Since Roger Goodell became NFL Commissioner, he has been steadfast in his efforts to curb excess violence. Yes it's true that football is a brutal sport in the first place. Nevertheless, Goodell has worked to institute rules to protect the players from "preventable" injuries. As such, a defender going at a quarterback's knees or leading with his helmet to make a hit are merely two examples of actions which result in hefty fines and/or suspensions.
With that in mind, there didn't seem to be a shred of doubt that a team who encouraged the intentional injuring of their opponents would be hit with severe sanctions.
Meting out unprecedented punishment for a crush-for-cash bounty system that targeted key opposing players, the NFL suspended New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton without pay for next season and indefinitely banned the team's former defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams.
Payton is the first head coach suspended by the league for any reason, accused of trying to cover up a system of extra cash payouts that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday called "particularly unusual and egregious" and "totally unacceptable."
Sending a message by taking a harsh stand, Goodell also banned Saints general manager Mickey Loomis for the first eight regular-season games next season -- believed to be the first time a GM was suspended by the NFL -- and assistant coach Joe Vitt for the first six games.
In addition, Goodell fined the Saints $500,000 and took away their second-round draft pick this year and in 2013.
As is usually the case in any scandal, the coverup is worse than the event itself.
According to the league, Payton ignored instructions from the NFL and Saints ownership to make sure bounties weren't being paid. The league also chastised him for choosing to "falsely deny that the program existed," and for trying to "encourage the false denials by instructing assistants to 'make sure our ducks are in a row.' "
The league said that in addition to contributing money to the bounty fund, Williams oversaw record keeping, determined payout amounts and recipients, and handed out envelopes with money to players. The NFL said Williams acknowledged he intentionally misled NFL investigators when first questioned in 2010, and didn't try to stop the bounties.
Vitt was aware of the bounties and, according to the league, later admitted he had "fabricated the truth" when interviewed in 2010.
Given all that background, it would appear that the punishments levied on Payton, Williams and Vitt were warranted. However, Saints All-Pro QB Drew Brees seems rather befuddled by it.
Brees reacted quickly to the news on Twitter, writing: "I am speechless. Sean Payton is a great man, coach, and mentor. ... I need to hear an explanation for this punishment."
Ummm.....your head coach condoned an illegal bounty program and then lied about having rectified the situation. Seems pretty clear to me.
Also, as pointed by 1500 ESPN's Judd Zulgad, apparently there were "outside interests" who contributed to the bounty pool. That alone is worth the hammer coming down.