Saints’ Bounty Scandal

When NFL commissioner Roger Goodell dropped the hammer on the Saints on Wednesday, I was about to eat lunch with my 6-year-old at his school. I had been waiting for the decision to come down all morning and was constantly checking Twitter for the first sliver of news. As I was waiting at the cafeteria,  the news finally appeared in a tweet from ESPN’s Adam Schefter:

Sean Payton suspended one year. Mickey Loomis 8 game and $500,000 fine. Saints fined $500,000 and a second round pick in 2012 and 2012.

My stomach sank.

I had to tell someone, so I targeted a random person walking by.

“Oh no,” the random person said somewhat indifferently. And that was that. No one else in sight.

Here I am, a news guy, who would go on to yap about this incessantly on TV all day, hearing about the biggest punishment ever handed down by the NFL, and I’m in a cafeteria filled with kindergartners.

I told my son the news when he sat down at the table.

“At least they didn’t suspend Drew Brees,” he said profoundly. True. I guess it could be worse.

As a life-long Saints fan, I’m very disappointed. But my disappointment doesn’t lie with the commissioner’s office or the unprecedented punishment handed down, it lies squarely at the feet of the Saints’ braintrust. Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis betrayed the Who Dat Nation. Together they took Saints fans to the peak of the mountain and now, in an instant, to the depths of hell.

Fans have been screaming that it’s unfair and that bounties are prevalent across the league. That may be true, but the Saints got caught and the commissioner made an example out of them. If other teams did employ the practice of paying players illegal bonus cash for performance, they don’t anymore. What coach wants to risk losing a year of his career and millions of dollars? No one in the NFL wants to be Sean Payton right now.

After reading the NFL’s lengthy statement, it’s clear the cover-up was worse than the crime. It’s Sean Payton’s program. He’s the captain of the ship and lost “institutional control.” College football programs get the death penalty when that happens.

In hindsight, had Payton fired defensive coordinator Gregg Williams after the Super Bowl season, after the NFL first poked its nose around, he would have been out in front of this scandal and likely would have ended up with a slap on the wrist. Payton could have promoted then-defensive backs coach Dennis Allen (now the Raiders’ head coach) to defensive coordinator and Williams would have taken the fall. Instead, because of lies and deceit over three seasons, the organization has been disgraced and will be without its leader during the season that ends with the Super Bowl in the Superdome. It’ll be tough for Saints players to give serious thought to being there unless they plan on buying tickets.

The coach/management suspensions are bad enough. Player suspensions are next. Would it be a surprise to see linebacker Jonathan Vilma, one of the reported big contributors to the bounty pot, gone for the season too? Not after yesterday. How many other players who were involved are still on the Saints’ roster? Will the suspensions be staggered? The answers will have a direct effect on the Saints’ success in 2012.

Not having second round draft picks this year or next hurts the future. Not having Payton, Loomis, assistant head coach Joe Vitt and whichever players are affected in place at the start of the season hurts the present. The Saints will win games, probably a lot of them. They’re still ultra-talented, especially on offense. The offense, with Pete Carmichael, Jr. and Drew Brees in charge, should be fine. The defense, under highly respected new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, should be rejuventated. We still don’t know who the interim head coach will be, but it’ll likely be one of them. Spagnuolo is a former head coach of the St. Louis Rams.

What do the Saints lose with Payton being gone? Among other intangibles, his coordination of the offseason program, game planning, knowledge and motivational tactics will certainly be missed. Saints fans should hope that Carmichael’s dress rehearsal last season when Payton was injured prepared him for the big production he’ll star in this season.

Several Saints players have already said they’ll use Payton’s suspension as a rallying cry in 2012. But if it isn’t enough, Saints fans will be the ones crying over another missed opportunity in the Drew Brees era.

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Comments

  1. Dave and Randi Denning says:

    I have to say that I am sad that you think other teams don’t do this. Green Bay has admitted to doing so. Other players have admitted to being payed for making hits to take players out of a game who were already hurt. The Saints did not do that. They never targeted players who were already hurt. They did not go after players who had concussions, or hurt ankles or knees like other teams admitted doing. I do not agree with what they have done, it is wrong. I agree that there should be a punishment, but I do not think that this punishment fits this crime. If Benson knew about it 2 years ago, he should have fired him then. Yes, Peyton knowing about it is sickening and I am in shock that he did not put a stop to it, but suspending him for the entire year is absolutely ridiculous. The punishment is so harsh in part because he is trying to cover his butt in an upcoming lawsuit over player safety. He wants everyone to think he is concerned about the health of the players, yet he wants them to play two extra games each year in an effort to line the league’s pocket with more money from tv contracts. He can’t have it both ways, it’s either about safety or the cover up. I find it pathetic that he decided to pick one team to make an example of. All this shows is, you can have bounties and target players and purposely try to hurt them, just don’t lie about it.

    • I don’t know for a fact that other teams do it. But I do know the Saints got caught and if other teams had previously done it, they would now stop. Making an example of someone and forcing others to stop in the process is a lot easier than investigating the entire NFL. The Saints made their bed and now they have to lie in it.