The NFL finally handed down its punishment for the Saints bounty program today, and it’s about as severe as you’d expect from a commissioner trying to clean up the league’s violent image. Head coach Sean Payton has been suspended for one year without pay, and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (now with the Rams) has been suspended indefinitely for their part in a system that gave out cash rewards to players for injuring opponents from 2009-2011.
Payton was reportedly "stunned" by the news (Photo: SBNation.com)
As if that weren’t enough bad news for New Orleans fans, the Saints were also fined $500,000, and will forfeit their 2nd round picks in 2012 and 2013. Furthermore, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis has been suspended for eight games, assistant head coach Joe Vitt has been suspended 6 games without pay, and individual player punishments are still forthcoming. All of the suspensions begin on April 1st.
You can read the complete release from the NFL here, but we’ll go ahead and highlight the most relevant sections:
“We are all accountable and responsible for player health and safety and the integrity of the game,” Commissioner Goodell said. “We will not tolerate conduct or a culture that undermines those priorities. No one is above the game or the rules that govern it. Respect for the game and the people who participate in it will not be compromised.”
“A combination of elements made this matter particularly unusual and egregious,” Commissioner Goodell continued. “When there is targeting of players for injury and cash rewards over a three-year period, the involvement of the coaching staff, and three years of denials and willful disrespect of the rules, a strong and lasting message must be sent that such conduct is totally unacceptable and has no place in the game.”
It’s definitely a huge blow to a Saints program that has been at the top of the league in recent years, and one has to wonder if it was all worth it – all of this, just to give a little walking around money and bragging rights to a bunch of millionaires for doing what they’re already paid handsomely to do. The Saints clearly crossed the line when they added the layers of “knock outs” and “cart-offs” to the mix, but most high school and college football programs have similar performance-based incentives … they just use stickers instead of money. Stick to the stickers, guys, and everything will be just fine.
And if Gregg Williams ever coaches again in the NFL, we’ll be shocked.