NFL suspends Saints coaches, fines team $500K for “bounties”

posted at 2:30 pm on March 21, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Two big NFL stories hit at almost the same time today, and while one will undoubtedly be more popular, the other will have more real-world impact.  After the exposure of a “bounty” system in New Orleans in which players got rewarded for big hits that put opponents on the sidelines, everyone expected that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would have to take some action.  Today, he lowered the boom on the Saints, suspending head coach Sean Payton for the entire 2012 season and putting another coach on “indefinite suspension,” and tagged on a half-million-dollar fine as well (via Warren Sapp on Twitter):

Saints coach Sean Payton has been suspended for one year, former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was suspended indefinitely, general manager Mickey Loomis was suspended for eight regular-season games, the team was fined $500,000 and lost two second-round draft picks (one in 2012 and ’13) as a result of a bounty program conducted by the team during the 2009-11 seasons. …

Williams, now defensive coordinator of the Rams, has admitted to and apologized for running the program.

Payton and Loomis apologized and took the blame for violations that “happened under our watch,” but not until almost a week after the NFL pointed to them for failing to stop the program.

Rumors of bounty payments have floated for many years in the league, but this is the first time that the NFL has done anything significant about it.  Given the harsh penalties meted out to players for these hits, Goodell had little choice but to get tough with the Saints.  The league already faces legal action over the long-term effects of the game on players, and having its management participate in these bounties would have complicated their legal defense in the future unless the league imposed significant punishment.

The game is naturally tough enough on the health and longevity of players.  The 24-hour sports channels reward spectacular hits with plenty of airplay as it is.  The NFL did the right thing in cracking down on New Orleans, and it should follow suit on other teams who used the same kind of incentive systems aimed at knocking players out of games.

The other blockbuster story comes from New York, where Tim Tebow will land this season on the Jets’ runway:

Unusually quiet in recent weeks, the New York Jets shattered the calm Wednesday by completing a trade for polarizing quarterback Tim Tebow, the team confirmed.

The Jets will send a fourth-round pick to the Denver Broncos, a source said. …

Several teams expressed interest, including Tebow’s hometown Jacksonville Jaguars, but the Jets — perceived as a sleeper at the outset — pulled off the splashiest trade of the offseason.

This is a pretty strange trade.  Tebow might not have had all the skills in place, but he took the Broncos from 1-4 to the second round of the playoffs, and played very well against a tough but injured Pittsburgh Steelers defense.  If all Denver could get for him was a 4th-round pick, why bother at all?  Tebow could have played behind Peyton Manning and learned at the feet of the master for a couple more years, until Peyton was ready to hang up the cleats.  Denver would have had a seasoned vet on the bench who has already succeeded with the team in case Peyton goes down, and a stronger QB for the future.  Now they have to start all over again.  Meanwhile, Tebow will sit in New York behind Mark Sanchez, and probably end up creating a QB controversy there.

On the other hand, Denver VP John Elway paid Tebow a pretty nice compliment … on the way out the door, of course:

Tim Tebow’s a great kid. If I want someone to marry my daughter, it’s him,” Elway said. “Tim is a great football player, but with the opportunity that presented itself here, we had to take advantage of that.”

That really is a very nice thing for a father to say about a young man.  However, it’s somewhat diluted by Elway’s description of him as a “great football player,” considering he had just traded Tebow for a 4th-round pick.


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