In the wake of his team’s first Super Bowl title, Saints Sean Payton has been a fairly gracious winner. In the wake of the NFL’s decision to change the overtime rule in the postseason, Payton is coming off as a sore loser.
In an interview with Peter King of Sirius NFL Radio, Payton said he’s “not a big fan” of the new rule, complaining that he’s “gonna have to spend a half an hour explaining it to my wife or any fan.”
It’s not that complicated. Sure, a casual, drive-by NFL fan might not understand it, and a casual, drive-by NFL fans might have more questions than the hard-core follower who’ll apply common sense to s rule that, put simply, prevents a team from winning by receiving the opening kickoff and scoring only a field goal. Otherwise, overtime is the same.
Payton also seemed to imply, as an astute reader characterized it, that the owners “shouldn’t be trusted with sharp objects.” Indeed, Payton claimed that a handful of the 28 owners who voted for the change “weren’t ready and prepared,” and that it was “perfect timing if trying to push this bill in.” (Payton presumably was referring in part to Saints owner Tom Benson, who voted in favor of the rule.)
Frankly, we don’t see much of a difference between Payton’s comments and last week’s inflammatory coin-flip statement from Jets owner Woody Johnson. Though Johnson’s mistrust of the league office came through more clearly, Payton is essentially claiming that dirty pool was played — that the league took advantage of some owners who presumably would have relied on their coaches for a recommendation, and whose coaches would have recommended a vote of “no,” possibly with a four-letter word preceding it.
Regardless of whether Payton is questioning the integrity of the league office, Payton would be wise to appreciate his place in the greater scheme of things. Unless and until he buys a franchise, he remains merely an employee, and not one of the persons with the privilege of making the rules. That remains a function of the league office and the owners, and coaches like Payton would be wise to realize that his presence at the annual meetings doesn’t give him any direct say over the decisions that his boss and 31 colleagues will make, or the procedures that they’ll use to do so.