Although rumors have swirled for years about 'bounties' in the National Football League, where players pay each other money for deliberately injuring an opposing player, the NFL was rocked to it's core in the last month when it was revealed the NFL Front Office had investigated - and found to be true - rumors that COACHES for the New Orleans Saints had run a bounty program.
This wasn't some players getting together and pooling their money to reward each other for deliberate injury. This was coaches doing it with their own money. That changes the entire picture, especially when the NFL went on to reveal that Head Coach Sean Payton and General Manager Mickey Loomis had known - and done nothing to stop - the bounty program that Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams had instituted.
Players doing this on their own is bad enough. Coaches and upper management? Inexcusable.
Gregg Williams Sean Payton & Mickey Loomis
Today the NFL announced that Payton, Loomis and Williams have been suspended. Payton will be forced to sit out the entire 2012 season. Loomis will sidelined for 8 games. Hardest hit is Gregg Williams, who had just rejoined Ram's new Head Coach Jeff Fisher in St. Louis with the Rams. Williams has been suspended from coaching in the NFL 'indefinitely', which means he gets back into the league whenever NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell feels like letting him back in. Maybe never.
Some may say, 'So what's the big deal? People get hurt playing football all the time."
There is a big difference between playing hard and playing dirty. Guys get injured often enough without players deliberately targeting each other's knees and heads in defiance of the rules.
Bounty's encourage dirty play. That is why they have no place in the NFL. This is a star-driven league. The NFL does not want to find out star players have been having their seasons ended because some guy deliberately injured them.
With the competitive balance in the NFL as close as it is now, all it takes is a key injury or two to send a team's playoff hopes into a tailspin. Witness what happened to the Chicago Bears last season. They looked like a sure playoff contender until QB Jay Cutler went down with an injury.
Then there is the fact the Saints coaches lied to NFL investigators when the rumors were first looked into back in 2009.
“Clearly, we were lied to,” Goodell said Wednesday on NFL Network. “[T]his went on for three years and it was investigated, we were misled, and there were denials throughout that period.”
As we explained two weeks ago, the March 2 NFL Security report explains that, when the league first investigated the situation in 2010, Payton instructed his staff to “get your ducks in a row.” Wednesday’s announcement explains that, in the league’s opinion, Payton’s comment was intended to “encourage false denials.”
Then, after the false denials, the bounties brazenly continued for two years under Payton’s watch.
Considering those basic facts, it’s hard to understand why the Saints expected a suspension of only four games. Truth be told, Payton should consider himself fortunate it wasn’t worse.The NFL cannot allow any hint of this kind of activity. That is why the penalties handed out today are so harsh. You will hear from some quarters that the punishment does not fit the crime, that the Commissioner was excessive.
That's rubbish. The Saints called into question the integrity of the league itself with this behavior. Only time will tell how much damage this scandal did to the sport.