BOSTON (CBS) — With no hard evidence in hand, the NFL’s only course of action to suspend Tom Brady was to conclude that when the quarterback was interviewed by Ted Wells’ investigative team, he was lying.
And the NFL did exactly that.
“Finally,” Troy Vincent wrote in his explanation of the four-game suspension to Brady, “it is significant that key witnesses – Mr. Brady, Mr. Jastremski, and Mr. McNally – were not fully candid during the investigation.”
Well, if that same standard can be applied to NFL employees, then it might be time for VP of officiating Dean Blandino to prepare for a four-week vacation next fall.
At this point, I understand that folks’ eyeballs might immediately gloss over with boredom upon seeing yet another excerpt from the Wells report. But this is important, as it relates to the email sent by Colts GM Ryan Grigson and Colts equipment manager Sean Sullivan. This message was sent to NFL senior VP of football operations David Gardi and director of football operations Mike Kensil.
Kensil forwarded Grigson’s email without comment to James Daniel, Director of Game Operations at he NFL, who in turn forwarded it to other Game Operations personnel who would be at the game as an ‘FYI.’ Kensil also forwarded Grigson’s email to Dean Blandino and Alberto Riveron, both senior members of the NFL Officiating Department, with the message ‘see below.’ Both Riveron and Blandino decided that they would raise the issue with Walt Anderson, who had been assigned as the referee for the game.
On Saturday, the day before the AFC Championship Game, “Blandino reminded Anderson to ensure that proper protocols concerning the footballs were followed.”
So there’s that: Dean Blandino knew in the days leading up to the AFC Championship Game that the Colts had suspicions about the Patriots’ footballs.
But then … there’s this.
At a pre-Super Bowl press conference, Blandino tried to say that nobody from the league was aware of any issues with the footballs prior to the game.
“Then there was an issue that was brought up during the first half,” Blandino said on Jan. 29 in Phoenix. “A football came into question and then the decisions was made to test them at halftime and now.”
When hit with a follow-up question from the New York Post about allegations that the NFL conducted a “sting operation” in order to catch the Patriots red-handed, Blandino again flatly denied any prior knowledge to anything about football inflation levels.
“I don’t know where [the idea of a sting] came from,” Blandino told the Post. “This was a problem that came up in the first half.”
(Quick reminder: This is the same Dean Blandino who was caught partying on a bus with Cowboys exec Stephen Jones and was not penalized at all.)
What you have here is, quite clearly, a case of the VP of officiating telling lies.
Now, there’s also the chance that the commissioner himself lied publicly.
Roger Goodell told Sports Illustrated’s Peter King in late March that he also had no prior knowledge of suspicions regarding the Patriots’ footballs.
King: Can you say that the first time that you heard about this was after the game?
King: You know that there’s a storyline out there that you knew about the deflating and wanted to catch them in the act.
Goodell: Let’s just short circuit this a little bit. I’m not going to get into what we knew and when we knew it because that’s part of what he’s investigating. … I can tell you that I was not personally aware of it until after the game.
So here, Goodell either blatantly lied in a public statement, or he was not kept in the loop about a pressing matter that was essential to the integrity of the game and the shield.
I’m not sure which one is worse.
But while we don’t know about Goodell, we do know about Blandino. So let’s address that.
The NFL, if pressed, would be stuck between a rock and a hard place here. They could either come out and admit that Dean Blandino, an important figure in the league, knowingly made false public statements. The VP of officiating telling lies doesn’t do much for the “integrity of the game,” now does it? And based on Troy Vincent’s and Roger Goodell’s refusal to accept lies, then the league would have no choice but to suspend the man in charge of officiating — or perhaps even fire him. Remember, the game needs integrity.
The NFL’s other option would be to say that Ted Wells’ report was inaccurate and that Blandino actually had no knowledge of the Patriots’ alleged deflation practices prior to the AFC Championship Game. If they go that route, then they are eliminating whatever credibility the Wells report might have in the first place.
What the NFL decides to do is hard to say. But this much is not up for debate: Dean Blandino lied. Oh, the humanity.
But there is a third option for the NFL, and it’s the only they’re most likely to take: Say nothing, ignore the hypocrisy, and hope nobody notices.