Saints quarterback Drew Brees has the team by the balls. And he knows it.
But he’s also sliding into the role of victim in the wake of the news that his head coach will be suspended for a full season, as of April 1.
“I am speechless,” Brees said Wednesday on Twitter. “Sean Payton is a great man, coach, and mentor. The best there is. I need to hear an explanation for this punishment.”
Apart from the fact that he wasn’t literally speechless, the notion that Brees needs to “hear an explanation” continues the not-so-subtle effort by Saints players to ignore the fact that: (1) these aren’t mere allegations; (2) the NFL has concluded that the bounty system was maintained for three full seasons; and (3) the NFL’s conclusions arise in large part from the fact that men like Sean Payton confessed to the behavior.
To make matters worse, the league concluded that Payton encouraged others to lie about the bounty system when the league investigated it in 2010 — and then presided over a coaching staff that inexplicably continued to maintain a bounty system for two more seasons.
It’s either abject stupidity or extreme arrogance or a little (or a lot) of both. They had pulled it off. They had gotten away with it. The NFL investigated (possibly half-heartedly) the allegations of a bounty, and the Saints said enough to get the NFL to go away.
Basically, the Saints had robbed the bank and avoided the cops. And then they went back and tried to rob the same bank two more times.
So now, while Brees is trying to comprehend why his head coach won’t be around this season, Brees and the Saints continue to be at impasse regarding his true value on a long-term deal. On one hand, he has the Saints right where he wants them. On the other hand, his subtle efforts to gain sympathy for the Saints will fall of deaf ears if he doesn’t bend on some of his own expectations, instead of simply concluding that the team now needs him more than he needs the team — and that owner Tom Benson unexpectedly has an extra $7.5 million to spend given the suspension of Sean Payton.
I continue to have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for Brees as a football player. He has been, over the past six years, the very best quarterback in the league. And he’s a nice guy, a great teammate, a devoted husband, and a loving father.
But this may not be a good look for him. Apart from the fact that many of you think he knew that the bounty system existed, he can’t wrap himself in the fleur de lis while trying to hijack the franchise financially at a time when the franchise desperately needs the positive vibes that would come from a new five-year contract with Brees.
That said, the Saints also need to be reasonable. Instead of pumping fists regarding the impact of Tom Brady’s reduced cap number for 2012 on the exclusive franchise tender that will be owed to Brees for 2012, the organization needs to make a fair offer to Brees that reflects his value as a quarterback and a leader in a season when the Saints desperately will need one. And Brees needs to begin acting like the leader he is by finding a way to get a contract in place that pays him fairly for what he means to the team without further impacting its ability to do business during a season in which achieving the ultimate goal suddenly has gotten a lot more challenging.