Many (the person typing this article included) believe that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell came down hard on the Saints for their alleged or actual bounty system in order to ensure that bounties would be forever eradicated from the game. The rampant reports and accounts of past bounty programs, coupled with an unwillingness by the NFL to explore the depths of the rabbit hole, serve only to strengthen the perception that Goodell’s plan is to plug the opening and declare victory.
If that’s the plan, Goodell delivered a speech under the “Mission Accomplished” banner on Thursday.
Per the Associated Press, Goodell said during a press conference the actions he took in response to the bounty situation “speak very loudly,” and that the teams have gotten the message.
“I heard that from our clubs, from our personnel,” Goodell said. “They recognize it’s not part of the game. It doesn’t need to be part of the game. And I don’t think it’s going to be an issue going forward.”
That’s a little premature, frankly. Coaches surely won’t be involved in bounties moving forward, but there’s no guarantee that players are out of the bounty business. Especially since they can manage their own bounty pools beyond earshot of coaches, on their own time and in their own man caves, garages, and/or watering holes of choice.
Moreover, with the penalties imposed against four players still pending on appeal, it’s possible that the final message won’t be very loud at all. And that players will continue to use cash to provide the kind of immediate recognition from their peers that no paycheck or contractual incentive payment ever can.
Of course, if the action against the Saints pushes the process so far underground that no one ever gets caught in the future, then no one ever will know it’s happening in the future — and the Commissioner’s proclamation will seem to be accurate.
Even if it isn’t.