Goodness me, the New Orleans Saints have landed themselves in quite the juicy pickle. The NFL is basically, at this moment, winding up Popeye style to deliver a debilitating haymaker right in the Saint’s kisser. Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, is this week meeting with his minions to decide the punishment for the Saints ‘bounty’ scheme, where they paid out extra dollars to players who injured and or sidelined opposition players.
After a Mulder and Scully like investigation the NFL has uncovered in a damning report that the Saints paid ‘’$1,500 for a "knockout" shot and $1,000 for a hit that results in a player being carted off the field’’ . The sensational NFL report found between 22 and 27 defensive players on the Saints, as well as former assistant coach Gregg Williams, ‘’maintained a bounty system for inflicting injuries on targeted players.’’ Payments under the scheme doubled or tripled for the playoffs.
The Saints appear to be offering zero resistance thus far, and indeed Williams called his role in the pool a "terrible mistake" when he issued a public apology late last week. Williams, in particular, has a lot to answer for. Williams was the Redskins' defensive coordinator from 2004 to '07. The below hit on Peyton Manning took place in that timeframe, and the good people of Indianapolis would like to talk to Gregg about it.
There is absolutely no doubt that Sean Payton, as head coach, knew about it. Unbelievably the league first investigated the Saints in early 2010, and issued a ‘cease and desist’ order. Payton knew about the order, as did Williams. Yet, still the bounty hunters plied their trade. New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson stepped in and directed the bounty program be discontinued immediately. However, they persisted. In its damning, positively toxic, release Friday afternoon, the NFL said Payton "was not a direct participant in the funding or administration of the program" but said "he was aware of the allegations, did not make any detailed inquiry or otherwise seek to learn the facts, and failed to stop the bounty program. He never instructed his assistant coaches or players that a bounty program was improper and could not continue."
Here’s where the whole story gets positively murky.
Murky waters: Ornstein (Grey t-shirt) and his buddies
The NFL review of the situation has uncovered a very shady character, hiding in the dark shadows of the Saints guilty conscience for the last six years. The NFL report has uncovered that a convicted felon named Michael Ornstein, on at least four occasions, pledged his own money to the Saints' defense's bounty fund. Ornstein was an NFL executive in charge of marketing but was convicted of fraud amounting to $350,000 in 1996. He reappeared a decade later, as the marketing agent who represented Reggie Bush when he turned pro. It subsequently came out that Ornstein was a central figure in providing Bush with illegal benefits while at USC. Despite this, Ornstein followed Bush to New Orleans and became a member of the Saints' inner circle.
Ornstein, who is disturbingly a close friend and confidant of Sean Payton, pledged $10,000 in 2009 toward knocking an opposing quarterback out of a game. In 2011 Ornstein made two separate contributions towards targeting the quarterback. Unfortunately for Payton, Ornstein made at least one of these damning pledges in email to his buddy, the head coach of the Saints. How does the NFL know this? They have the email!
This all leads to the Superbowl of 2009. It was during that Super Bowl season that Ornstein was allegedly offering $10,000 to players to injure opposing quarterbacks. In addition, the NFL said its research has concluded that the bounty pool amounts peaked in 2009, the year the Saints won the Super Bowl.
Here’s a simple solution.
Take the 2009 Superbowl off the Saints. Award it to the Colts. They were pretty much cheated out of it when the entire refereeing crew ignored the blatant, clear as day block in Manning’s back on the interception return that won it. Take the trophy off them, fine and suspend all players involved in this scandal, and, most of all, fine and ban both Williams and Payton. Saints owner Tom Benson must act and act with conviction to protect whatever dignity the Saints organization is left with, by sacking Payton.
The weight of evidence is heavily against both coaches. These two men are completely indefensible. They encouraged a system where players were maliciously trying to injure other players.
Neither man deserves to coach in the NFL ever again.