FanDuel - WFBC

March 21, 2012

NFL suspends Sean Payton, fines Saints, takes draft picks, and more: The NFL has come down hard on the New Orleans Saints over the bounty system of the last three seasons. Head Coach Sean Payton is out for a year, the team GM for eight games, and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams indefinitely. In addition, the team loses its next two second-round draft picks and was fined $500,000.

posted by Etrigan to football at 01:14 PM - 54 comments

That is some serious punishment. Glad the league came down hard.

posted by Debo270 at 01:27 PM on March 21

Goodell had to make an example of them. Rewarding players for deliberately injuring other players seriously wasn't going to be tolerated while they evaluate the long-term effects of playing injuries like concussions.

I can see Williams being blackballed from ever holding an NFL job for as long as lives. It probably won't happen since he seemed cooperative during the investigation. Goodell will talk to him after the 2012 season and re-evaluate his status.

I'd also like to see players who collected substantial amounts suspended for a few games too. At least, they should give the money to charity or something.

posted by NerfballPro at 01:40 PM on March 21

Wow. That's an enormous punishment.

posted by rcade at 01:52 PM on March 21

Really wonder how the Saints will handle the head coaching slot--will one of the coordinators be willing to be acting/interim HC for one season and then be happy dropping back if the Saints have a really good year? Or will the Saints simply fire Payton and get a new permanent boss?

posted by billsaysthis at 01:54 PM on March 21

I'd also like to see players who collected substantial amounts suspended for a few games too.

TFA says Goodell is discussing player punishments with the Players Association. That hand will drop soon enough I expect.

posted by billsaysthis at 01:56 PM on March 21

The Saints can't fire Payton without knuckling under to an NFL punishment that they surely regard as excessive.

Payton and Bill Parcells still have a strong relationship. Maybe the attraction of a one-year-only job could lure the Big Tuna out of retirement to keep Payton's team rolling while he's suspended.

posted by rcade at 01:59 PM on March 21

I'm a bit confused over how Loomis's suspension will work. It's for 8 games, but general managers are quite active during the off-season. Is the suspension to start on a certain date and continue until after the 8th game? If the suspension begins with the start of the regular season, it is little or no punishment at all for a GM.

All in all, this seems like a somewhat draconian but still fair punishment. It might be more in the nature of a warning, much like a pirate's body hanging in chains near the harbor to discourage those who might be tempted.

posted by Howard_T at 02:12 PM on March 21

Although he did not cover himself in glory with the Rams, I think Steve Spagnuolo might fit the bill as an internal replacement for the Saints as an interim HC. I am curious to see whether there is an appeals process for the coach; the players get one through the CBA, but would be curious if Payton has recourse to any route of appeal here.

And I know the harm caused is different, but there is certainly a stark contrast between these penalties and the Spygate situation. Surprising to me that Payton would get an entire year (and presumably $3MM+ in lost salary), while Belichick got $500,000 and not even a single game suspension. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a Saints fan.)

posted by holden at 02:17 PM on March 21

I'm a bit confused over how Loomis's suspension will work

Same here. How would you police it anyway?

posted by yerfatma at 02:29 PM on March 21

And I know the harm caused is different, but there is certainly a stark contrast between these penalties and the Spygate situation.

Spygate was an internal matter -- an offense against the game that won't turn anyone off of football (hell, giving people another reason to root against the Patriots probably benefited the league). This had the real potential of having people turn their backs in disgust and had to be hammered.

posted by Etrigan at 02:32 PM on March 21

Etrigan -- was not suggesting that the penalties should have been the same for Spygate, just interesting that there were no suspensions there. And while I certainly understand the difference in how fans perceive the offenses (although I do recall people being outraged about the Patriots' actions at the time), Spygate involved a covert attempt to circumvent the rules and gain a competitive advantage, so I have a hard time seeing that as purely an internal matter.

posted by holden at 02:40 PM on March 21

How would you police it anyway?

Padlock his office.

