The appeal hearings on the penalties imposed against various members of the Saints organization were held four days ago. A ruling was possible, but not likely, on Friday. A quick decision, however, would have created the impression that Commissioner Roger Goodell didn’t seriously consider the arguments presented by the four entities who made their cases on Thursday.
Regardless, the matter won’t hold for much longer. Peter King of SI.com reports that a decision on the appeals is coming Monday or Tuesday, at the latest. King also says he’d be surprised if Goodell doesn’t impose discipline on the players involved in the bounty scandal this week.
King also believes (correctly, we believe) that last week’s bombshell audio from former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams won’t persuade Goodell to blame the whole thing on a “rogue coach” and show lenience to Sean Payton, Mickey Loomis, Joe Vitt, or the Saints organization.
If Williams was talking this way after the NFL put the Saints on notice that the investigation had been reopened, two years after the Saints successfully lied to the league about the non-existence of a bounty system, what was Williams saying in earlier pre-game meetings? What did he say the night before the Saints played the Cardinals and Kurt Warner in the NFC playoffs in 2009? The night before the Saints played the Vikings and Brett Favre for the conference title? The night before Saints played the Colts and Peyton Manning in Super Bowl XLIV? (Williams, by the way, had explained publicly before Super Bowl XLIV that his team would be attempting to apply “remember me” hits to Manning; Williams used that same term in his pre-game speech regarding 49ers quarterback Alex Smith.)
Before the now-infamous bounty bowl against Brett Favre, Payton danced toward the line over which Williams did a cannonball in January. “When you get older in life, you tend to get very careful, and a little more fearful,” Payton told the Saints on the eve of the team’s first-ever NFC championship win. “You start thinking about your own mortality. If it rains outside you might not go to the store, especially at night. You figure you’ll just wait it out. You might have somewhere to go and you tell yourself I don’t want to go there. You don’t want to get in a wreck.
“If you keep hitting [Favre] he’ll make a mistake. If we keep putting pressure on him he’ll start being careful, he’ll start doing anything he can to avoid getting hit and he’ll make a mistake. I promise you, if we hit him for four quarters, he’ll turn into that old man who’s scared of the rain.”
Those words — which caused no concerns when first disclosed by Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune — will now trigger feelings of discomfort, given Williams’ remarks before the Saints’ more recent game against the 49ers. And given Williams’ remarks from January 2012, it’s not a huge leap of logic to assume that Payton painted with a broad brush, and that Williams applied a surgeon’s scalpel to the various and sundry parts of Favre’s body that had been banged up over the years.
The fact that no one from the organization sounded the alarm after Williams said what he said about the 49ers means that no one sounded the alarm after any of his other postseason pre-game speeches, which quite possibly were as bad as, if not worse than, the things Williams said before what could end up being the last game he ever works for an NFL team.
Thus, even if Williams was a “rogue coach,” enough other members of the organization knew or should have known about it, and they failed to do anything to get him under control. Though it may not make things worse for Payton or Loomis or Vitt or the Saints organization, it won’t make things any better.