) due to the moisture. Add that lost PSI back in, and every single Patriot football falls within the expected range as predicted by the Ideal Gas Law.

Halftime Master Gauge Readings As Compared to Expected Range (11.00 - 11.20)

(Corrected for Pressure Loss Due to Moisture)

Green = within / above expected range, Red = below expected range

Conclusion: Even without taking moisture into account, only three Patriot footballs were below the expected pressure range. After correcting for PSI loss due to moisture, NONE of the balls were below this range.

MYTH #2:
Referee Walt Anderson used the Non-Logo Gauge to measure the balls before the game.

Status: FALSE

According to the Wells Report, the amount of pressure lost from the Patriots’ footballs varies based on which gauge (Logo or Non-Logo) was used to measure them. Per the Logo Gauge, the balls were missing an average of 1.01 PSI at halftime. Per the Non-Logo Gauge, they were missing 1.39 PSI.

John Jastremski, the Patriots equipment manager, and referee Anderson both measured the Patriots’ footballs at 12.50 PSI before the game. This means that one of Anderson’s gauges reads similarly to  Jastremski’s. If we can figure out which one, we’ll know which gauge Anderson used before the game, and thus which of the above loss amounts applies. The Wells Report insists that it was the Non-Logo Gauge, but the evidence disagrees.

D’Qwell Jackson intercepted Brady in the 2nd quarter, and just before halftime, the ball was measured in the locker room, three times, with Jastremski’s gauge. The average of the measurements was 11.52. The other 11 Patriot footballs measured 11.49 (on average) with the Logo Gauge, and 11.11 with the Non-Logo. It’s not even close: Jastremski’s gauge reads almost identically to the Logo Gauge. Therefore, Anderson must have used the Logo Gauge before the game. Using the Wells Report’s figures, this means that the balls are missing 1.01 PSI.

The Jackson football seals the deal for the Logo Gauge, especially since Exponent’s logic for choosing Non-Logo is only slightly better than because I said so.

Once we have established that Anderson used the Logo Gauge, we can convert the starting and halftime pressures to the more accurate Master Gauge values using the formulas provided in the Wells Report. The Master Gauge shows that the Patriots’ balls lost an average of 0.97 PSI.

Halftime Master Gauge Pressure Losses

This Logo / Non-Logo debate is not only important because it tells us how much pressure was missing from the footballs; it also shows just how terribly Exponent missed the mark, and/or how willing they are to mislead people in order to tell their clients what they want to hear.

Do you think it was the Non-Logo Gauge? Tell me why. And if you manage to come up with a good reason, you can also tell me how Exponent missed it.

Conclusion: Anderson used the Logo Gauge, not the Non-Logo Gauge, for the pre-game measurements. The Patriots’ footballs lost 0.97 PSI, according to the Master Gauge.

MYTH #3:
The Patriots’ footballs lost significantly more pressure than the Colts’ did, and the only plausible explanation for this is that the Patriots’ footballs were tampered with.

Status: FALSE

First, a quick look at the amount of pressure lost from each football, according to the Master Gauge:

Patriots vs. Colts Master Gauge Pressure Loss Differential

As the table shows, the Patriots’ footballs lost 0.65 PSI more than the Colts’ balls. Assuming that all conditions were exactly the same for all footballs, there should not be such a big discrepancy between the two teams’ balls. But, like most everything else in this case, the explanation is lot less sinister than it’s made out to be.

When footballs are brought from a cold, rainy field to a locker room, they warm up and dry out. As they do, they begin to gain pressure, and their PSI increases. As the Wells Report itself says, the Patriots’ footballs were measured first, within 2-4 minutes of being brought into the locker room, and therefore did not have a chance to gain back much pressure before they were measured.

The Wells Report implies that the Colts’ footballs were measured right after the Patriots’ were, but is careful not to come out and say so directly. At the very least, per the Wells Report, the officials took 2-4 minutes to begin measuring the Patriots’ balls, and the measurements themselves took another 4-5 minutes, with the Colts’ balls warming up and gaining PSI the entire time. Even if the Colts’ balls were measured right after the Patriots’, that’s as much as a nine-minute discrepancy. And if the officials re-inflated the Patriots’ balls before they began work on the Colts’ balls, which makes more sense, then that number could be as high as 12 minutes.

Obviously, when one set of footballs is measured right away, and the other set is allowed to warm up and gain PSI before being measured, the second set will measure noticeably higher. The Wells Report does not deny this, but says that “…the timing of the measurements…does not on its own completely account for the difference” (p.43). Okay, but how much of the difference does it account for? If it’s only, let’s say, 10%, the Patriots have some ‘splaining to do—but if it’s 90 or 95%, Exponent has no case. Sadly, the Wells Report gives no indication whatsoever on how much of the 0.65 PSI is explained by the timing of the measurements. But never fear—we have a table for that.

