After the release of the Wells report Wednesday afternoon, Tom Brady had three choices: apologize, stay silent and hope for mild punishment, or clap back. Each approach has its risks and rewards, but the key element is execution. You can't give a half-hearted apology that tries to throw other people under the bus. If you stay silent, you have to stick to that and not make an impatient remark outside of a restaurant or in a parking lot. And if you clap back? Clap back HARD.
Through his agent, Don Yee, Tom Brady chose door number three, and Don did not disappoint. Some highlights:
The Wells report, with all due respect, is a significant and terrible disappointment.
Monstrous opening. "With all due respect" isn't a particularly difficult move, but it does signal to even the most amateur shade-thrower where this is going. "Significant and terrible" crank the volume to 11 right out of the gate; you'd think Tom Brady had been wrongly convicted of capital murder, or had his house erroneously repossessed, or he'd been dropped from the organ transplant waiting list due to a computer glitch. But the uppercut is "disappointment." Tom Brady sees the NFL and its investigators as his adopted sons, and he's hoping they can find their way in this world. He wants them to live good and decent lives, lives that he can be proud of. Instead, they've disappointed him.
...it may be more probable than not that the league cooperated with the Colts in perpetrating a sting operation.
This is just playing the hits. People go to see Tom Jones, they want to hear "What's New Pussycat?" Patriots fans read a statement from Tom Brady's crew, they want to hear "the League has it in for us and the Colts are a bunch of losers who turned state's evidence." See, the NFL wanted the Patriots to tamper with those balls so they could later rake them over the coals for it. Are we going to punish the Pats for doing what the NFL wants?
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.
Look, if you don't see the conflicts and biases that render this investigation completely unreliable, it's not because they aren't there or can be explained away. It's because you're bad at reading.
Much of the report's vulnerabilities are buried in the footnotes, which is a common legal writing tactic.
HE CALLED YOUR WRITING COMMON. That's straight out of the Creative Writing Workshop playbook of shade.
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. ... It was clear to me the investigators had limited understanding of professional football.
On first read, you may think this is a shot at the law firm the NFL hired to conduct this investigation, but they're only the secondary target. Don Yee's a lawyer himself, and he knows the responsibility of an attorney is to know the law, not the game of football.
No, the recipient of this dagger is Roger Goodell and his office, accused of being so incompetent that they didn't bother to find a law firm that understood football. Yee wants you to believe that the following conversation might have taken place:
ROGER GOODELL: Essentially, we'd be asking you to determine whether any New England employees deflated these footballs, and whether they did so at the direction of any players, coaches or executives.
TED WELLS: Understood. Say, do you think you could get Kevin Durant to sign my hockey stick? Tell him to write "Three strikes, corner kick!"
GOODELL: Whatever, you're hired.
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.
The final sentence hits on all the key elements Yee wants to drive home. First, "significance." Don't let the pundits tell you this doesn't matter because it's not like the Patriots will be stripped of last year's title. Second, "tragic." The Wells report is so bad and wrong that it deserves the same adjective you'd use for a busload of children careening off of a mountain. Third, "common." This is the 8-8 record of investigations, and the NFL should have demanded better than Miami Dolphins-level production from its legal team.
And finally? "For the benefit of the purchaser." The NFL's just a heartless, shameless fat cat, willing to buy off anyone to get the result it wants. It's not like you, and it's certainly not like blue-collar, salt-of-the-earth, everyday guy Tom Brady.