The Ted Wells Report came out Wednesday, casting further doubt on the legitimacy of the New England Patriots, who have a history of, well, not really following the rules. But not everyone in the Patriots’ organization received an equal amount of blame. Far from it.
There was a lot in the report about Tom Brady, but there was not much at all about Bill Belichick.
“To me, from the very beginning – and I thought the Patriots played this smart, along with the league if the league had any influence over it – there was a very clear plan, I thought, to try to distance Belichick from this,” Boston’s 98.5 The Sports Hub host Tony Massarotti said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “If you remember, when this story first broke, Belichick and Brady had press conferences. Belichick’s press conference lasted 11 or 12 minutes. Brady’s went on for more than twice that length of time. And in his press conference, Belichick said the game balls are really under the jurisdiction of the quarterback, so you’d have to ask Tom about that.
“I can’t ever remember another time during Belichick’s tenure as coach of the Patriots where he deferred to someone else and something related to the football operation,” Massarotti continued. “And look, I think that was smart. The last thing the Patriots wanted if this thing blew up – or the last thing the league wanted if this thing blew up – was to further push Belichick under given the weight of Spygate from seven, eight years ago. Again, that’s the cynic in me sort of looking at that side of it. Now that it’s come down, I don’t think it’s a mistake that the report is much more critical of Brady than it is of Belichick.”
Massarotti has covered Belichick’s entire tenure as Patriots head coach, and he’ll be the first to tell you: the notion that Belichick knew nothing about Deflategate is borderline absurd.
“It’d be hard to believe that,” Massarotti said. “It’d be hard to believe that for most football coaches, let alone maybe the greatest in the history of the game, if not his era. If you want to debate that point – whether it’s Lombardi or whoever – fine, we don’t have to go down that rode. But Belichick’s a control freak. Everybody knows it. He leaves no stone unturned with regards to detail.”
Need an example? Flash back to early 2012, when the Patriots were preparing to play the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI.
“The halftime show, if I remember right, was Madonna at that Super Bowl,” Massarotti said. “When the Patriots were practicing during the week and they took the break for the extended halftime, Belichick would play Madonna over the speakers, okay? So this is a guy that will go to those lengths to get every detail down to a tee. And so I have a hard time believing that . . . stuff went on without his knowledge.”
Massarotti noticed a few other peculiarities in the report.
“It is made clear in the report that . . . they asked Brady to turn over his cell phone, and Brady declined,” Massarotti said. “Did they ask for Belichick’s phone? It’s not in there. There’s no reference to it at all. And again, I don’t think that is all necessarily an accident. To me, there are holes in that report, and they don’t all pertain to Belichick. Why was there no real discussion about whether or not messing with the footballs was a league-wide issue? They give you no context, no frame of reference to say, ‘Yeah, Brady does it, but so does everyone else.’ It just feels like it was a very focused, pinpointed type of investigation on Brady and the officials’ room attendant and the equipment guy in the locker room. It really feels like it was that pointed.”