Following several months of investigation, the NFL moved quickly to punish the Patriots for their role in DeflateGate after the Wells report was released last week. The NFL fined the Patriots $1 million and docked the team a first-round draft pick in 2016 and a fourth-round pick in 2017, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.
The league's investigation concluded that the Patriots illegally deflated footballs during the AFC title game against the Indianapolis Colts. The findings of Ted Wells' report were released on May 6 following a lengthy investigation. The report concluded that while the team did not appear to have any knowledge of such activities, New England employees Jim McNally and John Jastremski intentionally manipulated the air pressure inside of game balls in a manner inconsistent with NFL rules. Additionally, quarterback Tom Brady was, at a minimum, aware that efforts to deflate the footballs were ongoing.
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What's next for Brady and the Patriots
What led to the four-game suspension and $1 million fine for Brady? How did New England end up losing a first- and fourth-round pick?
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In addition to the punishment, New England locker room assistants John Jastremski and Jim McNally will be "prohibited from having any role in the preparation, supervision, or handling of footballs to be used in NFL games during the 2015 season. McNally is barred from serving as a locker room assistant for the game officials, or having any involvement with the preparation, supervision, or handling of footballs or any other equipment on game day."
In the league's official press release, commissioner Roger Goodell explained that the NFL "reached these decisions after extensive discussion with (NFL Executive President) Troy Vincent and many others," adding, "We relied on the critical importance of protecting the integrity of the game and the thoroughness and independence of the Wells report."
Vincent said the following regarding the loss of picks:
"Nonetheless, it remains a fundamental principle that the club is responsible for the actions of club employees. This principle has been applied to many prior cases. Thus, while no discipline should or will be imposed personally on any owner or executive at the Patriots, discipline is appropriately imposed on the club."
"Although we do not hold the club directly responsible for Mr. Brady’s refusal to cooperate, it remains significant that the quarterback of the team failed to cooperate fully with the investigation."
There's a precedent for a "buck stops here" philosophy. In previous instances, the NFL has dished out punishments even if team officials were unaware of the violations occurring. The Atlanta Falcons were stripped of a draft pick and president Rich McKay received a three-month suspension when the team was found guilty of pumping crowd noise into the Georgia Dome, despite the fact that an investigation found that a former employee acted independently and no other team officials were aware.
After the Falcons, the Patriots become the third team to face discipline this offseason. In Cleveland, the Browns received a fine for texts sent from GM Ray Farmer to his coaching staff during games, though the league did not take away any draft picks.
This is not the first time the NFL has docked New England a draft pick. After 2007's "Spygate" scandal, the team was stripped of its first-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft and given a $250,000 fine, while head coach Bill Belichick was slapped with a $500,000 fine. According to the league, that previous violation was "properly considered in determining the discipline" for the illegally deflated footballs.