Jeff Schultz

This AJC sports blogger takes things seriously when he has to, but he really would rather not

Brady's agent suggests 'sting operation' by NFL, Colts. Really?


We have yet to learn what punishment will be handed down by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after findings that the New England Patriots tampered with footballs.

My view is that Brady's rule-bending is far more serious than the Falcons funneling fake crowd noise into the Georgia Dome or a Cleveland Browns' executive texting a team employee on the sideline (it's believed ostensibly to influence the play-calling of Kyle Shanahan, who's now with the Falcons). The Patriots, who have a history of operating outside the rulebook, should lose a first-round draft pick (the Falcons were docked a fifth-round pick) and quarterback Tom Brady should be suspended two games.

But if the comments of Brady's agent Don Yee are any indication, it's clear Brady is more concerned about protecting his image than coming clean.

Yee released a statement this morning that reads in part, "What does it say about the league office’s protocols and ethics when it allows one team to tip it off to an issue prior to a championship game, and no league officials or game officials notified the Patriots of the same issue prior to the game? This suggests it may be more probable than not that the league cooperated with the Colts in perpetrating a sting operation."

So let me understand this: Yee's position is that Indianapolis knew Brady might be throwing slightly under inflated footballs so they tipped off NFL officials before the AFC championship games, and therefore whether Brady was actually cheating or not shouldn't even be an issue. Did I read that correctly?

Here's an analogy: I knew Fred was going to rob a bank so I told police. Hey, not fair! Sting operation!

It's clear that this is more about protecting the legacies of Brady and the Patriots now. It's also clear that the longer all parties involved -- Yee, Brady, New England owner Bob Kraft -- deny or evade the truth -- the bigger deal they are making this. Had they admitted wrongdoing from the outset, this issue would not have grown to the level it has.

Instead, we have silly statements like this, from Yee:

"The Wells report, with all due respect, is a significant and terrible disappointment. It’s omission of key facts and lines of inquiry suggest the investigators reached a conclusion first, and then determined so-called facts later. One item alone taints this entire report. What does it say about the league office’s protocols and ethics when it allows one team to tip it off to an issue prior to a championship game, and no league officials or game officials notified the Patriots of the same issue prior to the game? This suggests it may be more probable than not that the league cooperated with the Colts in perpetrating a sting operation. The Wells report buries this issue in a footnote on page 46 without any further elaboration. The league is a significant client of the investigators' law firm; it appears to be a rich source of billings and media exposure based on content in the law firm's website. This was not an independent investigation and the contents of the report bear that out – all one has to do is read closely and critically, as opposed to simply reading headlines. The investigators' assumptions and inferences are easily debunked or subject to multiple interpretations. Much of the report’s vulnerabilities are buried in the footnotes, which is a common legal writing tactic. It is a sad day for the league as it has abdicated the resolution of football-specific issues to people who don’t understand the context or culture of the sport. I was physically present for my client’s interview. I have verbatim notes of the interview. Tom made himself available for nearly an entire day and patiently answered every question. It was clear to me the investigators had limited understanding of professional football. For reasons unknown, the Wells report omitted nearly all of Tom’s testimony, most of which was critical because it would have provided this report with the context that it lacks. Mr. Wells promised back in January to share the results of this investigation publicly, so why not follow through and make public all of the information gathered and let the public draw its own conclusions? This report contains significant and tragic flaws, and it is common knowledge in the legal industry that reports like this generally are written for the benefit of the purchaser."

Just end this already.


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About the Author

Jeff Schultz is a general sports columnist and blogger who isn't afraid to share his opinion, which may not necessarily jibe with yours.