When the news came out on Friday that some members of the coaching staff and players of the New Orleans Saints participated in a bounty program I was shocked, like most of you. A range of emotions ran through my head from disgust to anger and even a bit of confusion. According to NFL.com Former Saints defensive coordinator and current St.Louis Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and Saints players maintained a bounty pool of as much as $50,000 over the last three seasons. The bounty was geared to award New Orleans players for delivering game-ending injuries to the opposition. It included paying monetary bonuses of $1,000 for so-called “cart-offs” and $1,500 for knockouts. The rewards were doubled or tripled during the playoffs, and quarterbacks Brett Favre and Kurt Warner were among the targets.
The NFL conducted a lengthy investigation and in their conclusive report stated the bounty pool amounts reached their height in 2009, the season the Saints won their first Super Bowl. Allegedly between 22 and 27 defensive players participated in the program, which was administered by Williams with the knowledge of Head Coach Sean Payton.
According to the report the players regularly contributed cash into a pool and received payments from it based on their play. Payments were made based on the injuring of opponents and making big defensive plays.
“The payments here are particularly troubling because they involved not just payments for ‘performance,’ but also for injuring opposing players,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a written statement.
One of the NFL’s hardest hitting players in league history, Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, commented on the situation. Lott admitted that cash rewards for big plays were common when he played in the 80s and ’90s and made the comparison to college players receiving stickers on their helmets
“But ‘cart-offs,’ when you hear that kind of language, if that’s the kind of language that’s a part of it, then to me that’s a no-no,” Lott said in a phone interview. “I knocked out my share of players, but I was doing that because there were guys like (Dick) Butkus, (Ray) Nitschke and (Jack) Tatum, me wanting to be like them and play the game. But all I can I tell you is … when I knocked a player out, my intentions were always, ‘Is he OK?’ That’s the difference.”
Also commenting on the situation is former Arizona Cardinals, St.Louis Rams and New York Giants Quarterback Kurt Warner who was one of the players targeted by the bounty.
“With how the commissioner has done things since he’s taken over and his attempt to try to clean up and protect the integrity of this game for the long haul, I have to believe if these allegations prove true, it’s going to be a stiff fine,” Warner told USA TODAY.
“I don’t think this is unique. It may be unique in extent to the money or if coaches were involved. I understand they were levying a bounty. But were they going out and cheap shoting guys? That is something I would definitely look into.”
“They have a completely different perspective on it than I do,” Warner said. “Your kids are sitting there watching and they realize, this guy’s trying to hurt your dad, trying to knock him out. It takes on a whole different meaning for me than maybe it did for me in the competitive (playing) part of it.”
“I think you’re crazy if you think that there weren’t defensive linemen that sat at their locker before the game, saying, ‘Hey, I’m buying dinner if we knock somebody out first.’ Those kind of things have been around our game for a long time.
“There’s no place in the game for that. So obviously this (the Saints revelation) is troubling. I don’t think this is the only situation where that’s gone on.”
We are still waiting to receive more information regarding the NFL’s investigation in the coming weeks. But it can be safe to assume a major fallout from the findings is in store for the Saints.
Here are some shockwaves that may possibly hit the New Orleans Saints and others involved in the aftermath of this report.
1. Angry NFL Fans
In one swift move the New Orleans Saints may have gone from one of the beloved NFL franchises to the most hated. Many people may not see an issue with the bounty system. Personally, I think we are all a bit naive if we believe no type of bounty system is in place on most teams playing in the NFL today, but I do believe there is a difference between rewarding a player for a big interception or forced fumble and rewarding a player for causing a severe injury to an opponent. An injury that could possibly end someone’s career or hinder the way they can live their life.
New Orleans deserved better than this and in a way I feel a bit foolish. We all pulled for the Saints following the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and the Saints, albeit for a brief time became America’s Team, a sentimental favorite and a team that every fan could find a reason to root for.
The Saints had a magical run to the Super Bowl and a Lombardi Trophy and a rebirth of a franchise that now had a special place in NFL history.
