Many expected National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell to lay down the hammer when dealing with the New Orleans Saints and their bounty program that was in operation from 2009-2011. The blow of the hammer was harder than most people expected when head coach Sean Payton paid the biggest price by being suspended for the entire 2012 season.
General Manager Mickey Loomis is out for half the season. The ringleader, former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who is now with the St. Louis Rams, is out indefinitely. The Saints also lose two second round draft picks and $500,000.
Payton’s punishment was the biggest shocker when the news broke. Many wondered why Sean Payton, who wasn’t in charge of the program, felt Goodell’s wrath the most. The Saints and Payton are learning a lesson from the league that is being heard by the other 31 clubs. Do not lie to the commissioner.
Payton told the league that he knew nothing of any bounty program within the franchise earlier this year, but was then shown evidence that eventually buried him. A response to a 2011 email from the first game of the season in which Payton added to the end, “PS Greg Wiliams put me down for $5,000 on Rogers,” referring to Green Bay Packer quarterback Aaron Rogers.
Payton has been recognized for his success in making the irrelevant Saints a championship team after he was hired in 2006. Winning the Super Bowl in 2009 launched him to a higher status.
The more recent news will have many questioning his integrity and the quality of the Saints Super Bowl championship, especially since there was a $10,000 bounty on then Vikings quarterback Brett Favre in the 2009 NFC championship game, who was injured in that game.
Having other high profile players like Aaron Rogers and Cam Newton on the short list makes it even worse.
Goodell has sent a message that the league is taking an initiative to promote player safety and end the old-school bounty systems. It’s the first time in NFL history that a coach has been suspended for such actions.
Suspensions and fines are to come for the suspected 22 to 27 players involved, but Payton lying about its existence rewrites his legacy. A coach, who turned a mediocre team into a champion, will now be the poster child in Goodell’s goal to end an unflattering tradition in the NFL.