Fans of the New England Patriots have what amounts to one lone defense when talking about Deflategate, specifically Tom Brady’s role in Deflategate: The Wells report didn’t uncover any concrete evidence that Brady had anything to do with those deflated footballs.
Here, take a look at some examples.
I just read the "More probable than not" Report… So, it took four solid months to figure out that nobody knows what happened?
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) May 6, 2015
After 4 months of extreme, detailed investigation.. NE might have, probably, possibly, maybe deflated balls… Most likely.
— TJ Lang (@TJLang70) May 6, 2015
If Tom Brady gets suspended for circumstantial evidence…
— Swaggy P. (@ZachieJ13) May 6, 2015
These people are missing the point.
The Wells investigation was not a criminal trial, where a person has to be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, think of the Wells investigation as a civil trial, where only a preponderance of evidence is needed to determine guilt. In other words, if a jury (or, in this case, an NFL-appointed team of lawyers) thinks there’s a 50.1 percent chance you did it, they’re going to find you responsible. This is why the Wells report is couched with all the “more probable than not” language: It didn’t have a smoking gun, but a whole lot of everything else.
This is the standard the NFL has used when meting out discipline in such matters since the last time the Patriots found themselves in hot water: Spygate, after which NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell decided that too many teams were getting away with too many things because NFL investigators couldn’t find enough hard evidence. So he lowered the bar for guilt.
And that’s why Brady and/or the Patriots could be facing a significant penalty.
“But under league guidelines, the NFL doesn’t have to catch Brady in the act of ordering the deflation,” MMQB’s Peter King wrote Thursday morning. “Goodell and NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent, who is also reviewing the case for discipline, could rely on the ‘preponderance of the evidence’ that ‘the fact sought to be proved is more probable than not,’ according to the league’s policy on integrity of the game.”
“In short, [Wells] is finding there was a violation,” former Indianapolis Colts executive Bill Polian, who spent 19 years on the NFL’s competition committee, told ESPN. “It clearly says a violation occurred.”
And one more thing to keep in mind:
Attention Patriots fans: The legal standards that apply when a person's liberty is on the line do not apply to workplace investigations.
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) May 7, 2015