But now a sour taste is left in our mouths and perhaps the mouths of many Saints’ fans who stood by this organization long before they were chanting “Who Dat” and hoisting a Lombardi Trophy.
We were all led to believe that this team was inspirational, a shining example of perseverance and fortitude, an example of class and heart. The Saints tugged at our heart-strings and captured our imaginations. Unfortunately this now puts a large black eye on an organization that became so much of the opposite of these reports.
If we are to continue to hold the New England Patriots in contempt for “spygate” than it is only fair to levy the same fury upon the Saints. Just as “SpyGate” tainted the Patriots organization, the Saints should have a similar stigma.
2. Gregg Williams Fallout
This is plain and simple. Gregg Williams should be kicked out of the NFL. It shouldn’t get more complicated than that. Aside from being the ringleader of this operation, Williams should take the brunt of the backlash. Grant it Williams’ is not alone in this, coach Sean Payton should feel the wrath of the NFL’s anger as well, but Williams seems to be the one who instituted and ran this operation.
Not only does this effect the Saints but it now effects the St.Louis Rams who just hired Williams as their new defensive coordinator.
Williams should be run out of the NFL for a few years, if not for good. Send a clear message that this kind of stuff is intolerable and in some cases, unforgivable.
3. Legal Woes
As I was reading more and more about his story I had a scenario pop in my head. I also heard the same theory come up on Fox Sports Radio with analyst/scout Chris Landry who pondered if any lawsuits could be filed by players who were severely hurt during this bounty program.
Furthermore what if Player A had a career ending injury due to being on this “bounty list”? What if Player A can prove it was that particular hit that cut his career short? Cost him millions of dollars in damages? Has long term effects due to the injury? What if Player A can’t make a living because of some bounty program that was in place solely to put Player A in that very position?
It could be difficult if not nearly impossible to prove, but it is worth wondering.
4. The Drew Brees Effect
Don’t worry Saints fans, Brees is not going anywhere this year but you’re crazy if you think this won’t weigh heavily in Drew Brees’ long-term plans. He has already worked tirelessly at rebuilding this organization from the Karina fallout and now, if signed long term, he will have to pick up the Saints yet again and try to remove the mud that will stain the Saints team for the coming years.
But Brees seems like the type of guy that would be just as appalled by this, if he truly had no knowledge of it, as many people are.
Assuming the Brees is innocent of knowing of the bounty program you have to ask; Why would he want his good image associated with this garbage?
The biggest blow from this fallout may not come in 2012, but in 2013. Brees is already having a tough time working out a long-term contract with New Orleans and we have even heard of some not-so-glowing-remarks made regarding Brees by General Manager Mickey Loomis, this could be the icing on a horrible cake.
Truth is, it appears that the Saints will be forced to Franchise Brees by Monday’s deadline which will ensure he stays in New Orleans for the 2012 season. But that merely creates a countdown clock to when Brees will be free yet again in 2013.
5. Ripple Effects
Expect the NFL to levy suspensions, fines and possibly take away draft picks from the Saints. This should be the start of the punishment. Most of you may wonder if the Saints should take a bigger smack than the Patriots did for SpyGate. My opinion is yes they should and it shouldn’t even be close.
While the Patriots cheated the game, the Saints cheated players and livelihoods. While every player understands the risks and danger that can come from playing the game of football, they also play the game with the understanding that there is humanity and respect for the well-being of one another. They play with the understanding that while injuries do occur, it’s not a goal of another player to seriously hurt another. A kind of unspoken rule that is understood amongst players.
When you compare the two, in my eyes the Saints committed the bigger crime and the punishment should reflect that. It should start with the banning of Williams who should never be allowed to coach on an NFL sideline ever again.
So now we are all playing the waiting game. Waiting to see how much more detailed information comes out, who knew what, any direct injuries within this bounty system and how the NFL will respond will all come out in due time.
But now, Saints fans are left to wonder if “Who Dat” nation will ever be the same or ever be as beloved as it was before this past Friday.