The release of the Wells report and the subsequent ruling by the NFL has resulted in fan, media, and player responses that range from stunned and angry because the punishment is too stiff or because the punishment is too light. Some seem to accept the Wells report as thorough and clear while others believe the report shows nothing.
The "Mock Report" attempts to examine the complaints issued against the Wells Report. I felt this necessary as too often people base their arguments off of clips from the report that lack context or the statements of members of the media who formulate opinions but who have very likely not read the report in its entirety.
This report intends to clarify the areas where many seem to be hazy and to deflate many of the arguments against the Wells Report's credibility – only when doing so is appropriate. The "Mock Report" will do its level best to admit where there are areas of weakness or legitimate complains – if any.
This will be broken up in parts to make it more digestible. Here are the key links covering the debacle and serving as partial inspiration for this report.
Criticism #1 – Wells Cherry Picks Air Pressure Readings
It has become wildly popular for those who wish to criticize the Wells report to examine the air pressure readings that are available from half time of the AFCCG and certain statements made in the scientific study regarding the expected range of air pressure during half time of the game to conclude that many of the Patriots footballs fall well within the range that could be viably explained by the Ideal Gas Law.
In context, the Ideal Gas Law suggests that a football inflated to a certain level in one environment (primarily at one temperature) will likely increase in air pressure or decrease in air pressure once it is introduced into another environment. As a result, the footballs used in the AFC Championship game that were inflated to one level in the locker room would expectedly be at lower levels – within a given range – at half time after they had been exposed to cooler temperatures outside.
According to Exponent, based on the most likely pressure and temperature values for the Patriots game balls on the day of the AFC Championship Game (i.e., a starting pressure of 12.5 psi, a starting temperature of between 67 and 71 degrees and a final temperature of 48 degrees), the Ideal Gas Law predicts that the Patriots balls should have measured between 11.52 and 11.32 psi at the end of the first half, just before they were brought back into the Officials Locker Room. Most of the individual Patriots measurements recorded at halftime, however, were lower than the range predicted by the Ideal Gas Law.
Wells Report p. 113
This passage is one that many of the critics of the Wells report point to when they intend to put together their evidence from the half time readings that are available from the AFCCG. They pinpoint the 11.32 – 11.52 (down approximately .98 – 1.18 PSI) range mentioned in the scientific study and apply it against the half time readings to make the claim that all but 3 of the Patriots balls are within this range at half time from at least one of the readings.
Of course this argument also should acknowledge the fact that one of the pressure gauges regularly read higher than the other, meaning that if the highest reading pressure gauge was used prior to the game and after the game, their theory would be true. This arguments fails to even mention the following excerpt in the same paragraph from the scientific study where the deviation in the pressures registered by the gauges are controlled for, prior to reaching the final conclusions in the study.
Indeed, once Exponent converted the game day measurements recorded for each gauge into a corresponding "Master Gauge" pressure (in order to provide for a direct comparison with the results predicted by the calculations), the measurements for all but three of the Patriots game balls, as measured by both gauges, were lower than the range predicted by the Ideal Gas Law.66 As a result, Exponent concluded that application of the Ideal Gas Law within the context of the most likely game day conditions cannot account entirely for the pressure drops observed In the Patriots halftime measurements.67
Wells Report p. 113
This particular part of the findings from the study is extremely important. The scientists not only identified that there were differences in the readings from the gauges, they also identified that those differences were consistent and predictable, and controlled for those differences when comparing the half time readings taken of the Colts and Patriots footballs when they issued their findings and conclusions. In short, they could identify which gauge was used in each reading at half time and control for those differences when they determined the actual level of reduction in air pressure from the beginning of the game to half time.
Now before the pessimists get ahead of themselves and try to point out that there were Colts balls underneath the 12.5 PSI minimum pressure during these readings, it's important to note a couple of things and then to again mention something found in the Wells report that speaks to this issue.
Before we get to the Wells report it is important for all those who are considering this issue to understand that the scientists who conducted the study used the Ideal Gas Law to determine that, based on the conditions that were likely present in the locker room on the day of the AFCCG and the conditions outside in Foxborough on the day the game was played, it was scientifically predictable that the Colts balls would drop in air pressure between approximately 1 and 1.2 PSI at the end of the first half, just before they returned to the locker room to be tested.
The reason this is important is because the scientists spoke directly to the Colts balls at half time and considered their levels in their analysis as well.
In contrast, if one were to use the most likely pressure and temperature values for the Colts game balls on the day of the AFC Championship Game (i.e., a starting pressure of 13.0 psi, a starting temperature of between 67 and 71 degrees and a final temperature of 48 degrees), the Ideal Gas Law predicts that the Colts balls should have measured between 12.00 and 11.80 psi at the end of the first half, just before they were brought back into the Officials Locker Room. All of the Colts measurements recorded at halftime were above this range, once converted into a corresponding "Master Gauge" pressure, and therefore can be explained by the applicable scientific principles.
Foonote 66 – Wells Report p. 113
What these passages outline is that the Colts and Patriots balls were both analyzed scientifically with regard to not only their air pressures at half time as read on each gauge but also that one set of balls fell short of the expected levels – controlled for differences in pressure readings between the gauges – and the other set of balls fell within the expected levels – controlled for differences in pressure readings between the gauges.
