Football under pressure: Assessing malfeasance in Deflategate

Kevin A. Hassett, Joseph W. Sullivan, Stan Veuger, Ryan M. Rodenberg, Elihu D. Feustel
2015 Journal of Sports Analytics  
After the 2015 AFC Championship game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts, the Patriots were accused of deflating their footballs to gain an unfair advantage over their opponents. A subsequent investigation by the NFL led to the publication of a report named after Ted Wells, its main author. The Wells report's central conclusion was that the Patriots and their quarterback, Tom Brady, were at least generally aware of what was deemed to be probable illicit behavior by some
more » ... t behavior by some of the Patriots employees responsible for football preparation. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell then penalized team and player with fines, draft pick losses, and suspensions. This article evaluates the statistical analysis in the Wells report and finds fault with the set of hypotheses it tests, the way in which it tests them, the robustness of its test results, and the conclusions it draws from its tests. We also highlight problems with the quality of the data used in the report, and sketch a more appropriate interpretation of the evidence presented to the NFL. We conclude by discussing the use and interpretation of statistical evidence in legal and quasi-legal procedures generally.
doi:10.3233/jsa-150014 fatcat:wup4pejrtfaifcyuiv4pj4n2x4