It’s amazing how much optimism can be found around Who Dat Nation even on the heels of such troubling news. I’m getting numerous responses that “this isn’t that big of a deal”, “the media is blowing this out of proportion”, and “Gregg Williams will get stiff penalties but the others won’t”. I think it’s incredibly naive to think that way. My personal take: this is really bad Saints fans. The Saints are going to get hammered, and cut off at the knees because of this. Roger Goodell will make them pay by delivering, wait for it, a “remember me shot“.
The reality of this situation is the Saints got caught doing something against the rules at the absolute worst of times.
The media is already saying the punishments will be severe and unprecedented. You’ve already been made fully aware of the NFL’s heightened stance on player safety. The game has already been softened substantially to protect quarterbacks and defenseless receivers. The league also moved the kickoff point to the 35 yard line to increase touchbacks and reduce injuries. It’s only a matter of time before the NFL will implement rules to protect running backs from being hit certain ways. The NFL is working really hard to reduce the risk of injury wherever possible. The bounty system the Saints implemented goes against the direction of the league in the worst way, and Goodell will want to make a statement as he furthers his crusade. The subject has been so sensititve the last few years as is, this is a black eye and a huge step back for the NFL. Goodell will not tolerate it, mostly because he can’t. Regardless of how common or how overdramatized this situation is, the bottom line is the Saints got caught and they’re going to suffer an unfair punishment as they get made an example out of. Their punishment will be about making a statement to everyone else more so than it will be a just and fitting penalty for their crime.
The league is scheduled to meet this month for the NFL owners meetings between March 26th and 28th, and it’s expected that we won’t know the full extent of the penalties until then. NFL.com has reported that at the very beginning of the meetings Goodell will make a final decision on the punishment, and says the date we may find out is March 25th. So the worst part of all this is we still have to wait three weeks to stew on this until we learn the team’s fate. The good news is free agency opens on March 13th (which could turn into bad news really quickly depending on what happens with Nicks & Colston), so that will hopefully distract the media some and give us something else to talk about as the Saints attempt to retain some of their key players.
My thoughts on the punishment? Totally guessing here, but my prediction is a year ban for Gregg Williams, a 4 game suspension for Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis, and Jonathan Vilma being suspended for half the season. Then I think the Saints will lose a 2nd round pick this year (their best), a 1st round next year, and perhaps a 3rd pick. So worst case scenario I’m thinking the Saints are down 3 valuable picks and without their two biggest figure heads minus Drew Brees for 4 games. That, plus an exhorbitant number of fines across the board to all parties involved. I hope it’s not worse than that, but that’s kind of what I’m preparing myself for. You should too.