The NFL gave a whole new meaning to Wild Wednesday. Tebow rides his magical unicorn to the Big Apple, with a few bumps in the road. The Saints get hammered, but not in the fun Mardi Gras way. Stuff this big, exciting, and insane wasn’t going to wait until next Monday. So here goes…
Has anyone ever heard that song by P.O.D. called “Boom?” I’m not here to talk about whether or not the song or band are any good (neither are) but the chorus of the song goes like this: “Boom, here comes the boom!” and it just repeats a lot. Why do I bring this up? I feel like Commissioner Goodell had this playing when he levied the punishments down on the Saints for Bountygate.
Sean Payton? Suspended for the entire season without pay. Boom!
Gregg Williams? Suspended indefinitely (at least a year, possibly longer). Boom!
Mickey Loomis (Saints GM and Exec VP)? Suspended 8 games. Boom!
Asst. Coach Joe Vitt. 6 game suspension and $100,000 fine. Boom!
Saints lose 2012 and 2013 2nd round picks and fined $500k. Here comes the boom!
Player punishment isn’t expected yet. Odds are the NFL is trying to work with the NFLPA to determine that. The coaches don’t have a union (and front offices will probably never let it happen either) so they’re at the mercy of the commish. Needless to say, this sends the Saints in a tail spin and the Rams, whom Greg Williams is currently (well, was) the defensive coordinator of.
I knew a little over 2 weeks ago that the punishment would be severe. Here’s what I said in my March 5th MAQB:
“The NFL is going to come down hard on the guilty parties. Why? Protecting the image of the NFL. Roger Goodell has shown that he will do whatever is necessary to protect the NFL brand. He has cracked down hard on players who misbehave off the field and is obsessed with protecting them on it. There have even been steps to make attending games more family friendly. While obviously player safety is important, the overall message is protecting what the NFL is: the #1 sports league in the USA, a brand worth billions.”
Here’s part of Goodell’s official statement:
“Beyond the clear and continuing violations of league rules, and lying to investigators, the bounty program is squarely contrary to the league’s most important initiatives – enhancing player health and safety and protecting the integrity of the game…”
Player safety and protecting the NFL brand fueled this decision. Lying about it didn’t exactly help. What will the fallout be for the guilty parties and their respective teams?
The biggest deal is losing Sean Payton for an entire season. Payton took a Saints team that was struggled in the post-Jim Mora era and turned them into a perennial Super Bowl contender with Drew Brees at QB. The job he has done there cannot be underestimated. Before this, there are 25+ NFL teams that would instantly be upgraded with a Payton-Brees combo on their squad. The Saints are already using a new defensive coordinator in Steve Spagnuolo, who may end up the “head coach” for 2012.
Without Payton, you have to wonder how effective the offense will be. Sure, with Payton forced up into the press box for several games due to a leg injury, Pete Carmichael Jr. did a great job with playcalling and running the offense on the field. That doesn’t change the fact that Payton was there all week at practice, able to critique the staff from the press box, and do the usual “rah rah!” stuff in the locker room. Every time the Saints offense struggles in 2012, you’ll have to wonder how much of it has to do with the lack of Payton. Locker room chemistry could be a dangerous thing if the Saints have a rough start to the season. Everything they do will be under a microscope.
I also wondered previously if Drew Brees’ contract would affect his play. Well, with GM Mickey Loomis sidelined for the first 8 games of the season,that could affect contract negotiations with Brees. All of the sudden, Brees has even more leverage. Without Payton, Brees will need to be the leader of that locker room. I’m not saying he never was, but his role is even more vital. I would never think or suggest Brees would openly sabotage the team, that’s for hacks like Woody Paige. I do wonder if Brees will be a little less vocal, a little less driven, a little less likely to get in the face of a teammate when his contract is up in the air and the Saints have not given him a proper contract to thank him for what he has done and will do.
With Loomis suspended the first 8 games, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Brees put a full court press on getting a new deal before the season starts. If Brees threatens to hold out, with no GM to offer him a contract, this bad situation could go nuclear. I’m very eager to watch how this all unfolds and as an Eagles fan, I’m very happy to see a potential competitor for the NFC crown treading water.
The Rams are going to lose Gregg Williams indefinitely. The official statement is that he’s gone for 2012 and will have to ask for reinstatement after the season. I’m assuming Gregg will have numerous hoops he will have to jump through in order to come back. Goodell does seem like a man who is quick to punish but eager to forgive. Mike Vick and Plaxico Burress were allowed back in the NFL after spending time in prison because Goodell was eager to give them a second chance he felt they deserved. If Gregg follows through on what Goodell wants, I expect to see him able to coach again in 2013.
The Rams now need to find a new defensive coordinator for at least 2012. Luckily they have Dave McGinnis on their staff, as the assistant head coach. McGinnis coached the LBs in Tennessee and before that was the head coach of the Cardinals. He has the experience and pedigree to handle the DC spot with Williams out. Still, this is hardly ideal. McGinnis is a solid coach, but doesn’t have nearly the track record of Gregg Williams (which I guess is good and bad).
The good news for the Rams is they weren’t going to the playoffs this year anyways so it’s not like they’ll lose as much as the Saints who before all of this were contenders. Gregg is a great DC but he can be replaced in 2013 if necessary and hopefully the Rams can fix their god awful QB coach situation. Yes, I still don’t like Frank Cignetti.
* * * * *
Somehow Tim Tebow getting traded became the 2nd biggest story of the day and 3rd biggest of the week. Tebow and a 7th round pick were traded to the NY J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS! for a 4th rounder and a 6th rounder. My immediate reaction? I may not be high on Tebow, but I’m really, really low on Mark Sanchez. I’ve said before that Sanchez is at best an average NFL QB at all traits required to be an NFL QB, not an average starter, an average QB including backups. I’d rather have Matt Moore or Kyle Orton than Sanchez.
This move instantly puts a ton of pressure on Sanchez. He needs to be pushed. The great ones like Brady and Peyton don’t need external motivation. They’ll create enemies if their internal motivation isn’t enough. Ever see Tom Brady complain about something petty regarding the Patriots not being considered the best? That’s him creating motivation for himself. Sanchez doesn’t do that. A guy with incredible internal motivation like Tebow will either force Sanchez to step up or crumble.
I also think New York is an ideal spot for Tebow. You won’t become a media darling in New York as easily as you would in Denver. The Giants just won the Super Bowl, the Rangers are 1st place in the Eastern Conference, and then there’s still some team named the “Yankees” that are apparently popular. Tebow can’t become bigger than himself if he starts winning some big games for the Jets because New York has seen it all and nothing short of championships really matter.
I actually do predict Sanchez will cave under the pressure. Tebow will play a decent amount in New York as the QB for non-injury reasons. The Jets will happily install some Wildcat stuff again with Tebow like they did with Brad Smith even before that. I also think no matter who is at QB, the Jets are at best 3rd in the division. Heck, it wouldn’t surprise me even with David Garrard at QB if the Miami Dolphins beat them.
So, what do you guys think? Will the Saints falter in 2012? Will Brees’ contract cause problems? Will Tebow play a decent amount at QB (not Wildcat) for the Jets and could they even make the playoffs with either?