Seriously though, I think these are some absurdly harsh punishments. This is the NFL trying to create the illusion of safety. 'Look at how long we suspended these guys! See, we care about safety!'

posted by tron7 at 02:44 PM on March 21

Pretty serious. Personally I couldn't understand the difference between incentive pay and bounties if the hits are legal but after watching a highlight film compilation of Brett Favre being punished by the Saints defense in that NFC title game I have to agree the league needed to come down really hard and they did.

posted by Atheist at 02:47 PM on March 21

Absurdly harsh?

They were caught and warned but continued the practice anyways. You think a few minor penalties would change what is going on in New Orleans?

As far as spygate played out I think much harsher penalties were in order.

posted by cixelsyd at 02:48 PM on March 21

holden -- Understood. I mean that Spygate was internal to the league -- the only offense was against the game. Offering bounties for injuring players verges on criminal (and by "verges on," I personally mean "absolutely is").

Plus, suspending Belichick (no one would care about anyone else) would be like suspending Ric Flair for using a chair during a match -- you want the villain to be in the ring, so people buy tickets to see him lose. What the Saints did won't make people want to see them lose, it'll make people want to see them get hurt. That's no good for anyone.

posted by Etrigan at 02:49 PM on March 21

They were caught and warned but continued the practice anyways.

I haven't seen anything about them being warned. If it's such a serious infraction why would there be a warning before the penalty. Was the warning before the media got a hold of the story?

posted by tron7 at 03:01 PM on March 21

I haven't seen anything about them being warned.

From what I recall, there were inklings/rumors floating around about this, specific to the Saints, a couple years ago. The NFL looked into it but didn't find (or want to find, at that time) absolute proof, so they went to Saints ownership and management and said something like "we're pretty sure this is going on here; knock it off". Benson reinforced that to Loomis and the current perception is that Loomis, Payton, and Williams (any or all) essentially mooned the NFL and went on their merry way without addressing this at all.

posted by littleLebowski at 03:34 PM on March 21

This is the NFL trying to create the illusion of safety.

Agreed. Based on absolutely nothing, I give Roger Goodell's Iron Rule about another 2 seasons before the Players' Association turns to the owners and says, "Are you as sick of this guy as we are?" Did he really get the job with a mandate to destroy whole seasons for teams?

I'd rather dine with Gary Bettman at this point. I can't stand the site of Goodell's egg-sucking face. Go climb another mountain and stay there.

posted by yerfatma at 03:43 PM on March 21

Based on absolutely nothing, I give Roger Goodell's Iron Rule about another 2 seasons before the Players' Association turns to the owners and says, "Are you as sick of this guy as we are?" Did he really get the job with a mandate to destroy whole seasons for teams?

I'm much more worried about player safety than I am about the Saints season. The league continuing to ignore the player's health and safety was just an untenable position. I take Goodell's iron rule (though I don't always agree) over Tagliabue, who couldn't and wouldn't suspend anyone for anything. I don't want to go back to Leonard Little type punishment -- DUI manslaughter -- 8 games, another DUI -- no suspension.

posted by bperk at 04:25 PM on March 21

Goodell is now sending around a letter to be signed by all owners and coaches asserting they do not have a bounty program. Hopefully the next step is permission slips before away games.

posted by yerfatma at 05:49 PM on March 21

Does this mean Brees walks? I'd run away from that place as if it were on fire.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 06:15 PM on March 21

I'm a bit confused over how Loomis's suspension will work.

Polian just said on ESPN that the suspension takes effect when the roster needs to cut down to 53 players. Early September.

posted by D_I at 06:16 PM on March 21

It's not harsh enough. Gregg Williams should get a lifetime ban. This is too little, too late. The Saints cheated the Vikings out of a trip to the Super Bowl.

posted by kirkaracha at 07:59 PM on March 21

Gonna be fun when the Super Bowl rolls into New Orleans next February.

posted by Ufez Jones at 08:16 PM on March 21

The Saints cheated the Vikings out of a trip to the Super Bowl.

Need some cheese?

posted by justgary at 08:23 PM on March 21

In the earlier threads I was calling for serious punishment, and I would have to say that the league delivered. I'm actually a bit shocked at the year given to Payton.

The GM ought to have to start his suspension now, as waiting defeats a lot of the point.

posted by dviking at 08:25 PM on March 21

The thing that bothers me is that encouraging debilitating hits is not limited to the Saints. It has apparently happened elsewhere around the league, according to what players on other teams said when this story first broke.

