When the New Orleans Saints were found to be operating under a bounty system perpetrated by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, my first thought was, "Why now?"
In my opinion, the bounty system doesn't come as a shock. The fact that the NFL is only finding out about this now is really hurting the league, not the team. Roger Goodell is making a complete fool of himself for not realizing that this game requires physical punishment in order to be what it is.
The fact that Goodell has basically handcuffed defensive players from doing practically everything but simple tackling has made the game boring. While I myself do not relish the bone-jarring hits, I feel that Goodell's silly rules have made the NFL, as comedian and former Monday Night Football analyst, Dennis Miller, claimed on Wednesday night's The O'Reilly Factor, "politically correct."
Miller also inferred that "If you're asking them (NFL players) to become the Boy Scouts, you might as well be Oliver Reed asking Russell Crowe halfway through Gladiator to give him a urine sample. It just doesn't work that way."
Miller is right. Defensive players rely, for the most part, on tackling in order to succeed at their positions. You can't tell them to dial down their hits, it's human nature. The fact that Williams is rewarding them for doing their job well, while serious, shouldn't be looked at as something new.
Bounties are not new, they've been there since the beginning. In fact, the Saints bounty system is not the first time that the word "bounty" entered the NFL vernacular.
Back in 1989, Buddy Ryan and the Eagles played in what was called "the Bounty Bowl". In both games, the Eagles played the Dallas Cowboys with the intent to knock out quarterback Troy Aikman and kicker Luis Zendejas. According to Zendejas, during his time with the Eagles, players were given incentives for taking out certain players.
Then commissioner Paul Tagliabue did not punish Buddy Ryan or the Eagles for their alleged bounty hunting, but then again, there was no conclusive evidence of the bounty system, only the suspicions of Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson and Zendejas' testimony.
So again, I ask, why now? Why is Goodell making such a fuss over something that has probably been prevalent for years? Has he really been that blind? And again, why do the Saints as a whole have to be punished?
I have to say that in the six years that Goodell has been commissioner, I have not gotten a positive impression of him. Since he stepped into that office, he's stepped into a sticky situation.
While I cannot advocate for Paul Tagliabue either, I would have to believe that he would be able to deal with the situation without (a.) offending the fans, and (b.) softening the league to the point where it becomes illegal to tackle.
In closing, I propose an idea on how to deal with the situation: First, Gregg Williams should be punished. He is the ringmaster in the bounty system and is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. My proposed punishment is a head coaching ban of three years, similar to the Billy Donovan Orlando Magic affair.
The Saints should not be punished with the proposed loss of draft picks. Rather, fines should be levied against players who decided to partake in the bounty system. While it may take time to sort out who was guilty and who wasn't, it is an appropriate punishment.
Maybe the next time Roger Goodell is confronted with scandal, he'll be more proactive than reactive.