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Tagliabue walks tightrope to exonerate players, protect Goodell

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Using the wisdom of Solomon and/or the eyesight of Magoo, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue has taken a case in which there was no middle ground and created it.

In a confusing announcement that NFL spokesman Greg Aiello has posted piecemeal on Twitter (which only made it more confusing), Tagliabue has both agreed with Commissioner Roger Goodell that there was a bounty program in New Orleans and disagreed that the players involved should be punished in any way.

It’s an extraordinary outcome, vacating the player suspensions while also insulating Goodell from scrutiny for any of the failings of the investigation or prosecution of the players.  Most importantly, the decision avoids making Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma’s defamation case against Goodell stronger, by pointing out that Tagliabue believes there was a bounty on Vikings quarterback Brett Favre in the 2009 NFC title game.

So why weren’t the players punished?  Tagliabue seems to appreciate the biggest reality that Goodell did not:  Football players don’t question the authority of their coaches.  And so the blame rightly was placed on the people who ran the operation, and not on players who were merely applying clean, legal hits and hoping to receive the equivalent of a helmet sticker for doing their jobs so well that it helped the team win games via attrition.

Look for both sides to declare victory on this one.  The fact that the league, which always seems to get to do whatever it wants to do, ultimately didn’t enforce a suspension of any kind on any player means that the players won in blowout fashion.

Tagliabue, meanwhile, did the right thing while also doing the smart thing.  He has concluded that the players should not be punished while helping to shield a client of his law firm from significant civil liability.

In the end, Tagliabue’s commentary may not matter in a court of law.  But at least he tried to avoid making Vilma’s defamation case strong, while also essentially declaring that, as to the punishment, Goodell got it wrong.

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71 Responses to “Tagliabue walks tightrope to exonerate players, protect Goodell”
  1. winkeroni says: Dec 11, 2012 1:43 PM

    Code Red

  2. robf2010 says: Dec 11, 2012 1:44 PM

    This is the settlement the players rejected. “Admit guilt and we won’t punish you”. The players should reject this, too.

  3. marionbarber24isgod says: Dec 11, 2012 1:44 PM

    Still think there should be some consequences for their actions.

  4. jkb0162 says: Dec 11, 2012 1:44 PM

    Don’t wish to blame the players too much but isn’t this comparable to the Nuremberg defense? If their was a crime the leaders on defense should be equally culpable. Otherwise the NFL needs to throw out the case entirely.

  5. broncostevenp says: Dec 11, 2012 1:44 PM

    Honestly I don’t care anymore….I just want it to be over.

  6. bunjy96 says: Dec 11, 2012 1:44 PM

    Tags is wrong!

  7. Punk says: Dec 11, 2012 1:44 PM

    Score a major point for Tagliabue!

  8. myroncopesflask says: Dec 11, 2012 1:45 PM

    good job mr former commish!!! any chance you could come and be mr current commish again??

  9. sdisme says: Dec 11, 2012 1:45 PM

    Looks like Vilma is continuing his defamation suit. Mr. Benson and Sean Payton should join in.

  10. reed20fence says: Dec 11, 2012 1:45 PM

    So in summary, let’s all agree to blame the guys that aren’t management, and don’t have a union to protect their interests.

  11. hor2012 says: Dec 11, 2012 1:46 PM

    Ok, now I want to know what does he base is conclusion on that there was a bounty. You don’t punch someone in the face and the act like you were right without fighting. Paul Tagliabue knows that there wasn’t a bounty. But, he’s saying that because he knowns that Vilma isn’t going to drop the suit. So, he wasn’t going to do anything to make things worse than the already are.

  12. bucrightoff says: Dec 11, 2012 1:46 PM

    Pretty much like the OJ and Casey Anthony verdicts: We know they did it, but there will be no consequences.

  13. irishjugalo says: Dec 11, 2012 1:46 PM

    Maybe Tagliabue has enough left in the tank for another tenure as commish?

  14. ironmike778 says: Dec 11, 2012 1:47 PM

    Tagliabue got it right. The punishment from Goodell was ridiculous.

  15. gobuccs1280 says: Dec 11, 2012 1:47 PM

    Do the crime, don’t do any time, blame it on someone else (the Coaches). Welcome to the new ‘Merica.