To me, if you're going to hand out a penalty this harsh and go to this length to make a statement to all the teams in the league, but not completely and thoroughly look into how widespread the problem is and identify all the other cases of this type of conduct you possibly can, that is bullshit.

If it's appropriate to slam the Saints to this degree, the commissioner's office is utterly obligated to fully explore the problem wherever it can be identified elsewhere around the league. And to make the extent of the problem known.

posted by beaverboard at 08:50 PM on March 21

Need some cheese?

Fuck that. Favre threw an interception after getting hit illegally high-low by a team that was getting paid to hurt him. No penalty was called; a huge no-call in a close game that went to overtime. The Saints should've been called for a personal foul: the league admitted as much a couple days after the game and fined Bobby McCray $20,000. The Vikings would've had a first down on the Saints 24 with 1:59 left in the third quarter. The game was tied and they would've had a very high probability of at least a field goal. TMQ noted "found four, not two, instances in which unnecessary roughness should have been called against the Saints but was not." We now know that they were getting paid to break the rules, and they got away with it. The Saints cheated, and they would not have beaten the Vikings if they hadn't.

posted by kirkaracha at 10:01 PM on March 21

-100: Used Gregg Easterbrook as evidence

posted by yerfatma at 10:39 PM on March 21

When you read the NFL's findings of fact, Saints coaches and front-office execs lied to NFL investigators, ignored orders to stop doing it and conspired to cover it up. I can understand why the penalty was severe.

For those who are bringing up SpyGate, was there any evidence Belichick lied about it to the league?

posted by rcade at 10:48 PM on March 21

The Saints cheated the Vikings out of a trip to the Super Bowl.

I'd say Favre cheated the Vikings out of a trip to the superbowl by trying to be a hero and forcing bad throws when he could have played it safe and ridden AP into winning field goal range.

Look, you can't tell me Jared Allen wouldn't have hit Brees hard enough to knock a testicle through his nostril if he had the opportunity. I'm sure Childress wanted NO's offence feeling as uncomfortable as possible also.

While the Saints were out of line and deserve punishment, nickle and dime bounty payments had no impact on the Vikings losing. Had the Saints been using videotape to decipher the Vikes play calling that would be an entirely different matter.

posted by cixelsyd at 11:14 PM on March 21

The Saints' opponents are going to be extra motivated to knock the living crap out of any and all Saints' defenders, even if they weren't directly connected to the bounty program. Drew Brees has a target on his back as well, especially if he keeps defending the coach on Twitter and in the media.

It's what I would do if I learned that I or any of my teammates were a target to have the season ended prematurely. And hell, I wouldn't need to be offered any money. Let the Saints also pay the price on the football field by a jury of their peers.

The two games against Carolina will be interesting; not sure if they're playing the Vikings, Packers or Cardinals as I don't have access to a 2012 schedule as I write this. All I can say is, any games involving the Saints should have extra officials this coming year; they're all going to be busy.

posted by NerfballPro at 01:09 AM on March 22

While the Saints were out of line and deserve punishment, nickle and dime bounty payments had no impact on the Vikings losing. Had the Saints been using videotape to decipher the Vikes play calling that would be an entirely different matter.

First, $10,000 is not a nickle and dime payment - that is how much Vilma offered to any player that would knock Favre out of the NFC Championship Game. Second, the punishment and the finding by the league comes to the exact opposite conclusion. Bounty programs undermine the integrity of the league. The fact that QBs were the main targets of the bounty indicate that the were going for maximum effect on the win/loss chances. Finally, Williams knows what he is doing. If he didn't think bounty programs would have an impact, then why would he start one in violation of league rules?

posted by bperk at 07:38 AM on March 22

My good friend who is mostly a Patriots fan (the one who said he lost all respect for Troy Polamalu after last Patriots/Steelers game because he claimed Troy was playing dirty) is also a Saints fan ... I don't get when people claim to have multiple favorite teams ... and his response was "so are they going to punish all the other teams as severely, because they all do it." I wanted to scream. The guy is awesome in every way but as a fan of sport.

