In April, ESPN’s Outside the Lines strayed across the center line by sending John Barr to New Orleans with the apparent directive of digging up more dirt on the Saints. Eventually, Barr found a disgruntled former employee who claimed that G.M. Mickey Loomis had the ability to eavesdrop on opposing coaches in 2002.
The report wasn’t that Loomis ever used the system. But that Loomis had the ability to do it.
It sparked some intriguing, real-time ESPN-on-ESPN crime, with ESPN analyst Bill Polian arguing that there would be no benefit to such skullduggery, right on the heels of Barr breathlessly promoting his carefully-parsed-by-legal report.
It felt at the time like a Bernie Fine-style effort to compensate for the fact that ESPN was asleep at the switch through not one but two phases of the Saints bounty investigation. Though Bristol could take some solace in the fact that no one in the media knew about the bounty situation until the NFL pulled a 5:00 p.m. Friday bad-news dump in early March, no one else has enough reporters and analysts covering the league to rival a third-world infantry battalion (although the NFL itself is apparently trying to spark an arm’s race).
Now, OTL is back on the scene, with a profile of Saints coach Sean Payton due to debut on Sunday morning.
Since Payton has been suspended for a year and currently isn’t embroiled in any litigation with the league, a Payton profile doesn’t seem particularly newsworthy. Frankly, I’d rather hear more about interim coach Joe Vitt or linebacker Jonathan Vilma or Judge Helen G. Berrigan or the process for picking an interim interim coach.
Given the eavesdropping story, it’s hard not to wonder whether and to what extent the Payton profile will consist of kicking a dog while he’s down by dredging up outdated or marginally relevant claims. To the extent that the item delves into Payton’s notoriously contentious relationship with the media (especially in New Orleans), it’ll be interesting to see whether there’s anything in there that would be any different than if the profile were about Bill Belichick or Bill Parcells or Nick Saban or any other branch of the Tuna Tree.
Still, it’ll be worth checking it out, if only to see whether there’s another nugget of decade-old “news” aimed at making up for the fact that the bounty investigation was occurring right under the noses of ESPN’s NFL reporters and their network of sources.
Hopefully, Payton never gave anyone a wedgie in high school.