Gregg Williams got what he deserved, but the Saints? They got off easy
The penalties for the bounty program ran by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and the New Orleans Saints have come down from the NFL, and many people think the penalties were far too harsh. Personally, I think the Saints got off way to easy when it comes to the team penalties.
Look, you can argue either side to the bans the different coaches got, but that argument is for other articles, and I am sure there will be several. My focus is simply on the "team penalties," which were the loss of two second-round draft picks and a $500,000 fine.
First off, let's be clear about something: A $500,000 fine is nothing to an NFL owner. Fining an NFL owner $500,000 is like giving me a fine for 10 dollars. These owners are billionaires, and in the realm of someone who has billions of dollars, half a million is nothing. An NFL team can make up $500,000 easily or could absorb the loss of the money easily.
Either way, a fine of $500,000 is a complete joke. The NFL fined the Patriots $500,000 for Spygate, but that did not take their Super Bowl titles away. Do you think Robert Kraft sits in his owner's box and thinks to himself, man, those three Super Bowl titles were not worth $500,000. Of course he doesn't. Any owner would gladly pay $500,000 to help their franchise win a title.
Likewise, I am sure the Saints owner is gladly dishing out $500,000 considering it helped his team win a title.
Speaking of spygate, since bounty gate has been linked to it by its equally terrible name (yes, I hate the name bounty gate), how does the NFL punishment make sense here? The Patriots lost the same $500,000, but they lost a first-round draft pick, which is very valuable. While we never will know how bad Spygate was thanks to the NFL destroying most of the evidence, it must have been awful since the league docked them a first-round pick, yet the Saints only lost two second-rounders.
While two second-round picks may seem like a lot to some people, most teams would trade two second-round picks in a second to get an extra first-round pick. Heck, teams trade a lot more than that to move up a few spots in a draft. Also, considering the Saints pick this year is near the end of Round 2 and likely will be next year as well, the pick is not all that valuable.
So basically, the NFL made a statement that taping teams illegally, as in Spygate, is worse than Bounty gate, where players are paid extra money to try to injure other players. By the way, not just any other players, star players, Hall-of-Fame players like Kurt Warner and Brett Favre.
I realize that other players have said it has happened in the league for years, but this was not an impromptu thing among players; this tactic was organized by coaches, which is completely different. Also, we live in a different era today. Today, the game is about protecting players and preventing injuries.
The league has moved away from the old-school smash-mouth style to try to make an effort to be a safer league, and what Gregg Williams did goes against everything the league has been preaching. Williams knew he was breaking the rules and chose to do it anyway. It was intentional and dangerous. Sean Payton, who is a huge details guy, obviously knew what was happening, and he did nothing to discourage it.
The team doesn't lose Williams, as he is no longer the coordinator. While losing Sean Payton for one year will hurt the Saints a little bit, one of the assistant coaches can easily run the system without him, so I doubt that will have a huge impact on the Saints' season.
In reality, nothing the NFL has done will really hurt the Saints that much this year or in the future on the field, and that's the problem with these punishments.
So what would have been appropriate? I am not sure exactly what the penalty should have been, but it definitely should have at least equalled the first-round pick the Patriots lost in spygate.
I think if I was the league, I would have taken away a first round pick next year and their second-round pick this year (since they don't have a first this year). Plus, I would have punished them by taking salary cap space away instead of a monetary fine.
Fining a wealthy owner/franchise $500,000 does very little, but a ruling that hurts the cap space, which is the most valuable asset a team has, now that sends a message. How about they get the equivalent of the suspended coaches salaries counted against their cap number? Or at the very least, a fine equal to the total amount of bounties offered, plus the salary that all the coaches would have been paid this season? Now that would have been a punishment that got their attention, as it would have been a seven-digit number for sure.
So don't give me the league was too hard on the Saints. The league took away two late second-rounders and fined the team an amount of money that ever owner in the league can afford to easily pay. That's not too hard; that's playing softball.