posted by scully at 08:38 AM on March 22

NFL's promise to protect whistleblowers somewhat damaged by the fact Warren Sapp outed Jeremy Shockey as the "snitch" in the Saints' scandal. On the NFL Network.

posted by yerfatma at 09:16 AM on March 22

If Sapp doesn't get punished it shows to league's not concerned about protecting whisteblowers. I like Shockey's response: "I've never been a guy who failed multiple drug tests. I've never been divorced. I don't have four kids by four different women. I don't lie." Damn.

posted by rcade at 09:46 AM on March 22

I hated Shockey's response. He always take the low road. He has disputes with just about everyone. He should have said "I'm not the whistleblower, but players shouldn't be hurting other players."

posted by bperk at 09:50 AM on March 22

I understand the repulsiveness of this practice but the league failed to enforce the rules effectively. In the game against the Vikes, numerous times the officials failed to protect Favre against blatant illegal hits. If the officials were calling the late and blatant high low, and leading with the helmet hits, the Saints would have been forced to stop or loose the game via giving up too much penalty yardage. Players should have been suspended not for what motivated them but for breaking the rules.

What I could never really understand about the performance or bounty pay issue is this. You pay players millions to hit hard and compete at the highest level within the rules. Regardless of the severity of the hit, it is either legal or illegal. The league should create the rules of engagement and allow players to play their hardest within the rules. When a player does something illegal he should be punished but trying to determine what motivates a multi millionaire player to do something like deliberately hurt a fellow player is difficult. The league could not prevent a player like James Harrison from helmet to helmet hits with tens of thousands of dollars worth of fines, why would $1500 to $10,000 to do something that is illegal and hurt another player create any incentive when if the league just enforced the rules with harsher punishment, the fine and loss of income would surely mitigate any reward or bounty paid for stepping over the edge.

The whole episode to me just demonstrates how full of crap the players union is. The players could obviously give a shit about player safety, and the league who I am giving some credit to for trying make the game safer, should be looking to the union and demanding the ouster of players who deliberately try to injure their fellow union members. It seems to me the players use the safety issues when it means less work, fewer games, better benefits and more money, but really care little for the safety of their co workers when as little as $1500 is enough for them to make an extra effort to cripple a HOF deserving and aging fellow player.

posted by Atheist at 11:10 AM on March 22

The whole episode to me just demonstrates how full of crap the players union is. The players could obviously give a shit about player safety, and the league who I am giving some credit to for trying make the game safer, should be looking to the union and demanding the ouster of players who deliberately try to injure their fellow union members.

This is a huge leap. The player's union is investigating the matter. You don't really know what they are going to do yet. Further, concluding that players generally don't care about safety because defensive players on a specific team unbeknownst to offensive players on that very same team decided to try to hurt opponents is just a gigantic leap of logic. You are tarring all the players with very little justification.

posted by bperk at 11:37 AM on March 22

Fuck that.

Be my guest. Dissect that game and come up with the perfect scenario where the Vikings win. Pin the loss completely on this plan that resulting in plays not called by the refs. Sounds like a great plan, especially if it makes you sleep better.

But you think the punishment wasn't severe enough. When the league is taking a sport that is too violent, and making a public showing of the saints, which will result in no reduction of violence. When the punishment is pretty close to a death sentence, when it dooms them in a year the super bowl is in their city, when it might cause one of the best quarterbacks in the league, their best quarterback ever, to leave.

But that's not enough for you, because the Vikings lost a game you've decided in no way should they have lost. And yes, the Saints SHOULD have been punished, but I have a feeling nothing less of closing the team would have satisfied you.

So I think the severity is too much, but I'm a saints fan, so maybe I'm a little biased. And you're a vikings fan still holding a grudge, so maybe you could admit that you're not exactly passing judgment with a clear mind, but with a vengeful one.

posted by justgary at 01:23 PM on March 22

bperk - when the players union comes out in support of instituting rules to make the game safer I will agree with you, but all I have seen is their support of players who are fined for blatant rule violations and trying to overturn fines. While I have seen all sorts of evidence that the NFL is instituting new rules to make the players safer, the only time I ever heard the players union bring up safety issues is when it is involving a contract negotiation and the players are objecting to a longer schedule, or wanting increased pension and benefits or justifying why they should get more money. It seems to me they use safety issues as a bargaining chip whereas the league is willing to sacrifice exciting kick off returns, helmet to helmet hitting, institute concussion protocols etc to protect players from it seems, themselves.

