No matter which side of the pay-for-performance, alleged bounty scandal anyone fell, the entire situation has been a PR nightmare—a terribly ugly situation turned nasty as both sides duke it out for the nation to absorb.
On Wednesday, news finally broke that may make both sides smile about the same thing, and dare I say agree on something.
Suspended New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, assistant coach Joe Vitt and general manager Mickey Loomis have been granted special permission by the NFL to attend Sunday’s game at the Superdome. WVUE-TV in New Orleans was the first to report the news.
Quarterback Drew Brees is tied with Hall-of-Famer Johnny Unitas with 47 consecutive games with a touchdown pass. If Brees connects on a score through the air Sunday against San Diego, he’ll break an almost 52-year-old record.
Brees petitioned the NFL for special permission for Payton, Vitt and Loomis to attend, and the NFL granted his request.
It will be the first time Payton’s been in the same building with Brees since April 1, but don’t expect the two to embrace, shake hands, or even be allowed to speak. One of the stipulations from the NFL upon granting Brees’ request was that the Payton, Loomis and Vitt have no contact with the team at all.
Details are still being considered by the Saints and the NFL on seating, but NFL.com reporter Albert Breer wrote that a statement released by the NFL consisted of a sequestering of the trio.
"Coaches Payton and Vitt and Mickey Loomis will be permitted to watch the game in a private area of the stadium and will have no contact with the team,” the NFL’s statement read.
There’s no word yet on whether the trio will be able to sit together or how much free reign they’ll have to move about the Superdome. I envision—in jest, but only slightly—an almost-security-like detail surrounding the trio for their entire trip to the game.
Might each of the three be flanked by a group of earpiece-wearing, Secret Service-like guards that have confiscated their cell phones and will strong-arm anyone who tries to approach them?
It doesn’t matter how the group is split off and stashed away. It’s important that Brees wanted them there, he swallowed his pride and asked Roger Goodell for a favor, and Goodell, wisely, likewise swallowed his pride and allowed the visit.
Brees won’t be able to talk to Payton, but you’d better believe he’ll know where Payton is sitting. Expect a few nods of the head, maybe even a wave or a point of the finger in Payton’s direction at points throughout the evening.
Moments like this don’t come along often, and it’s a fantastic gesture to allow Payton, Vitt and Loomis to be there live to see if Brees can surpass Unitas’ record. Kudos to the NFL and the Saints for making all the right decisions, and making us all forget about Bountygate, even if it is for just one potentially record-breaking night.