  16. northeastkiller says: Dec 11, 2012 1:48 PM

    Tagliabue, meanwhile, did the right thing while also doing the smart thing. He has concluded that the players should not be punished while —-helping to shield a client of his law firm from significant civil liability.——

    Exactly. See you back in court.

  17. dequan81 says: Dec 11, 2012 1:48 PM

    Is it over now? Can we move on? The Saints got punished and they SUCK. So are we good now?

  18. clickablecontent says: Dec 11, 2012 1:48 PM

    Wow… okay… well that works. Now let’s watch some football.

  19. johnnyjagfan says: Dec 11, 2012 1:49 PM

    That’s some fine lawyering! Pay the man!

  20. cwwgk says: Dec 11, 2012 1:49 PM

    Sheer brilliance. Renders the verdict that the allegations by Goodell were true then negates the players need/ability to appeal.

    Check. Mate

  21. kattykathy says: Dec 11, 2012 1:49 PM

    Judge Berrigan isn’t going to let Tags get away with this. You cant say they did it, but vacate their punishments.
    This is only to help protect Goodell from the wrath of Vilma. But Judge Berrigan will see this for exactly what it is.

    Saints players, Joe Vitt, and Sean Payton are innocent. Restore the draft picks, and reimburse the fine money.

    Goodell should be fired for embarrasing the league and tarnishing the shield. Judge Berrigan and Jonathan Vilma are not going to let Tags protect Goodell. Roger is toast.!!!!!!!

  22. myroncopesflask says: Dec 11, 2012 1:49 PM

    Step 1 cancel sham suspensions. Step 2 time for Roger to beg Vilma to drop his lawsuit. If I was Vilma I spend every penny I just got back from the overturned suspensions and make little Roger answer for his silly little game.

  23. samanthasteeleruinedmyqb says: Dec 11, 2012 1:49 PM

    Except they weren’t clean, legal hits. They were cheap shots designed to take the guy out of the game.

  24. Beezo-Doo-doo-Zippity-Bop-bop-bop says: Dec 11, 2012 1:49 PM

    So now if a player test’s positive for PEDs he can say his coach told him to do it and not face suspension?

  25. dws123 says: Dec 11, 2012 1:50 PM

    Not a good look, Mr. Goodell.

  26. purpwalk says: Dec 11, 2012 1:51 PM

    lawyers, what a joke

    no wonder they often go into politics

  27. cometkazie says: Dec 11, 2012 1:52 PM

    Two wrongs . . .

  28. FinFan68 says: Dec 11, 2012 1:52 PM

    So…Goodell was right about the bounties BUT Goodell was wrong about the punishment? I understand what Tags is trying to do but it doesn’t pass the common sense test from either side’s viewpoint.

    The players will be happy that they won’t be punished but unhappy that they were still told they did something wrong.

    The league will be happy that their findings were upheld but unhappy that the punishments were eliminated.

    The problem with this is the CBA grants Goodell the authority to issue punishment as he sees fit. Whether you agree with the findings or the appeal ruling or not, Tags added another element into the mix. What exactly is the commissioner allowed to do when it comes to meting out punishment/discipline? I personally believe that the suspensions were a bit harsh but I fully believe he had the authority to do it. What now?

  29. brenenostler says: Dec 11, 2012 1:53 PM

    Just because people are told to do something doesn’t mean they should do it. Joe Paterno was told to stay quiet about the Penn State scandal….doesn’t mean he did the right thing.

  30. thebrownswillalwaysloose says: Dec 11, 2012 1:54 PM

    That’s all folks!

  31. samapoc says: Dec 11, 2012 1:54 PM

    Hopefully this quiets all the accusers on this website. But the Saints’ season is still ruined and the coaches lost a lot of money, in particular Sean Payton, from this debacle.

    The only winners here are the attorneys who billed for working on this ridiculous case.

  32. purpleguy says: Dec 11, 2012 1:54 PM

    Can this now be over and never discussed again — please?

  33. radbob1 says: Dec 11, 2012 1:54 PM

    This ruling was just a way to keep this out of court. NFL shifts blames to coaches who have no way to defend themselves like the players do with the cba.

