The Verdict Is In!
The NFL came down on the Saints, specifically on their coaching staff and GM. The punishment for Sean Payton and the others involved is outrageous. Payton will be suspended for a complete season, while Greg Williams, the D Coordinator who put the entire system into action, is suspended indefinitely. The league fined the Saints $500,000 bucks and took away their 2nd round picks in the next two drafts. As I agree that some type of punishment was necessary in this situation, I believe the severity of the decision is way too extreme.
Payton was ultimately responsible for monitoring his team and knowing what was taking place in the locker room, so he needs to accept some fault. However, it is commonly known that their are “bounty-systems” in place in many NFL locker rooms for decades, and for the league to come down this hard does not make sense to me. The real problem is that Payton and GM Mickey Loomis lied to the league office about their knowledge and told them that they had put a cease on the practice. Roger Goodell was made to look like a fool, and now he’s flexing his muscle and making an example out of the Saints.
When I first heard the story, my initial response is that this issue was being well overblown. NFL players are paid to hurt their opponents, and the amount of money paid out in these bounties does not compare to what the league fines a player when they make an illegal hit anyway. If players are playing within the rules of the game and making legal tackles, I don’t see what all the hype is about.
In my opinion, what Bill Belichick did in the “Spy Gate” scandal was far worse than this. He cheated to gain a competitive balance in a game. His team won unfairly because they knew what plays the opponents were going to run. This seems to me to be far more damaging to the NFL game then players wagering with each other to knock out opposing players, within the legal framework of the rules. Belichik was fined $500,000, suspended ZERO games and the Patriots were fined an additional $250,000, but if you compare that fine with the fact that Payton won’t get paid the $8 million he was owed this season, the penalties don’t seem in proportion at all. Maybe I am just a bitter Jets fan who hates the Patriots, but I firmly agree that cheating is not that much less of a black eye on the game then the Saint’s bounty system.
Like I said, I do agree that the Saints should have to pay a price for what they did, and if it was close to the Belichik punishment, I would have been satisfied. Goodell has to be consistent though, and I think it’s clear that in this situation, he failed.