The table below contains my best guesses as to the temperature of each team’s balls as they were measured. Admittedly, these numbers are estimated, but the actual temperatures of the footballs were not documented, so I have nothing but estimates to go on. If you have any suggested changes, I’m all ears. 

Comparison of Halftime Master Gauge PSI Gains

(click for enlarged view)

Well, looky here! According to our table, virtually all of the discrepancy between the teams’ pressure readings can be explained by the timing of the measurements. We’re down to 0.06 PSI (0.65 - 0.59) of unexplained pressure loss, which is pretty amazing, given that we haven’t even taken into account the Wells Report’s admission that some of the balls were wet, and some were dry. How do we know that we aren’t comparing wet Patriot footballs against dry Colts footballs (which gain back PSI faster)? We don’t, and we never will. We also have no proof at all that each ball was the same exact temperature. Yes, we know how cold it was outside, but individual balls could have varied based on how and where they were stored.

Conclusion: The Patriots’ footballs were measured before the Colts’. This allowed the Colts’ footballs to regain a significant amount of pressure before being measured, which gave the impression that the Patriots’ balls had lost more, when in reality it was a case of the Colts’ balls gaining more. 

MYTH #4:
Jim McNally’s text messages prove he was part of a conspiracy to deflate footballs after they were  approved by game officials.

Status: FALSE

First, let’s take a look at the famous text exchange from May 9, 2014:

McNally: You working
Jastremski: Yup
McNally: Nice dude....jimmy needs some kicks....lets make adeal.....come on help the deflator
McNally: Chill buddy im just fuckin with you not going to espn........yet

So let’s see: McNally’s calling himself “The Deflator”, and the Patriots’ footballs were deflated, so he’s guilty! An open-and-shut case! Right?


As we just proved a moment ago, every one of the Patriots’ balls was at a completely reasonable PSI level, given the temperature and moisture conditions that day. And yes, the Patriots’ balls lost more pressure than the Colts’ balls, but this is because the Colts’ balls had a significantly longer period of time to warm up and dry out in the locker room before being measured, as we also just proved. Translation: No one deflated any footballs!

I don’t care what McNally said in his text message. There is, quite simply, no evidence that an infraction happened! You wouldn’t charge a man with arson if there was no burned building. There is no unexpected loss of pressure in the Patriots’ footballs that we need to explain, hence no need to figure out “who did it”. Nobody did anything! Prove me wrong.

The Wells Report in Context provides explanations for the text messages, even though there’s no need to explain anything. Specifically, they say the “Deflator” nickname refers to McNally’s desire to lose weight, and the ESPN comment refers to Jastremski giving apparel to McNally without the approval of Jastremski’s supervisor. Essentially, McNally was saying, “Don’t worry, I’ll never tell”.

As I’ve written, people are fond of dismissing the “Deflator” explanation as “ridiculous”. But so far, no one’s ever been able to explain why it’s so ridiculous. They merely say it and expect us to believe it’s so.

I spent two minutes on Google and found 15 instances in which the word “deflate” referred to weight loss. It’s an obvious, and very common, use of the term. So no, it’s not “ridiculous” at all. Unless you believe all those references I found are part of a vast Patriots conspiracy?

Jim McNally was interviewed three separate times by the NFL. Then he was interviewed for seven hours by four attorneys from Ted Wells’ firm. He confessed to nothing. He implicated no one. After all that interrogation, the best evidence Ted Wells had against him was a year-old text message. And by the by, no one from Wells’ team ever asked McNally for an explanation of the “Deflator” nickname.

Conclusion: There is zero evidence that the Patriots’ footballs were tampered with, hence there is no need to invent a conspiracy theory to explain anything. Jim McNally never confessed to tampering, nor did he implicate anyone else. The text messages he sent on May 9, 2014 were ambiguous and subject to multiple interpretations.

MYTH #5:
The Patriots have been deflating footballs since at least the 2013 season.

Status: FALSE

This one’s almost too easy.
  1. Once again, there is no evidence—zero—that the Patriots’ footballs were tampered with in the AFC Championship Game. A full and accurate review of the information in the Wells Report proves that nothing but rain and cold temperatures were at play.
  2. The Colts complained that the Patriots’ balls seemed soft in their week 11 game against New England. This game was played in Indianapolis. Jim McNally was not there, as he does not travel with the team, and no one from the Patriots had access to the footballs after they were submitted to the officials. The home team is solely responsible for both teams’ footballs. There is no plausible way the Patriots could have deflated their footballs that day, and the Wells Report does not suggest otherwise.
  3. The New York Jets played the Patriots in Week 7 at New England. All parties interviewed, including Tom Brady himself, acknowledge that Brady complained loudly during the game about the footballs being over-inflated.  Jim McNally was at that game and was responsible for bringing the balls to the field, and the footballs were more than 2 PSI over the allowable limit. The Wells Report agrees that the footballs were grossly over-inflated. How could this be, if the “Deflator” was on duty?

