By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- The wonder of the yearslong saga known as DeflateGate is that it's a story that never really died, with an unpredictable schedule to when new developments may break. As it turns out, the first weekend of February 2022 was ripe for some news.
It comes from Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio, who shared some findings from his new book, "Playmakers," on Sunday night. Through his reporting for the book, he discovered two rather noteworthy aspects from the DeflateGate era, neither of which look good for the National Football League.
Actually, they look very bad.
Florio revealed that, according to a source of his own, the source who leaked the infamous "11 of 12 footballs being two pounds under the minimum PSI level" to ESPN's Chris Mortensen was NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent.
"It's unclear whether Vincent deliberately lied to Mortensen," Florio wrote. "Things were muddled and hazy and confusing in the early days of the scandal."
More on the uncertainty surrounding Vincent's intentions in a moment.
For now, it was clear that the NFL lied the following year, when -- according to Florio -- NFL general counsel Jeff Pash ordered that the records of all of the PSI data gathered from "random" games around the league during the 2015 season to be destroyed.
"The NFL expunged the numbers," Florio wrote. "It happened at the direct order, per the source, of NFL general counsel Jeff Pash."
The reasoning for destroying the numbers was, of course, that everything that every scientific mind who weighed in on the matter said was true: The PSI in footballs would drop in cold weather and rise in hot weather. Once the NFL recorded the data and saw that the measurements of the Patriots' footballs during the 2014 AFC Championship Game were in line with science, with comparable situations to now correlate physical reality, the league knew its main source of evidence was debunked.
Of course, those who followed the situation closely knew this would be the case. But when pressed for an explanation as to why the data was never released, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell pivoted the focus of those readings, saying they were taken to serve as "spot checks," and that because no chain of custody was ever broken with the footballs in any other game, the league had no reason to be suspicious of any ball deflation or inflation schemes taking place. It was, quite obviously, a lie from the NFL, as releasing the data would have shown that no ball deflation took place the night in question. (That's also why the NFL leaked and leaned on the destroyed cell phone just prior to announcing the rejection of Tom Brady's appeal, shifting the national focus away from the actual alleged violation in favor of a narrative that could impact public opinion.)
Someone else who helped try to spin the "spot check" narrative was, coincidentally enough, Troy Vincent.
"It's the procedure of the balls themselves," Vincent said in 2016., even though the league was clearly measuring pregame and halftime PSI numbers and collecting the data, in a brazen case of a multibillion-dollar corporation believing it can outwit basic natural phenomena.
(The NFL also tacitly conceded this basic scientific fact when the league was "very concerned" about the PSI in the footballs dropping during a frigid outdoor playoff game between the Seahawks and Vikings being played in Minneapolis. America, though, largely overlooked that bit.)
Outside of the erasure of the PSI data, Pash was heavily involved in DeflateGate, serving as the ghost editor of the "independent" Wells report before its public release. Pash also condescendingly dismissed the Patriots' plea to correct the public record on the false 11-of-12 ESPN report in an email exchange in February of 2015.
"I have doubts that piecemeal disclosures are likely to accomplish much," Pash told the Patriots when denying their request for the league to publicly state that Mortensen's report was objectively false. "If anything, I would think they are likely to prompt additional questions, additional stories, and additional irresponsible speculation and commentary. Once the investigation is completed and the facts are known, any incorrect reporting will be shown for what it is."
The Wells report -- which, again, was edited to an unknown degree by Pash -- was not released until nearly three full months later, allowing the false information to control the national story line all the while.
As noted earlier, Florio couldn't lock down whether or not Vincent intentionally lied to Mortensen to leak those numbers. Considering the fact that NFL senior VP of football operations Dave Gardi used demonstrably false numbers in his letter to the Patriots which demanded the team open its doors to an investigation, there's not much benefit of the doubt available for Vincent.
Yet Vincent's testimony during Tom Brady's appeal hearing with Goodell in the summer of 2015 showed that it is plausible that Vincent fundamentally did not understand anything about the numbers recorded that night in Foxboro.
He was present for the halftime measurements, when he admitted that he did not instruct anyone to record the timing of the measurements taken, he did not instruct anyone to record the temperature in the room during testing, he did not instruct anyone to record if footballs tested were wet or dry, and he did not know which of the two air pressure gauges was used to make the pregame measurements (if they were actually taken, that is, as they were not recorded). He also admitted that neither he nor anyone else involved with NFL operations had ever heard of the Ideal Gas Law and thus had no awareness that the PSI in a football would change in certain environments.
Despite all of that, Vincent rejected the notion that there was any confusion whatsoever about the testing process and the date recorded.
"I think it was very clear," Vincent somehow determined.
To put it lightly, Vincent was an unreliable witness when it came to the accuracy of the PSI data. So, as Florio determined, it is indeed not clear if he was lying intentionally when giving the 11 of 12 leak to Mortensen.
Of course, Florio's reporting adds further confirmation to what has been known for a long time: The entity that lied the most and worked hardest to complete a cover-up during the DeflateGate saga was not the Patriots. It was the NFL.
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