It appears the New Orleans Saints believe Sean Payton is their version of Thurman Munson, except Payton is very much alive. As the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported, the Saints will leave Payton's seat empty on team flights, bus rides, and meetings throughout the season, serving as some kind of memorial to their fallen, deeply-beloved soldier.
Why not cover his seat in flowers and candles while they're at it? Payton's not dead, he's just serving a suspension for allowing an illegal bounty system to go on while he was at the helm. Will the Saints also be doing the same for Joe Vitt, the interim head coach who is suspended for the first six games of the upcoming season? How will his brief absence be remembered? Look for this in the next team memo: No one can sit in Vitt's lucky stall; half because it's out of memory, half because it's being repaired.
When John Clayton of ESPN was asked why he thought this was happening, he answered because of "loyalty". NO. It's past that at this point. It's because the Saints community has turned into an army of nostalgic weeping widows, and it doesn't seem to have any end in sight. Look at the 28-1 decision of Louisiana lawmakers who asked the NFL to reconsider their bounty punishment earlier this week, which I guess they get a pass for since they did find Lil Boosie not guilty for murder a few days ago. What purpose does that serve, other than a meaningless and eminently-futile gesture that took away time from actual government?
I'm getting sidetracked. As Drew Brees's pro-Payton comments from a while ago show, the New Orleans Saints and their fan-base seem to be ignoring the severity of what they did, even if everyone else in the NFL was probably doing it. There is a longing to be America's team once more, as the widespread respect for the New Orleans organization is dwindling due to the endless promulgation of scandal. The Saints' version of damage control appears to be endless reverence to their players and Payton, which doesn't really look all that great.
"Loyalty" is different than obsession. The fact that the Saints organization is doing stuff like this is insane, and the reaction of a person permanently stuck in the first stage of the Kubler-Ross Model. Look at Vitt's comments on the rationale behind why they need to pour out 40's for Payton:
"How would Pittsburgh react if Chuck Knoll (sic) was gone? Or how would Dallas react if Tom Landry wasn't there? Or San Francisco without Bill Walsh?
Um, they would probably hire a new coach and MOVE ON? And I don't think it needs to be said, but obviously those guys are held in higher esteem than Payton, for obvious reasons. The Saints are one step away from having a blow-up doll wearing a visor sit in Payton's old seat. If the Saints want to be an organization that has any success this season, they need to stop doing stuff like this. Move on. Daddy will be back next season, complete with toys and gifts from his extended vacation.