Grey Area Politics

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At 12:51 p.m. yesterday, the reported the NFL’s announcement of the punishment for the New Orleans Saints regarding the bounty system they had. The Punishments are as follows:

  • Head coach Sean Payton suspended for one season without pay.
  • An indefinite ban on former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
  • Loss of the teams’ second round draft pick in this year’s as well as next year’s draft.
  • Assistant head coach Joe Vitt has been suspended for six games
  • GM Mickey Loomis has been banned for the first eight games of 2012
  • The team has been fined $500,000

Yeah. These bounties were totally worth it......

It is an incredible bit of news for the NFL. It means Sean Payton is now the first head coach to be suspended. For anything. And NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell isn’t even done there. According to several sources, 22 of the 27 Saints defensive players were in on the bounty system. What Goodell will do with these players remains to be seen.

A good majority of fans, players, and media types are quite upset over this news. And it is not for reasons related to how justly or unjustly the Saints were treated. A good majority in that clump of people believe this confirms that the 2006/2007 Patriots got off easy for cheating in the Super Bowl.

There really is no more despicable act outside of cheating.

While I will not argue with anyone that says the Patriots got off easy, I will not say the Saints penalty should be lessened because of it. Let us not forget what they are being punished for. The team had a bounty system that reward players (with money) for hurting opposing players. There have been rumors of bounty systems for years and this is time a team actually got caught.

Having a bounty system goes against everything football is about. Yes I know it is a violent sport, but the objective is not to hurt the opposing player. On defense, it is to prevent the other team from scoring. The second reason this goes against sports is the notion of taking players out of the game.

From my perspective, I want my teams to beat their rivals when they are at their best. It feels better and most of the time it results in a better game. A good example is the last two times the Steelers have beaten the New England Patriots. The first of those two came in their Super Bowl run of 2008. Tom Brady was out with a season-ending knee injury and the Steelers cruised to a 33-14 win in Foxboro.

This past season, the Steelers once again prevailed 25-17 at home against the Patriots. This time Brady was playing and as a  result, the game was closer. As a fan that felt a whole lot more satisfying.

If you are purposefully taking or attempting to take another teams’ QB or what have you out of the game, then you are cheating everyone: yourself, your team, fans, and the game. It is about as despicable an act as I have ever seen in the NFL or sports in general. That is why I am in full support of these actions by the league.

That being said, I would be lying if I said I did not feel the league should be more consistent with punishments. The Patriots got off lucky an they know it. A  It is part of the reason they were able to make that Super Bowl run in 2007. The NFL should have come up with similar sanctions for the Patriots.

Instead, what did the league do? They destroyed the evidence. We all know that, of course, but it still makes one wonder what was on those tapes (it couldn’t have been good).

Business man first, Commissioner second.

I am not sure what kind of advantage it gave the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI, but the footage had to help in some way. Goodell enjoys handing out massive fines for repeat offenders of “illegal” hits. Yet, when a huge scandal such as cheating comes about, the league goes all Nixon on everyone. A little consistency would go a long way, Mr. Goodell.

However, in a league that is more worried about TV ratings than transparency, it is clear that this kind of horse manure will continue. As for the Saints, they have a long road to recovery. Make no mistake, they will feel the effects both this year and beyond. For once, the punishment fits the crime, but that does not erase years of inconsistency.


Franchise Monday

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Today’s 5pm deadline for franchising players has brought a  whole slew of activity from various teams from around the league. Franchising a player means a player is slapped with the franchise tag. It gives the team essentially one year to wait to go into further contract negotiations. It is a guaranteed amount of money for the player. It is a win-win situation. Some of the key franchise tag uses of the day include:

  • According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Colts used their franchise tag on DE Robert Mathis. Mathis is a huge part of that vaunted Colts passrush. If the Colts are to successfully rebuild their team, then they will need veterans like Mathis to guide younger talent.
  • Lost in the talk of heroes from Super Bowl XLVI is Giants punter Steve Weatherford. Weatherford’s punting was nothing short of phenomenal on Super sunday. He consistently put the Patriots in bad field position. That forced the Pats to go the length of the field to score rather than quick strikes. It was his first quarter punt that helped lead to the first points of the game, a safety.
  • Another key special teamer getting the tag is Broncos kicker Matt Prater. The fifth-year kicker might have the strongest leg in the league. He was instrumental in some of the comeback wins for the Broncos and maybe does not get his due credit. I don’t see why after all of the game winning or tying kicks he made this season. Might I also add that those kicks were not chip-shots either. The Broncos just ensured themselves a clutch boot for at least another season.
  • Speaking of the Super Bowl the Patriots just gave Super Bowl goat  veteran WR Wes Welker the franchise tag. It is apparently worth over $9 million dollars. Welker is one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets and bringing him back made too much sense. It gives Welker another chance at a dropped pass Super Bowl championship.

This deadline also brought with it some key free agent signings. The big signing of the day is, of course, the Texans resigning star RB Arian Foster. To say that Foster has been a pleasant surprise would be an understatement. Foster was a beast in only 13 games last year where he piled up 1,224 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Fantasy owners in the Houston area are rejoicing.

The deal is for five years and is worth $43.5 million overall; $20.75 million of that is guaranteed. Beyond the obvious of this giving the Texans a chance at repeat postseason appearance, this signing (as well as one other) may have implications for other big-name free agents. The other signing is Bills WR Steve Johnson getting a five year, $36.25 million contract.

The player most likely affected by these deals in Pittsburgh WR Mike Wallace. The Steelers did not give the franchise tag to Wallace. that puts them in a big hole for resigning the young wideout. Wallace will most likely demand more money than what Johnson received from the Bills. That is not money that the Steelers can pay. It entirely possible that no team will try for Wallace.

Although not likely.....

It is also possible, with the Pats tagging Welker, that they are trying to keep room open for Mike Wallace. Wallace would the Patriots a scary group of targets for Brady and something they have not had in while: a deep threat. The Bengals are also another team that may have interest. Since the Steelers are only putting a franchise tender on Wallace, that gives these teams an opportunity to go after the speedster (did I mention that he’s fast?).

The Steelers are only $10 million under the cap limit thanks to the plethora of cuts they have made in the last week. Even with that kind of money it is not a given that the Steelers can compete with the Bengals or Patriots in a bidding war over Wallace. Time will tell, but the hits may be far from over for the Steelers organization.

Bounty Hunters

I know that there has been a lot of talk in recent days about the New Orleans Saints and their bounty program. Believe me I will be covering it. I am just soaking in the details and waiting for me concrete details to come out. If it is true then its truly one of the more despicable things to come out of the NFL in recent years.

The concept of paying a player extra money to injure someone goes against everything sports should stand for. I will not speculate in this blog what potential repercussions should be for the Saints. But I will say this: if the allegations are true (and it looks like they are) then the Saints need a clean house. Now.

I will be posting more on this in the coming days. And yes, ESPN, this is worse than Spy Gate. I would rather see a team cheat then do this. But more on that later. Until then, have a happy Monday everyone!