Originally posted on Larry Brown Sports  |  Last updated 3/21/12

For the past three weeks, we have anxiously awaited the NFL’s ruling on the Saints bounty scandal. On Wednesday, that ruling was handed down in the form of the harshest punishment in NFL history. To begin with, Sean Payton will not be the acting coach in New Orleans next season. He has been suspended for a full year without pay, effective April 1. That was Roger Goodell just getting warmed up.

As a franchise, the Saints have been fined $500,000 and will be forced to forfeit their second-round picks in the 2012 and 2013 NFL drafts for a violation involving a competitive rule. Gregg Williams, the man who was believed to be at the head of all things bounty, has been suspended from the NFL indefinitely and his situation will be reevaluated at the conclusion of next season. Saints GM Mickey Loomis will be suspended without pay for the first eight regular-season games of the 2012 season and fined $500,000. Saints assistant coach Joe Vitt will serve a six-game suspension and has been fined $100,000.

Those of you who thought the punishment would be comparable to that which the Patriots faced for Spygate were wrong. Many speculated that Payton would serve a three or four-game suspension, but his one-year suspension is the most severe sanction for a head coach in NFL history. When reached by Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer on Wednesday afternoon, Payton had the following to say: “No, I’m not OK.” Glazer said Payton is “stunned” by the decision.

“A combination of elements made this matter particularly unusual and egregious,” Goodell said in a statement Wednesday. “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.”

When the Patriots were caught videotaping their opponents’ signals back in 2007, the team was fined $500,000 and forced to forfeit its first-round pick in 2008. Bill Belichick was fined $250,000. Aside from that, life went on. There were no suspensions and New England went on to fall one game shy of completing a perfect season.

The difference with the Saints is that their behavior compromised not only the integrity of the game but also player safety. Now, they will have much more to deal with than reputation management and a public relations nightmare. The Saints have to figure out who is going to coach the team next year. Prior to the harsh punishment, New Orleans was a definite Super Bowl contender in 2012. With unknowns now looming among their coaching staff and front office for the 2012 season, life just got a lot more complicated.

Punishment for individual players should be handed down shortly.

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