This whole episode and the fact that most teams have admitted to it being more widespread throughout the league than just one team, suggest the players are not the care for each other union brotherhood they like us to believe when there is money at stake. When a multimillionaire player can be bribed to injure one of his co workers on purpose for what amounts to a miniscule amount of extra spare change, it is my belief the union and its members should be leading the way toward stopping this behavior and not waiting for the league to punish their members for actions against their own members.

I guess that is why in the end I tend to side with the league in most disputes. It seems the players are more concerned about themselves and their ability to make money, (not an unreasonable position and only natural), whereas the league has a longer term viewpoint as is more concerned about preserving the integrity and viability of the league, safety and pro football in general. Both positions are understandable but there is no doubt that by nature of the relationship, the league has to have a longer term viewpoint for the health of the game than players who's tenure averages just a few years.

posted by Atheist at 02:01 PM on March 22

whereas the league has a longer term viewpoint as is more concerned about preserving the integrity and viability of the league, safety and pro football in general.

Hahahahaha...sniff...that's a good one.




















Wait, you were serious?!

posted by grum@work at 02:08 PM on March 22

When the league is taking a sport that is too violent, and making a public showing of the saints, which will result in no reduction of violence.

There will not be anymore bounty programs that is for sure. Taking out the headhunting at least will be an improvement. When the punishment is pretty close to a death sentence, when it dooms them in a year the super bowl is in their city, when it might cause one of the best quarterbacks in the league, their best quarterback ever, to leave.

Doomed seems to be overstating things. They don't lose their GM until the season is underway. Payton is good, but he isn't so good that the team will be destroyed b/c he isn't around one year. Further, since Brees is the franchise player, he doesn't have the option to leave.

The finding of fact provides support for kirkaracha's way of thinking. Coach Vitt admitted that the defensive team meeting before the championship game may have gotten "out-of-hand" with respect to Favre, which ended up with him getting hit illegally. Who knows what impact that had on Favre's performance, if any. But, it can't so easily dismissed that on a level playing field where one team wasn't violating league rules that the Saints would have still won.

The Saints probably got in more trouble for their lying and subterfuge than the bounty program.

posted by bperk at 03:31 PM on March 22

The bounty program doesn't affect whether or not officials flag illegal hits.

posted by rcade at 03:42 PM on March 22

The Saints probably got in more trouble for their lying and subterfuge than the bounty program.

Bill Barnwell agrees!

Looks like my fantasy team will once again be named, "Goddell's Banhammers." Maybe I'll add an "of doom" at the end this year.

posted by tron7 at 03:47 PM on March 22

Yes I was and not because I believe the league is motivated by anything other than money. There is no altruistic reason. But even a league concerned about making money first and foremost, is looking long term and it is in their financial best interests to protect player health to prevent law suits and control benefit costs, ensure an endless supply of fans and players for the future. The fact that maintaining a competitive balance to attract fans is more important to ownership and the league than it would be to players is only natural. Ownership of any company typically envisions a future that can be sustainable across generations and the NFL has and will continue to do so even if the motivation is capitalistic.

Employees typically must gain all that they can while they are working and by nature have less concern for the overall health of a company except as it pertains to their own transient interests, immediate job security, and the security of their benefit or retirement package.

I guess that is why to the players this isn't as big a deal as it is to the league. I suppose when I see the NFLPA revoking the memberships of players who partake in the willful attempt to injure other players then I will give credit where credit is due, but so far I see the league as working harder to preserve the integrity of the game and protect the players more.

Does anybody know of an instance where the NFLPA has taken action against a player for violating any safety or PED issue that was endangering himself or another player? I know the league has. Should the players association mandate PED testing for their members to help protect the careers of the non users? Would they suspend a player for hiding his own concussion symptoms, or demand a review of willful intent to cause injury? Just how concerned is the union with safety issues or do they feel it is the leagues job to protect their members more than theirs?

posted by Atheist at 04:07 PM on March 22

I'd believe that dangerous/injury-inducing hits are important to the league if they didn't highlight the biggest hits every week on their own website.

