Peyton’s next place of employment has eclipsed, for now, the Saints’ bounty system as the NFL’s top story. That could change once Commissioner Roger Goodell metes out discipline to those involved in the cash-for-crippling conspiracy.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Rams expect to learn the fate of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams this week. Unless Goodell plans to hand out punishment in piecemeal fashion, this means that all of the other various sanctions on folks like Saints coach Sean Payton and G.M. Mickey Loomis and the Saints organization itself will come out this week, too.
As to Williams, we’ve heard that there’s support within the league for a lifetime ban. There’s also concern that a banishment would not survive a legal challenge under the same antitrust laws on which the players relied a year ago today, after shutting down the union and wiping out the league’s multi-employer labor exemption. In something closer to English, the NFL consists of 32 separate businesses, and if they band together and refuse to employ Gregg Williams, the NFL could be violated the antitrust laws.
That’s why the end result could be a lengthy suspension (one year or more), and a termination of employment by the Rams, for cause. (Firing Williams for cause would cut off his right to pay. His contract undoubtedly contains a provision mandating that any legal challenges be resolved via arbitration. Arbitration conducted by the league office.)
Then, if no NFL team ever hires him again, he essentially has been banned for life, without being banned for life.
As one league source explained it to PFT recently, the only flaw in this approach is that one of Williams’ friends in the coaching profession may hire him several years down the road, after this incident becomes a faded memory. Thus, the only way to truly ban Williams for life may be to indeed ban him for life.
It’s unknown at this point whether the NFL will go that far. Combining the three-year use of a bounty system in New Orleans with consistent and repeated lies to the NFL about the use of the bounty system with, quite possibly, further falsehoods about the use of bounty systems with prior teams, ending Williams’ NFL career could be the best way to ensure that no one uses bounties again — and that anyone caught breaking the rules in the future won’t deny it until backed into a corner with irrefutable proof.
The range of penalties for Payton and Loomis is far less clear. We’re told that Goodell will be careful not to make the Saints non-competitive, even though there’s a belief in some circles that Loomis deserves as harsh a punishment as Williams. As to Payton, a short suspension may be rendered meaningless, unless the league plans to monitor his whereabouts and communication habits around the clock. For any suspension less than a year, he’ll be able at a minimum to work on game plans in which he’ll be involved after the suspension.