Let’s skip the formalities. The Saints are in some deep, deep sh*t. Bounties on players are never good. In fact, bounty is a loaded word. It’s mention in the 2012 NFL is downright disastrous for those so associated. What’s worst for ‘Nawlins is that this controversy is tailor-made for Roger Goodell — which means bad things for the the Saints. Bad things, man.
In another era, it’s likely that “news” of such a program would raise no ire, perhaps even garner a snide chuckle. See: Buddy Ryan’s Philadelphia Eagles. Times have changed. And, for the Saints, their timing is poor to quite poor. The only question is how hard the hammer drop will drop. I have a feeling the reverberations will be stronger than anyone can even imagine.
For anyone late to the party, here are the Cliffs Notes from the Los Angeles Times story and the many others breaking over the last few hours:
– Gregg Williams defensive units over the past three years had a bounty program that pooled player money and offered financial rewards (payouts) for interceptions, fumble recoveries, “knockouts” and “cart-offs” (Williams has assumed culpability calling it a “terrible mistake;” on a side note, the Washington Post is reporting the former ‘Skins coordinator had a similar program during his seasons in D.C.)
– Saints GM Mickey Loomis and head coach Sean Payton were both aware and informed of the system following NFL investigation and failed to take any action
– Between 22 and 27 Saints players participated over the past three seasons
These are the facts of the case. And they are undisputed. Now, it’s our turn to see how General Goodell handles the truth.
Goodell does not like being shown up. The League is experiencing absolutely absurd growth and unparalleled success by any measure. One of the biggest issues facing the game is player safety. It is an area that Goodell and the league have tackled with more vigor than almost any other, aside from maybe players’ personal conduct. Concussions and hits against “defenseless” players have been the almost-singular focus of Goodell’s reign in recent seasons. It is one of the topics that has seriously implications on teams, players and the game itself.
It is not to be trifled with. The New Orleans Saints just trifled with it by putting “knockouts” and “cart-offs” into the fan vernacular in ways that would have to qualify as absolutely dead-last on Goodell and the NFL’s desired list of discussion topics. Goodell has been given the platform to make a statement. He will speak VERY LOUDLY. Here’s what I expect.
Players: Goodell is going to ensure that every player who was involved feels the ill effects of their participation. I assume it will be tough to tell exactly which players were a part of the program for how long and to what extent. Should that be the case, my money would be on a “standard” three-game suspension for all.
Front Office: Tom Benson was informed of the program, responded and acted. Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton apparently did not. I would expect fines, similar suspensions to the players and penalties in terms of draft picks and/or other sanctions that would in some way hinder the organization’s ability to improve itself in the near-term.
Gregg Williams: Maybe I’m crazy, but how is this guy allowed to coach this season? He has to be taken off the sidelines right? In a time where “crimes” are often as much about the culture from which they were born, the man behind instituting and promoting that environment must be put in the cross-hairs. Taking away a new job just “earned” would send a definitive message: these programs will not be tolerated, officially, unofficially or in any manner whatsoever. If the facts about similar programs in Washington are founded, the decision becomes even easier for Goodell.
Regardless, this will be a fascinating story to follow. You can debate whether the league’s gone “soft,” and we might even agree with you when it comes to some of the (clean) hits for which fines are levied. This situation, though, leaves the League with little choice. They’re going to come marching in…and it will not be pretty for the Saints.
About the Author: Cecilio's Scribe is the founder of The Legend of Cecilio Guante and a generally pessimistic fan of the Mets, Jets, Knicks and Rangers. A fine NYC-based gentlemen who hones his marketing skills as his primary trade by day. Husband, chef, father of a newborn and after-hours blogger by night. Proud alum of the mighty Big Red of Cornell. University. Hot sauce devotee. Staunch protester of the continued wussifcation of American sports. Sometimes I rhyme slow, sometimes I rhyme quick.