    On October 17, 2014, Jastremski sent the following texts to McNally:

    I checked some of the balls this morn... The refs fucked us...a few of then were at almost 16

    They didnt recheck then after they put air in them

    According to the Wells Report, McNally and Jastremski were part of a conspiracy to secretly deflate the Patriots’ footballs after they were inspected by the officials. But if this were the case, no over-inflated balls would ever make it into the game! If an official over-inflated the footballs, as happened vs. the Jets, McNally would have deflated them back down to Brady’s preferred level before bringing them to the field. He didn’t.

    If McNally didn’t deflate the footballs as he was supposed to, and over-inflated balls made it to the field, why didn’t Jastremski mention it in his text? Why did he blame it on the refs? Wasn’t McNally supposed to “fix” the balls, after the refs were done with them? This was a private text conversation, and Jastremski had no reason to believe anyone would ever see his messages to McNally. Yet, he doesn’t mention the plot at all. Why?
  4. The Baltimore Ravens played the Patriots in New England the week before the Colts game. Ravens coach John Harbaugh told the media that there was nothing unusual about the Patriots’ footballs that day (The Ravens intercepted Brady twice during the game).
  5. This, from page 4 of the Wells Report:

    According to Anderson, other members of the officiating crew for the AFC Championship Game and other game officials with recent experience at Gillette Stadium, McNally had not previously removed game balls from the Officials Locker Room and taken them to the field without either receiving permission from the game officials or being accompanied by one or more officials.

    In other words, this had never happened before. What reason do we have to think that it did?
  6. No other team in the NFL has gone on the record saying that they thought the Patriots’ footballs were underinflated. The Colts claimed that it was “well known around the league”, but they supplied no evidence to back that up, and the Wells team did not find any. 

Conclusion: Neither the Colts, nor the NFL, nor the Wells Report, nor anyone else, has produced one shred of evidence to suggest that the Patriots have ever deflated their footballs. 


  1. NFL was never interested in the facts. This was a league-wide desire for retribution against a team that was a little too successful for the other 31 owners. They long ago developed the narrative that the Patriots must be cheating. The Wells report failed at every level to prove a thing and yet the NFL came down with a historically harsh punishment for the team and a ;player whom they had nothing on.

  2. All true. If Brady is penalized at all for this, it will be a sin.

  3. I just wish more national media would read this article. I'll share with as many people as I can. I like the myth, status, explanation, conclusion set up. Great points about Pats gauge, master gauge& moisture, and debunking of myth that this was happening for a long time. My husband especially liked the line about accusing someone of arson with no fire!! Truly think we'll-thought out piece like this would be helpful to NFLPA & Brady. As a Pats fan and Brady fan want to say have really enjoyed reading your stuff and thanks for getting the truth out there

    1. WOW! This is some great feedback! Thanks so much for taking the time to write.

      I sent a link to my "Swan Boat" post to Jeffrey Kessler (Brady's lawyer) and he responded briefly to say thanks. Not sure if he's using it but he's welcome to. I also sent it to DeMaurice Smith from the NFLPA. Got linked by but that's about the closest I came to being featured in the Boston media. Sadly, "The Pats are innocent" is not a story that many people want to hear.

  4. Great article!

  5. Great piece.

    Couple things to add:

    1) Apparently deflate was used on the NFL network years ago to refer to losing weight...that's got to be the most stinging rebuttal to levy at the deepest skeptic. Sorry I don't have the link handy but it's out there.

    2) Walt Andersen's best guess was that he used the logo gauge. That's what the report states. They got him to admit that it was possible that he used the other gauge which justified (in their mind) dismissing his recollection in favour of the other gauge. Talk about choosing your 'facts'.

    3) What did you use for your temperature guesses? Weather reports and reports about the locker room temperature?

    1. 1. Here's the "Deflate" thing from NFLN:

      2. Yep, they accepted every other recollection Anderson had except that one.

      3. Drew Fustin (a physicist) came up with some estimated temperatures on this spreadsheet:
      I bumped them up a bit because he had the first ball at 48 degrees which probably was not correct, since the balls were in the locker room for 2-4 minutes by that time.