The best illustration of that point comes up in the following passage from the scientific study which more clearly demonstrates the differences between the Colts and Patriots footballs at half time. The best way to see the differences between the Colts and Patriots football readings at half time is not to look at specific readings and draw wild conclusions based on which pressure gauge was used but to look at the differences in psi reduction between the two sets of balls.
When compared to the reported pre-game pressures of 12.5 psi and 13.0 psi, respectively, the average pressure drop of the Patriots game balls exceeded the average pressure drop of the Colts balls by 0.45 to 1.02 psi, depending on various assumptions regarding the gauges used. According to both Exponent and Dr. Marlow, the difference in the average pressure drops between the Patriots and Colts footballs is statistically significant.68 This conclusion was consistent regardless of the assumptions made as to which of the two gauges was used to measure the game balls prior to the game and at halftime. In all scenarios considered, Exponent determined that the additional reduction in air pressure exhibited by the Patriots game balls was unlikely to have occurred by chance. In fact, when the halftime measurements are attributed to the gauges most likely to have generated those measurements, there is only a 0.4% likelihood— a fraction of one percent—that the difference in average pressure drops between the teams occurred by chance.69
Wells Report p. 114
It is very important that the areas of emphasis in this particular passage are highlighted. What this passage demonstrates is that the starting pressure of the balls and just how accurate those readings were, and the half time pressure of the balls and how accurate those readings might have been, is not the most relevant issue to the study at all. The most relevant issue is that there is a statistically significant difference between the LOSS OF AIR PRESSURE of the Colts and Patriots game balls that were exposed to the same environmental circumstances that cannot be explained by natural causes.
Based on a preponderance of the evidence standard the Wells report needed to show that it was more probably than not that the Patriots, Brady, Jastremski, and McNally cheated by illegally deflating balls below the required pre-game levels. This scientific study conducted shows that there is a 99.6% likelihood that something other than natural or physical forces on the playing field account for the differences in air pressure loss from the start of the game until half time between the Colts and Patriots balls.
Now the final nail in this sealed coffin comes with the following findings in the scientific study. The study found that not only were the Colts balls within the range of pressure loss and expected pressure levels at half time, while the Patriots balls were not in both regards, the findings also show that there is a level of variance in the Patriots half time pressure measurements that indicate the balls were not set at or near the same pressure at the start of the game.
Although our experts determined that the difference between the variability of the halftime measurements of the Patriots and Colts footballs was not statistically significant, they drew certain conclusions on variability when the data was considered in the context of the experimental results. Specifically, the fluctuations observed between the halftime measurements of Patriots game balls taken in close time proximity to each other (e.g., the difference between the pressures measured for the first and second football tested, the second and third football tested, etc.) exceeded in magnitude the fluctuations between measurements observed during their experiments. Exponent concluded that, subject to the discovery of an as yet unidentified and unexamined factor, the most plausible explanation for the variability of the Patriots halftime measurements is that the eleven footballs measured by the officials at halftime did not all start the game at or near the same pressure, even though they all measured at or near 12.5 psi when inspected by the referee prior to the game.
Wells Report, p. 115
Unlike those who want to leave out areas of the analysis that don't support their conclusions, I wanted to be sure that the fact that the scientific study did not find that the variability between Colts football pressures and Patriots football pressures were not statistically significant. Despite this fact, it is important that in the scientific study, the scientists were unable to replicate the variability that actually occurred on game day within their attempts to reproduce the environments that would have been found in the locker room during the AFCCG and on the field that same day. The scientific study concluded that nothing in their study could account for this difference in variability and that the only available explanation at the conclusion of the study was that the Patriots footballs fell outside the demonstrated level of variance because they did not start the game at or near the same pressure.
In short, these passages from the Wells report speak to arguments that 1) the findings would only be supported by relying on one air pressure gauge and if the other was used the Patriots balls would be within the range predicted by the ideal gas law, that 2) all but three of the Patriots balls were within the range predicted by the Ideal Gas Laws and two of the Colts balls were at illegal pressures at half time making this whole study moot, and 3) there is some proof based on the pressure measurements between the start of the game and half time that proves the Patriots balls were not tampered with prior to the start of the AFCCG.
One final and key comment regarding the pressure readings of the Colts footballs at half time at levels below 12.5 PSI. Although it should be common sense, based on general knowledge regarding how temperature will affect air pressure in a football, tires, or just about anything else, the question regarding what is or is not legal for a football game is based upon starting air pressure. If footballs are set within the 12.5 – 13.5 PSI acceptable range prior to the ball game, they are within the legal range required by NFL rules.
The study predicted that air pressures would fall during the half time reading within a given range. It is therefore not surprising that the Colts balls may or may not have fallen below 12.5 PSI – and it is entirely expected that the Patriots ball would be. Being below 12.5 PSI at half time, therefore, is not the instructive point at all.
The point is that there is an expected range that the balls should have recorded at half time and the Colts balls fell within that range, while the Patriots balls did not. As discussed before, even controlling for the differences in the readings between the two gauges, nothing natural or physical can account for the fact that the air pressure of the Patriots balls dropped to levels lower than could be predicted, that the difference between the PSI loss of the Colts balls and Patriots balls was statistically significant, and that the variance between the PSI readings of the Patriots balls at half time could not be replicated nor explained using natural or physical forces – indicating that the balls did not start the game at or near the same levels, even though they were all set to 12.5 PSI by head official Walt Anderson prior to the start of the game.