NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The Shield -- otherwise known as the NFL logo. It's all about protecting the integrity of the Shield.
Except it isn't.
It's about jealousy and incompetence, all of which starts at the top.
Deflategate (or a witch hunt, as I like to call it) has made a mockery of the National Football League and Commissioner Roger Goodell for months now. The Wells Report, which was released yesterday, has only added fuel to the fire.
Over the past 12 to 24 months, Goodell and his team have bungled nearly every difficult situation facing them. Yet because of the popularity of the league, which generates nearly $7 billion in annual revenue, he has remained almost unscathed professionally, even if he has been demonized publicly.
The Ray Rice situation. Adrian Peterson. Replacement refs. Alleged performance-enhancing drug abuse running rampant throughout the league. Concussion after concussion after concussion, ultimately leading to a settlement with former players.
All of this has come under Goodell's watch. But instead we're focusing on something that obviously had no impact on the outcome of the game, but highlighted the incompetence of the league and its processes. The head official of the AFC Championship Game, Walt Anderson, couldn't even find the game balls.
The league presumably spent considerable amounts of money to determine whether the New England Patriots improperly deflated footballs ahead of the AFC Championship Game with the Indianapolis Colts to gain an advantage, since deflated footballs are easier to catch and throw. The resulting outcome of the 243-page report (because lawyers love those billable hours) was that "it is more probable than not that New England Patriots personnel participated in violations of the Playing Rules and were involved in a deliberate effort to circumvent the rules."
If you're a Patriots fan (as I admittedly am), it gets worse. The report implicates Tom Brady, the star of the team, saying he was "at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of [Jim] McNally and [John] Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls."
It's a bitter pill for me, a Patriots fan, to swallow that Brady is complicit, as the report has implicated. He has always been an upstanding citizen and has never given fans, the media or, perhaps as important, his endorsers, a reason not to trust him. Only Brady knows for certain. While the evidence certainly does not paint him in a good light, there is nothing there that definitively states he asked for the balls to be deflated below the legal limit of 12.5 psi (a level Brady has publicly admitted he likes the balls to be at).
It's also rather difficult to believe that Brady would be involved in a scheme with two guys (McNally and Jastremski) who seemingly did not like Brady, judging from text messages included in the report.
Given the outcome of the report, it's likely that Brady will at least be fined. He may even face a suspension of a to-be-determined length, despite the fact that there is no hard evidence he is guilty of anything.
The report itself is a black eye for Brady. The media (especially the New York tabloids) are having a field day with this. But it smacks of spite and jealousy.
Since Bill Belichick inserted Brady for Drew Bledsoe nearly 15 years ago, the Patriots have been an exemplary organization, both on and off the field. Four Super Bowl wins and six appearances, a head coach who has been praised as the best ever, a quarterback who beat the odds -- Brady was the 199th pick in the 2000 NFL Draft -- and will likely wind up in the Hall of Fame, and an owner who is among the most respected in the league are things that should be admired, not admonished.
Even at 243 pages (and Lord knows what cost), the report essentially uncovered nothing. That has led people to come to their own conclusions. "More probable than not" isn't an answer in a criminal case. In this country, you need to be proven guilty without a reasonable doubt, not "more probable than not."
Plus the Wells Report may not even include everything relevant. Brady's agent Don Yee said the report omitted "nearly all of Tom's testimony, most of which was critical." That highlights the incompetence the NFL has demonstrated repeatedly over the past year and just makes the whole situation laughable.
The NFL paid for this report, which it knew was going to be highly scrutinized, and got the outcome it wanted. It implicates the Patriots as cheaters ("more probable than not") and keeps the focus away from the incompetent handling of this charade by the NFL and Goodell over the past several months.
This is just another example of the NFL, Goodell and others making the situation into nothing more than a circus act.
Give me a break.