Just how concerned is the union with safety issues or do they feel it is the leagues job to protect their members more than theirs?

Well, when the PA fights to get more money put aside for pensions and health benefits for the players (during and after their careers), and the NFL fights them to hang on to every penny the owners can get, what would you think?

posted by grum@work at 04:23 PM on March 22

I suppose when I see the NFLPA revoking the memberships of players who partake in the willful attempt to injure other players then I will give credit where credit is due, but so far I see the league as working harder to preserve the integrity of the game and protect the players more.

Is the NFLPA legally allowed to do what you say? Or is this more of the usual hand-waving about "not enough is done!" without considering what can legally be done.

It's nice to say "Do more!" but if you try to "do more!" and get sued, then you've got a problem.

posted by grum@work at 04:26 PM on March 22

Now Congress wants to examine what happened.

posted by NerfballPro at 05:02 PM on March 22

Well, that might have had an impact on the severity of punishment. Certainly, the league got word of that before it was officially announced.

posted by bperk at 05:28 PM on March 22

GRUM - I asked a question but your reply is just as my assumption.

Well, when the PA fights to get more money put aside for pensions and health benefits for the players (during and after their careers), and the NFL fights them to hang on to every penny the owners can get, what would you think?

I did say both sides are motivated by money no doubt. Your response confirms the PA fights to get more money for the players during and after their careers. I agree the league wants to make as much money as they can. So what is the motivating force behind the leagues push recently on safety issues? I believe it is in the leagues financial interests to protect players and the integrity of the game which makes sense. What doesn't make sense to me is aside from the money the PA is always after (not a bad thing), why isn't the NFLPA fighting just as hard to prevent injuries as the league is. I cannot recollect safety being a big concern with the union for the sake of the safety of their members, it only seems to be an issue when it is directly tied to the issue of getting more money. Your would think this bounty issue would have the players up in arms, and that is my point. The players just accept that they do this stuff. The union represents the players and constantly tries to block drug testing and defend players who are fined rather than fight to keep the players safe from this stuff. It all speaks to my point that the players care more about the money issues and are fine with football as it is. They really only use the safety issues as leverage in money negotiations.

I don't see how the league benefits by removing this years Superbowl hosting city from effectively competing if money is their only concern and the players are not up in arm against the bounty issue? Is it remotely possible, that the league sees a bigger picture than players?

posted by Atheist at 06:13 PM on March 22

Now Congress wants to examine what happened.

As if they don't have enough to do. More grandstanding instead of doing the job they were elected for. How about balancing the federal budget instead of messing with one of the most successful business that is still in business. We know what a fiasco they will turn things into, and how little they will accomplish.

posted by Atheist at 06:18 PM on March 22

Is it remotely possible, that the league sees a bigger picture than players?

Players get injured = fans get worried = fans might not watch = tv ratings down = tv contracts down = league gets less money = owners get less money = OMG WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!

It's really not that hard. If they thought that fans would pay more money to see brutal hits (and they keep that market open with their big hit videos), they wouldn't change a thing.

The same thing happened in the NHL. For years, fighting and brutal hits were acceptable to fans of the sport. Some would even say that the fans enjoyed it. Then, in the recent years, fans have decided that losing players to head injuries, and goofy staged fights, really isn't that fun any more. The league is responding to fan reactions because it will affect their revenue stream (which is tied to actual attendance in the NHL more than it is to TV contracts).

The surest sign that player safety really isn't the motivating factor for the NFL is by looking at their pathetic drug testing system. Players have ballooned in size over the last 20 years, and since bigger = better for the fans, the NFL really doesn't give a crap about PED use. They have a nominal testing and punishment system, but you'd have to be foolish to think that small percentage of players caught represents the true usage in the NFL.

posted by grum@work at 07:16 PM on March 22

"How about balancing the federal budget instead of messing with one of the most successful business that is [Federally-supported cartels] still in business."

Fixed that for you.

posted by scully at 06:47 AM on March 23

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