It’s official. In the wake of BOUNTYGATE 2012, the suspensions are:
Sean Payton — one year, starting April 16
Mickey Loomis — eight games, starting after the preseason
Joe Vitt — six games, starting after the preseason
But what does it all MEAN???
First of all, it means that the Saints are in serious trouble this year. Gregg Williams spoke of killing the head so the body will die, and that’s essentially what the NFL did to New Orleans, stripping them of their head and assistant head coach. And Loomis’ suspension makes it more difficult for them to adapt to injuries and needs on the fly, though because his suspension doesn’t start until after the preseason, he’ll still be able to help establish initial rosters.
As anyone following this whole thing knows, though, it isn’t about punishing the New Orleans Saints on the football field. It’s about making sure EVERYONE — football fans, your mom, the men and women of Congress — know that the NFL does not condone violence, and does not condone Gregg Williams telling his players to turn Frank Gore’s brain into a slice of bologna. Of course, the NFL does condone violence, and the New Orleans Saints might decide that, hey, these tactics helped win that Super Bowl, and without the bounty programs, we might not have won that Super Bowl. And in that case, maybe these penalties were worth that Super Bowl and what it meant to the people of New Orleans.
Unfortunately, penalties in football are often as much a strategic decision as they are punishments. And that 15-yard-penalty, and even an ejection/suspension/etc., could be worth removing the other team’s star player from the field. We’re talking morality here, and morality has never had a huge role on the football field. The only practical way for the NFL to ensure that personnel avoid these penalties is to make the punishment unquestionably worse than the benefits, and they may have done that with these suspensions. Then again, it was a Super Bowl — maybe they haven’t.