Tom Brady answered questions for over 30 minutes when Deflategate broke. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
“I think I’ve heard it all at this point. Oh, God. It’s ridiculous”
– Tom Brady on Dennis & Callahan with Minihane on Jan. 19, 2015
Tom Brady‘s paper trail started right here.
The Wells Report was released on Wednesday, and it came down much harder on Brady than even the most ardent Patriots-hater could’ve expected, concluding that Brady probably knew about footballs being doctored, though it stopped short of saying he sanctioned it.
Such thoughts couldn’t have been further from the minds of the hosts of D&C when he joined them for his weekly visit around 7 a.m., just hours after trucking the Colts 45-7 in the AFC title game. At that point, the story of the Patriots possibly deflating footballs was a small one, a curiosity without staying power.
Five months later, Brady’s appearance on WEEI that morning ended up factoring into the Wells Report, triggering a chain of events that shows just how quickly this story spiraled out of everyone’s control, from Brady, to the Patriots, to the NFL itself. Kirk Minihane admits asking Brady about it (listen here at the 9-minute mark) as an afterthought.
“When we interviewed Brady ‘ and maybe shame on me ‘ on that Monday morning after a championship game they won by 90 points, it just seemed like one of those whacky Monday morning Pro Football Talk stories that would float away by Wednesday,” Minihane said on Wednesday night. “Then (Chris) Mortensen’s report came out and it was like, holy [expletive].”
Mortensen’s story — about 11 of 12 being significantly deflated – would touch off a firestorm that caught everyone by surprise.
“It seemed like a very minor deal,” said morning host Gerry Callahan. “He laughed, we downplayed it. We didn’t anticipate it blowing up this big, and it shouldn’t have blown up this big. They broke the rules, but it’s a very minor rule. It’s like stealing grapes in the produce section of the grocery store. It’s not even as egregious as sticking Vaseline on the uniforms. It’s a competitive advantage, but a small one.”
That appearance started dominoes that contributed to Wells’ conclusion that Brady knew more than he admitted. He acknowledged on the air that Minihane’s question was the first he had heard of the allegations (Minihane and Callahan said on Wednesday night that they still believe him on this point). At 7:25 a.m., the report states, equipment assistant John Jastremski texted Brady. “Call me when you get a second,” he wrote.
It took Brady less than a minute to comply, and according to the report, the two spoke for 13 minutes and four seconds. The report states that Jastremski believes it’s the only time the two spoke about the deflation controversy. It also appeared to be the first time they communicated via cell phone (talk or text) in at least six months.
Though Callahan maintains the controversy has been twisted beyond recognition and proportion, he acknowledges that Brady appears to have been less than truthful, such as when he claimed not to know Jim McNally, the self-proclaimed “deflater.”
“Tom doesn’t look good,” Callahan said. “[Saying,] ‘I don’t know who McNally is?’ I’m sure he’s been there 30 years. He doesn’t sound like a shrinking violet either. He called Jastremski immediately after he talked to us. It doesn’t look good, but you know what, you talk about the Patriots being always on the edge, on the margins, but Brady hasn’t been. This is his first time as a suspect. Not what he’s looking for, so what does he do next? That’s a good question. Jim Gray maybe? Peter King? I don’t know.”
Added Minihane: “The idea that these two boobs would go on their own and do this without Tom Brady knowing about it is foolishness.”
If Brady’s punished, Callahan believes it won’t be for the crime.
“There was a coverup involved, and that’s what’s going to get him in trouble — the coverup,” he said. “The text messages, the effort to get away with this, that’s what’s going to get him in trouble, not necessarily the underinflation.”
Callahan can’t wrap his head around the lengths some will go to shred Brady for one very public misstep in an otherwise sterling career as a face of the league.
“This is schadenfreude at its finest,” he said. “Bill Plaschke just tweeted that this is just like Barry Bonds, Brady is like Barry Bonds. If it were someone else, New England fans would be reveling in it, if it happened to the Colts, the Jets, the Seahawks. That goes without saying. But it’s amazing that taking air out of the ball was already equated with the Black Sox scandal. We went from Shoeless Joe to Barry Bonds. Give it a couple of days, and Brady will be O.J. Simpson. Give him three days and he’ll be Rosie Ruiz.”
Minihane, meanwhile, has no doubt Brady’s still going to the Hall of Fame, and he doesn’t think his legacy will be ruined. But this will follow him in ways that don’t apply to other great QBs.
“I think it’s a bad day for Brady, but it doesn’t affect his legacy,” Minihane said. “He’s still one of the best quarterbacks ever, first or second ever, but it’s something that’s always going to be talked about by the other side when you have an argument.
“There’s nothing like that for Montana. There’s no Montana argument like that. There’s no argument like that for Unitas. There is for Brady, if you want to make an argument against him. It’s part of the conversation now.”
Strange to think that conversation started on a sleepy Monday morning with the Patriots and their fans in full-on celebration mode and D&C preparing for what they figured would be two weeks of Super Bowl talk.
How wrong they were, along with a lot of other people.
“I know the evidence shows (Brady) called the equipment guy immediately after he talked to us,” Callahan said. “Apparently, he didn’t anticipate the firestorm either.”