  6. Just a quick question regarding your chart about the temperature increase as the balls were being measured at half time. I know you said you estimated what the temperatures would be, but did you use any sense of science or math to do that? The reason I ask is that, using the timeline you discussed in the paragraphs preceding the chart, it seems that it would have taken a maximum of 9 minutes to check all of the Patriots balls, during which time they raised 10.27 degrees. Then I assume you are adding in the 3 minutes of reinflating the balls before testing the Colts balls. So my question is, in that 3 minutes how did the temperature of the Colts balls jump up by over 9 degrees? I mean it took almost 9 minutes for the same temperature increase in the Patriots balls. I realize you are just guessing at the temps but isn't this really just a case of picking numbers to fit your theory? Especially considering that as temperatures get closer to equilibrium the rate of heat transfer slows. The rest of your arguments seem fairly reasonable but this one just screams homerism.

    1. I took those numbers from a spreadsheet ( by Drew Fustin, a PhD physicist who developed them for his own study. I actually bumped up the beginning temperature for the first ball because he had it at 48 degrees, and that seems wrong because the balls would have been in the locker room for 2-4 minutes by that time. I will look at the numbers and adjust if necessary.

      The main point here is that there is a timing differential, and the Colts' balls did in fact gain more pressure than the Pats' did, and that difference probably makes it impossible to prove statistical significance. But I'll definitely have another look.

    2. I actually just re-worked the chart. The results were even closer than before! Now we are down to 0.06 in unexplained PSI loss, which is just incredible given the number of unknowns. Here are a few of the assumptions I used to generate the temperature figures:

      1. The Wells Report states that the officials took 2-4 minutes to develop a procedure for measuring the balls. I split the difference and went with 3 minutes, meaning that I assumed that they started measuring balls at the 3:00 mark.
      2. The Wells Report states that the officials took 4-5 minutes to measure the Patriots' balls. I split the difference and went with 4 minutes and 30 seconds.
      3. Given the above, the measurements of the Patriots' balls took place between the 3:00 and 7:30 marks.
      4. Appendix I, page 48, item #2 states that the area where the pregame measurements occurred had a temp of 67-71 degrees. I assumed halfway between, which is 69.
      5. Figure 22, page 44, in appendix I shows that the balls have basically returned to their original PSI level, or extremely close to that level, after 13.5 minutes in the locker room, so I assumed they were at their pre-game temp of 69 degrees at that time.
      6. Given the above, the balls went from 48 degrees to 69 degrees in 13.5 minutes, for a warming rate of 1.56 degrees per minute.
      7. I assumed the four Colts balls were measured in one minute. The Wells Report says a man can go into a bathroom, take 13 balls out of a bag, let air out of each one, then repack the balls and leave the bathroom in as little as 61 seconds. If one man can do that, then two referees can check the air pressure on four footballs in one minute. Just me making a bit of a statement.
      The Wells Report estimates the refilling took 2-5 minutes. Normally I would split the difference and go with 3.5 minutes, but to accommodate the above, I went with 4.5.
      8. I assumed that the Colts' balls were measured faster than the Patriots' balls were, because halftime was almost over when the Colts' balls were measured. I assumed a warming rate of 0.52 degrees per football for the Colts' balls. Colts' ball #3 was excluded from the study, but of course, on the day of the game, it was measured along with the other Colt footballs. To accommodate the missing ball, I added an extra 0.52 degrees to ball #4.

  7. Thanks Dave for your work in fighting against the 'bias and general stupidity" that informs too much about this farce. I call it Deflate Derangement Syndrome and it's the sports world equivalent of the Salem Witch Trials -- or Alice in Wonderland ('Sentence First, Trial Later!") -- and the mainstream media and talk radio yahoos have nurtured the ignorance to an amazing degree. This inquisition cares not for scientific facts, common sense or actual evidence. The Wells Report is a joke and rife with anti-logic yet some treat it as Holy Writ. Not sure how this will end because it's a battle between logic and reason against other agendas (namely to keep the world from looking too much into massive NFL competence). Roger Goodell has thrown in his lot with this which means he's tied to the mast of the Wells Report. We'll see how that turns out.

    1. Clarification:
      (namely to keep the world from looking too much into massive NFL incompetence).

      Can't imagine what NFL competence in this matter would look like.

    2. Thanks, Michael, for a very well-written reply. It's flattering to know my work catches the eye of intelligent people.

  8. Good article - with regards to the use of the word of "deflate" - there was also a text between Jastremski and McNally that said something to the effect of "deflate and get rid of that jacket"....haven't read the Wells report in a while but I think it was on page 87 based on a search I did.....

  9. Page 87 - exactly!

    here's an explanation of what the text means:

  10. Completely agree with thoughts shared in this article.