In what might have been the least shocking decision in NFL history, the league announced today that Commissioner Roger Goodell has upheld the suspensions of New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, general manager Mickey Loomis, and assistant head coach Joe Vitt.
The Commissioner wasted little time in making his decision about Payton, Vitt, and Loomis. I’m not surprised, chances are you’re not surprised, and I can almost guarantee that the Saints organization isn’t surprised. The appeal process is a bit of a sham. Goodell is the judge, jury and executioner of NFL discipline. Payton and Loomis met two times with the Commissioner before the suspensions were handed out and there was little to believe that Goodell would have changed his mind. The NFL appeal process is sort of like being grounded by your parents for crashing the family mini van into a pole and then asking your parents to reconsider their decision.
In reality, the Saints didn’t choose to appeal because they thought the suspensions would be revoked, reduced, or even slightly modified. Instead, the Saints decided to appeal because:
- The appeal gave Coach Payton another chance to sit in front of the Commissioner and ask any questions that he might have about the stipulations of his suspension. What can Payton do? Who can he call? Where can he go?
- The appeal and Goodell’s decisions to make Payton’s suspension effective on 4-16 instead of 4-1 gave Payton and the Saints some more time to get everything set in the organization before Payton is forced to walk out of the door.
The Commissioner did give the Saints some good news. If Payton, Loomis, and Vitt follow the rules as outlined in their suspensions, he will consider lowering the financial penalties on the three men and more importantly changing the forfeited second round pick in 2013 to something later in the draft.
With the appeal now behind the Saints their focus should now shift to moving forward. Drew Brees still doesn’t have a contract. Without Payton’s leadership the Saints are going to ask Brees to do more than any other QB in the history of the league. Tom Benson better be prepared to compensate him for it. Honestly, I still don’t know what the holdup is. The Saints need to make Brees the highest player in the league and call it a day. There is no player in the entire league that is as important as Brees is to the Saints. What are they waiting for?
Bill Parcells seems to be most likely person to coach the Saints next season. However, if the Saints go that route and hire someone outside of the organization they will be forced to interview a minority candidate to comply with the NFL’s “Rooney Rule.” The only other option that makes any sense is to promote offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael or defensive coordinator Steve Spangnuolo. Regardless of the decision, the Saints should make sure that Payton’s replacement is ready to walk into the door when Payton is forced to walk out next Monday.
The next news to break in this story will be whether or not any players will be suspended for their involvement in the bounty scandal. Many reports have suggested that defensive captain Jonathan Vilma is likely to be suspended and point at the Saints decision to sign Curtis Lofton from the Falcons as proof that the team is preparing for that suspension. Vilma seems to think he is safe and even called Sports Illustrated’s Peter King a “glorified blogger” on his twitter feed for suggesting it.
The Saints have Sean Payton for one more week. They need to get their house in order, make Drew Brees is happy, and move on.