So the New Orleans Saints were dumb enough to continue a "bounty" system even after the NFL investigated them once, after owner Tom Benson told general manager Mickey Loomis to have it stopped and, worst of all, long after it had stopped working.
On stupidity alone, the Saints deserve to lose their first-round draft pick this year – except that they've already traded it to the New England Patriots. That shouldn't stop commissioner Roger Goodell from taking a couple of picks this year or taking the 2013 first-rounder as the starting point for punishment.
Yes, that's the starting point. From there, the Saints deserve a $500,000 fine as a team (hopefully that doesn't cut into the Drew Brees contract fund), head coach Sean Payton deserves a $250,000 fine, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, now with the St. Louis Rams, deserves a $200,000 fine and each of the assistant coaches who participated deserve to at least be docked $50,000. On top of that, Loomis deserves to be fined and/or fired since he disobeyed an order from the owner.
That's all in line with roughly what the punishment New England received in 2007 for the Spygate scandal.
Of course, in the world of comparative morality, Saints and Patriots fans spent Friday afternoon dueling (or, more aptly, drooling) over whose team had the worse transgression.
Do you vote Spygate or Bountygate?
How about this: They're both terrible.
Williams apologized in a statement, saying the bounty program was a "terrible mistake and we knew it was wrong while we were doing it."
No one who knows football should be surprised with what has been uncovered here, just like what happened in New England. Former offensive tackle Damien Woody, who played 12 years for New England, the Detroit Lions and the New York Jets, tweeted shortly after the news broke that bounties happen everywhere around the league.
The practice is decades old in the NFL, including the famous "Bounty Bowl" on Thanksgiving 1989. That's when then-Philadelphia Eagles coach Buddy Ryan put a bounty out on Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman and kicker Luis Zendejas. The Eagles knocked Zendejas out of the game (be proud Buddy, you took out a kicker) on the way to a 27-0 win. If anything good came out of it, it was the exchange between then-Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson and Ryan.
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"I have absolutely no respect for the way they played the game; I would have said something to Buddy, but he wouldn't stand on the field long enough," Johnson said. "He put his big, fat rear end into the dressing room."
Said Ryan: "I resent that. I've been on a diet, lost a couple of pounds. I thought I was looking good."
This current instance will not feature such comedy, although the roots to Ryan will certainly be traced. Williams is a former Ryan assistant (they first worked together in Houston in 1990). Unfortunately for the Saints and Williams, player safety is a root issue for Goodell, who has no choice but to hit the Saints hard. Really hard. A lost draft pick is certainly merited. Fines wouldn't be out of the realm. Even suspending coaches would be acceptable.
Bounties of this magnitude are idiotic. They might have worked to develop defensive camaraderie in the 2009 season when the Saints won the Super Bowl, but even that was asinine. Good coaches and good players don't need bloodlust to be great. Everybody knows that part of the game is about inflicting pain. You don't need a few thousand bucks on the line to make that point.
This behavior makes you wonder about the sincerity of those solemn looks that players give whenever one of their fellow combatants is laying on the ground in pain. Were Saints players really celebrating under their visage of concern? Or were they truly worried?
What if a player ended up paralyzed? The game is brutal enough without having to go for cheap shots.
Based on how awful New Orleans' defense has been over the past two years, particularly in the playoffs, just how effective was the bounty system? Maybe if Williams and the Saints had focused a little more on tackling someone along the way, they might have won another Super Bowl. Instead, you wonder if players were more concerned on getting a knockout shot so they could collect some cash and pump their egos.
The whole thing is moronic and, in this situation, everyone involved deserves to pay for their stupidity.
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- Gregg Williams