Greg Cote

Greg Cote: Controversy embroiling Tom Brady? Underinflated footballs, overinflated story

I feel alone here. I’m the guy defending the accused witches in 18th Century Europe. It isn’t that I find them innocent of the charges. It’s that I wonder if stoning or burning at the stake might not be a tad harsh on the punishment end.

The Wells Report released this week on the New England Patriots’ “Deflategate” incident was almost comically equivocal in its conclusion about the involvement of quarterback Tom Brady, finding it “more probable than not” that he was “at least generally aware” footballs were improperly underinflated in the AFC Championship Game.

In other words, independent investigator Ted Wells spent 109 days laboriously probing Brady’s involvement in the NFL remake of Neil Young’s The Needle And the Damage Done, and the most he could conclude was: Probably. Generally.

That’s not good enough, except, apparently, to the knee-jerking, overreacting football fans and media lighting torches and picking up stones.

Oh the nonsense we have heard since Wednesday! Colin Cowherd predicting Brady’s punishment should be “severe.” Radio guy Chris “Mad Dog” Russo’s spleen-busting, on-air rant. Apocryphal speculation that it might even be a full-season suspension. Angry talk about the supposed permanent dent in Brady’s “legacy” as a champion who is suddenly stamped a cheat.

Over … this? Really?

Over slightly under-pumped footballs that had zero bearing on a 45-7 Patriots playoff win? The Colts would have needed Brady to be throwing cement bricks or perhaps javelins to have any chance in that game.

I know, I know. It’s the principle. It’s the cover-up. Brady lying and not cooperating fully with the investigation. Even so, it’s still much ado about not much, a “probable” crime meriting a wrist slap, not a hammer coming down.

We in the media love irony, so here’s some:

The footballs being slightly underinflated is a controversy being comically overinflated.

▪ UM football coach Al Golden evaded questions on how a team with seven NFL Draft picks finished 6-7, saying, “We put our season to bed five months ago.” To continue the metaphor, it’s been a fitful sleep.

▪ ESPN said it won’t renew Bill Simmons’ contract amid speculation the main cause is his continuing outspoken animus against NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. I love the media saying what a major blow this will be to ESPN. “Um, I think we’ll get by,” said the $51 billion network.

▪ Man, people just can’t stop talking about the big fight! No. Not that one. I mean Holyfield-Romney — this Friday’s charity sparring match between Evander Holyfield and Mitt Romney in Utah. Romney is trying to avoid his biggest loss since falling to light-heavyweight Barack Obama in 2012.

▪ Fallout from Floyd Mayweather’s uninspiring win over Manny Pacquiao includes class-action lawsuits against Pacquiao for not disclosing his shoulder injury. Pac Man was hurting that night. But not as much as the suckers who spent $100 to watch on pay-per-view.

▪ Worst week in sports? Solid hand: Serena Williams sees win streak end at 27 matches in Madrid: Trump card: Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler, third pick in draft, injured on first day of rookie camp and out for season.

▪ Sentences I Never Imagined Writing (one in a series): “Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh arm-wrestled 84-year-old billionaire Warren Buffett on CNBC last week.”

▪ Dolphins receiver Rishard Matthews asked to be traded, evidently unaware he has neither the résumé nor the power to make that demand.

▪ The Chicago Blackhawks became first NHL team to reach the conference finals. Meanwhile, Canada is planning a candlelight vigil for the anticipated continuation of its Stanley Cup drought.

▪ Countdown: Six days till the Preakness Stakes, meaning six more days to pretend Kentucky Derby winner American Pharaoh will break horse racing’s near-40-year Triple Crown drought.

▪ Dwyane Wade and wife Gabrielle Union attended the tony, celebrity-filled Met Gala in New York. A player not in the NBA playoffs finds himself with time to kill this time of year.

▪ Alonzo Mourning will represent the Heat at the May 19 NBA Draft lottery, and scowl and intimidate the ping-pong balls into giving Miami a higher pick.

▪ Knicks owner James Dolan hired Isiah Thomas, once the subject of a sexual-harassment lawsuit, to run the WNBA’s New York Liberty. No, seriously!

▪ The Cleveland Cavaliers apologized for an insensitive in-game video in which a man throws his wife across a room for wearing a Bulls jersey. Probably be the last time they let Ray Rice direct a video.

▪ Everett Golson has left Notre Dame to play his senior year elsewhere. Schools wanting a short quarterback who missed a season on academic suspension and was benched in last year’s bowl are lining up.

▪ Wild guess: Gators fans are not thrilled by the exchange in which they lose basketball coach Billy Donovan to NBA but get Louisiana Tech’s Michael White. Florida thinks it has the next great young coach, which is how you introduce somebody nobody’s heard of.

▪ Parting thought: Tiger Woods made the cut at TPC Sawgrass despite his recent breakup with girlfriend Lindsay Vonn. Seems Tiger is already over it. Just saw him walking into his favorite store, Blondes ’R Us.

Visit Greg’s Random Evidence blog daily at and follow on Twitter @gregcote and also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Hot list

Today: Dee Gordon’s Marlins hit parade. Gordon is the only major leaguer batting more than .400. How his projected hit total entering the weekend compares with the club’s all-time single-season leaders:




Dee Gordon



Juan Pierre



Hanley Ramirez



Juan Pierre



Miguel Cabrera



*Season projection based on 52 hits in first 29 games, an average of 1.793 hits per game.


Pats, Brady await punishment after Wells Report: “Deflategate” probe found Patriots and QB Tom Brady bearing “probable” guilt related to underinflated footballs in AFC title game. Next comes whatever punishment NFL decides. Based on investigation taking four months, wonder if we can expect punishment before Brady retires?


Gordon-led Fish continue on 10-game trip: Miami gets Christian Yelich back off DL, but story so far has been Dee Gordon leading majors with a .437 batting average — some 70 points better than anyone else. Might he become baseball’s first .400 hitter since Ted Williams in 1941? Hey, SOMEBODY had to defy the jinx superstition and finally say it!


Fins lose out on heavily wooed OT Collins: Dolphins held a rookie minicamp that featured all seven recently drafted players, but big news of week was losing coveted free agent offensive lineman La’el Collins to Dallas. Miami went after him hard only to be let down. It’s the most disappointed Fins have been in a Collins since Cecil Collins in 1999.

4. NBA

Every conference semifinal series is close: All four Eastern and Western semifinal series are 2-1 entering Sunday. No team still alive has won an NBA title since 1998 in what has been one of league’s most unpredictable seasons in years. But Cleveland vs. Golden State — LeBron vs. Curry — still feels to us like the most predictable Finals.


A-Rod passes Mays on career home run list: Alex Rodriguez’s 661st career homer Thursday night at Yankee Stadium passed Willie Mays for fourth on all-time list, an achievement diminished, of course, by A-Rod’s steroids history. Don’t mean to stigmatize him, but how about, instead of the number 13, the back of his uniform simply had a giant asterisk?