In what appears to only be the first round of punishment in regards to the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal, the league offices sent a clear message that they would not tolerate this sort of behavior.
Saints head coach Sean Payton has been suspended for the year without pay. General manager Mickey Loomis has been suspended for half the season, and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has been told that he must stay away from the league for an indefinite amount of time.
The Saints have also incurred a $500,000 fine and will give up their second-round draft selections in both 2012 and 2013.
The NFL is still waiting to dole out punishments for approximately 25 players. The NFLPA requested that the league hold off on any disciplinary action until their own private investigation had been completed.
There is a mixed bag of reactions regarding the Saints' punishment, but you want get an argument out of me. It’s possible to argue that the punishment was “too harsh” if this was one occasion or one instance of an illegal “bounty.”
But instead, what we have here is an entire organizational and systematic structure to a plethora of bounties over the course of three years or so. It’s also been reported by several former players that Williams supported similar systems throughout his career to varying degrees for several teams.
Not only do I believe that the punishment is fair, but it's even too light. That might sound a bit harsh, but hear me out.
The Saints are going to be without Sean Payton (an offensive guru) for the entire year. They will be without their general manager for half the year.
They hired a competent and deserving Steve Spagnuolo as their new defensive coordinator, but he is the prime candidate to become the interim head coach. A position that didn’t suit him in St. Louis.
To top it all off, quarterback Drew Brees and his contract is in a constant state of flux. A deal couldn’t be made, so the Saints designated him as their franchise player, which only angered him more. Does Drew Brees even want to return at this point?
It is not completely out of the realm of possibility that the Saints completely bomb this year. It’s doubtful that anyone would be shocked if that prediction turned from potential to reality in 2012. What do the Saints get in return?
The Saints would acquire a potential top-five draft pick. The league was being very considerate when they only decided to incur a penalty of a couple second rounders instead of a pair of firsts.
For a system that rewarded causing serious and lasting harm to another player(s). And for that same system to seep through the cracks of the league offices for three years — after repeated and emphatic warnings. The punishment could have—and probably should have—been a lot harsher.
And for that reason, I think the Saints and their fans have what appears to be a silver lining.
Roger Goodell decided to lay down the hammer, but he was still a combo or two shy of a full-out fatality.