A well-run campaign

| No Comments

It's looking more and more like the punishments handed down to the New Orleans Saints over their "pay for performance" program will be upheld on appeal.  Anyone surprised by that?  I thought not.  The Gregg Williams tape, released just before said appeal, pretty much guarantees it.  Kudos to the NFL for a very well-orchestrated campaign.  For those unfamiliar, it went something like this:

The NFL claims to have first heard about the Saints program during their Super Bowl year.  With no whistleblower and mostly hearsay evidence, the league thought it so heinous as to issue a "knock it off".  Properly swept under the rug, the investigation ceased, the skies turned blue, and there was much joy in the universe.

Just before the Saints-Lions playoff game here in 2012, the NFL tells the Saints their investigation has been re-opened.  Whistleblower(s) had come forward.  The NFL then compiled a mind-boggling 50,000 pages of documentary evidence.  I wonder if, as someone commented later, "Were they using 72pt font?".  Rather than sweeping it under the rug again, the commissioner sees opportunity.  There are a lot of lawsuits coming up against the NFL from former players relating to the violent nature of the game and what they might or might not have known about head injuries.  Here's an opportunity, in the form of a small market scapegoat, to show the league is serious about changing the "culture" of violence in the NFL.

On Friday, March 2, the NFL announces publicly that their investigation into the Saints "bounty" program has been completed and that discipline will soon be announced.  The sports media, message boards, and sports blogs light up and run wild for almost a full three weeks.  For their part, the idiotic Saints played right into the league's hands by not cooperating with the investigation and not being forthright.  Unbeknownst to the Saints, the offense that rated a "knock it off" two years ago had escalated to a "throw the book at 'em" now.  On top of that, it pissed Commissioner Goodell off.  Never a good thing to piss off a hanging judge.

On March 22, the punishments are announced and they are surprisingly severe.  Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams suspended indefinitely, Head Coach Sean Payton suspended for the entire season, General Manager Mickey Loomis suspended for 8 games, Assistant Head Coach Joe Vitt suspended for 6 games , and the Saints fined $500,000 and penalized a #2 draft pick this season and next.  Player suspensions haven't been announced yet but are also expected to be severe.

The Saints and their fans are stunned.  While the sports media and most fans cheered on the commissioner, the Saints and their fans seethed.  These punishments had three components:

1) Rule violation
2) Insubordination and obstruction
3) Make an example and send a message to the other 31 teams that the league is serious about this

The Saints and their fans have no problem with 1 or 2.  It's the 3rd one for which they're having issues.  Number 2 contributed mightily to the severity of Number 3 in my opinion.

On March 30, everyone, except Gregg Williams, appeals their sentence.  Might seem ridiculous to some to appeal a sentence to the same person who issued it but there it is.  It bought some time for the organization to make contingency plans for the 2012 season.  I don't think anyone thinks punishments might be reduced.

On Thursday, April 5, the day the appeals are to be heard, a tape of Gregg Williams' last pre-game speech was released.  Said speech was given on the night before the Saints playoff game with the 49ers.  It is colorful and inflammatory and people are shocked, shocked I tell you, at the very nature of it.  He mentions players by name and very specific injuries those players may be concerned about.  How much of it should be taken figuratively and how much of it should be taken literally is the obvious question.  A lot of people are taking quite a bit of it literally today although there is no evidence the players took any of it literally.  There were no untoward or illegal head shots on Alex Smith, Frank Gore, or Kyle Williams and, certainly, no illegal knee shots on Michael Crabtree that I saw.

That's where the campaign stands at the moment.

One of the players and his injury that Gregg Williams mentions in his speech, Kyle Williams and his history of concussions, was also mentioned by Giants players after their playoff victory the following week.  In fact, they made it public first.  This doesn't necessarily mean ALL teams try to exploit their opponents' injuries but it does mean that the Saints are not the only team that does.  In my opinion, the number of teams that target specific players in this manner is much closer to 32 than it is to 2.  The favorite analogy being employed now is the old "It doesn't matter if 32 cars are speeding.  You're the one who got caught."  The problem with that analogy is that a police officer can usually only catch and pull one over.  Officer Goodell can pull all 32 over if he's so inclined.  If he was truly concerned about player safety, he would do exactly that.  He's not and he won't.  There is a mountain of evidence if he was so inclined.  Where, you ask?  I'll tell you.

It's in the NFL Films library.  If this scandal escalates any further and criminal prosecutions commence, that library will surely be subpoenaed.  Watch a Sound FX episode if you have the NFL Network.  Even the sanitized, NFL-approved, PG-Rated footage that is shown contains rhetoric that is not much different than what is on that Gregg Williams tape.  Imagine what is on the raw footage.

All of this said, I think it best for the Saints to go ahead and take this hit without any further resistance.  This really does need to go away.  They should take this hit because they violated a league rule.  They should take this hit because they ignored the commissioner.  Finally, they should accept the scapegoat role and accept the punishment for the entire "culture" even though they only represent one thirty-second of it.  No, it's not fair.


Comments are welcome but you must sign in to comment here. Sign in with your Typepad account or ask Rob (pb at crabapplelane dot net) for a Movable Type account.


Get Firefox!

Powered by Movable Type 4.38

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Rob published on April 7, 2012 11:19 AM.

Sad Day For Saints Fans was the previous entry in this blog.

Time to move on is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.