Roger Goodell does not kid, let it be known. This is exactly what New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton and St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams found out today as the NFL handed each lengthy suspensions for the their involvement in an extensive bounty scandal.
It's a fairly unprecedented shock to the system as only two prior suspensions of equal magnitude have been handed out in NFL history, belonging to Paul Hornung and Alex Karras.
The impact of this event, though, registers on a grand scale and will send shock-waves across the entire NFL landscape for years to come.
Roger Goodell lowered the boom, there's no doubt about it.
Here are four reasons why he had to do it.
It wasn't until 2007 that the NFL implemented a strict set of guidelines dictating when a player would be able to return to play after suffering a concussion.
In 2009, the league brought the issue of player safety with particular emphasis on concussions in front of a house judiciary committee.
The issue of player safety has become more and more important with each passing season. Where there was once an air of doubt or mild negligence with regard to player injuries, the modern NFL, especially under Roger Goodell, has brought the issue into the forefront now more than ever.
If Sean Payton and Gregg Williams were purposely trying to attract the scorn and vitriol of the NFL brass, they've done a masterful job.
Roger Goodell is a crusader in the cause to keep players safe and away from needless endangerment, and this bounty scandal ranks as cardinal sin No. 1 in the new NFL rule book.
Encouraging players to strap up and play with passion is one thing.
Offering them cash-based incentives for laying big, injury-inflicting hits on opposing players is quite a different thing.
Jonathan Vilma became the face of the bounty program after admitting he put up $10,000 during the Saints NFC championship game against the Vikings for anyone who could knock Brett Favre out of the game.
Normal payouts would range from $1,000 to $1,500 during the regular season depending on if the hit was a knock-out or a cart-off.
Essentially, over 20 players in the Saints organization have been implicated as participants in the bounty program over the last several years.
What it all amounts to, regardless of any given dollar amount, is that it is fundamentally wrong for a football player to participate in something like this.
These players are handsomely compensated as it is. On top of that, they're supposed to be playing the game out of love, out of appreciation for the sport, and not to inflict senseless injury on a peer.
It's vile right down the core and violates a basic maxim of playing the game, which is to have fun and compete with class.
This was simply a brutal disrespect to the game by players who should be acting as ambassadors for it.
Goodell had to shine a light on it.
Saints GM Mickey Loomis
Where does the buck stop?
The head coach? The defensive coordinator? The general manager? The owner?
It wasn't that just one person was responsible for running the bounty program and moved expertly to cover it up.
It was an evident, pervasive thing in the Saints' locker room, and it took several people in positions of power within the organization to turn a blind eye and exercise indifference to make it function as well as it did.
Sean Payton and Gregg Williams are the two marquee names on the list of suspensions but they're not the only ones to be handed a scarlet letter by the NFL.
GM Mickey Loomis faces an eight-game suspension and a $500,000 fine. Assistant head coach Joe Vitt is suspended without pay for the first six games of the 2012 season and the organization itself is out $500,000 and its second round pick from the two upcoming drafts.
Owner Tom Benson can add 'janitor' to his repertoire as he is left cleaning up the mess that Gregg Williams and his created.
There is a serious lack of leadership when you take into account the number of parties involved. There is also a serious lack of class on the part of the supposed leaders and managers of the Saints franchise to allow this to go on right under their noses.
Roger Goodell and the league did well in sharing the punishment amongst all the culpable parties and not just assigning it to one person in particular.
It's a clear message that wrong-doing of this magnitude will force multiple people to claim responsibility and pay for the damage done.
defensive coordinator Gregg Williams
For Goodell, this was the easiest choice of all.
You hang any-and-all involved parties out to dry as a signal to other NFL teams who have ever dabbled in something similar to this.
There should be no leniency for NFL players and coaches financing an under-the-table scheme that rewards players who injure people.
It's classless, it's unethical, and it's detrimental to the sport.
The hard line needed to be drawn and it needed to point directly at someone. This scandal and its underlying issues needed a face.
Gregg Williams and Sean Payton now have a billboard.
The sanctions laid down by the NFL will resonate for years to come and there should be no grey area left after all is said and done.
Roger Goodell is wearing the executioners hood and justifiably so.
Hopefully the image of him lowering the axe won't soon vanish from the collective conscious of the NFL.