  34. azarkhan says: Dec 11, 2012 1:54 PM

    Clearly there was a bounty program in place, otherwise Sean Payton, Joe Vitt and Mickey Loomis would not have been suspended (nor would they have accepted the leagues discipline if they were innocent). Their cover-up is apparently what “contaminated” the NFL’s case against the players. Nevertheless, the message has been sent and it’s doubtful bounties will ever again be used by NFL teams.

  35. aintasinner says: Dec 11, 2012 1:56 PM

    Big sham from the beginning. First they were punished for an illegal pay for injury program, then it was for an illegal pay for performance program, then it was for lying to the NFL about the illegal pay fir performance program, and now they aren’t being punished at all even though the NFL claims to have evidence they ran a bounty program! Unbelievable!!!

  36. weareluckytohavemikeflorio says: Dec 11, 2012 1:58 PM

    and the fix is in…. one has to wonder how much was spent by the players on out of pocket legal fees…

  37. stampnhawk says: Dec 11, 2012 1:58 PM

    Players knew what they were doing was wrong, and play the innocent “sheep getting lead to slaughter” card, as grown men, only when it serves their best purpose.

    Whatever, that year’s team, and those players are still tainted, no matter how creativity (and full credit to) Tagliabue, words it.

    And with that, lets close the door on this topic goes the way of the lockout/NFLPA decertification talk from 16 months ago on this site also did…and concentrate time and effort for all things Tebow.

  38. vilma4commish says: Dec 11, 2012 1:58 PM

    samapoc…. The players’ reps were through the NFLPA except Vilma’s.. These lawyers are on retainers by the NFLPA, and didnt receive additional pay for this case. Ginsberg is Vilma’s attorney, who is also on retainer. Sean payton is being paid through the New Orleans Hornets. Not sure if its the same amount, but he is definitely receiveing a check.

  39. FinFan68 says: Dec 11, 2012 2:01 PM

    The only way this makes sense is if Tags is saying that the players are guilty of participating in a bounty system BUT these players should not have been singled out from the rest of the players that also participated. It’s not like Goodell could have suspended the whole team. Maybe he should have fined them all and moved on.

  40. agdre22 says: Dec 11, 2012 2:04 PM

    I don’t understand how any except a lawyer could argue that what the Saints did was NOT a bounty program?? I mean the TEAM was warned to STOP this program and they didn’t. Sean Payton admitted he told others to LIE. Taglibue is a joke.

  41. oaktown49er says: Dec 11, 2012 2:04 PM

    I can’t believe I miss Tagliabue. I would still like to see further review of spygate. Of the extra speaker in Brady’s helmet, the opposing team’s radios going out at NE and the strange results against the spread. All these things were detailed in the spygate book. Sorry, that was totally off topic.

  42. musicman495 says: Dec 11, 2012 2:04 PM

    Cancel my campaign for Tagliabue for Hall of Fame. Talk about unintelligible. Sheesh.

  43. CaJonMcChicken says: Dec 11, 2012 2:06 PM

    I dont agree with the verdict. Its not like the coaches held a gun to the players head. The players made a choice and CHOSE to participate. What happened to manning up and accepting the consequences for your own decisions?

  44. bearnmind says: Dec 11, 2012 2:06 PM

    And the important statement is in your story is Tags shielded a client of his law firm. This decision makes no sense and won’t satisfy anyone. It’s lacking integrity. You can’t split the baby. As a Saints fan, have the backbone to either punish then or admit the investigation was wrong. This is crap. And the fact that it was a former NFL Commish who works for the law firm that represents the NFL just guaranteed that no clarity would ever come to this situation.

  45. thestrategyexpert says: Dec 11, 2012 2:06 PM

    Let this be a lesson to all young people. If you witness a crime, don’t help out or rat the guilty parties out. It’s best to keep your mouth shut and not help with finding truth or achieving justice, hire a lawyer and let the rest of society try to solve crimes or make things right, why should you get involved with your time and effort when you can get rewarded for not contributing and cooperating. Don’t confess to your involvement in any of those crimes either, just lie about them too.

    In fact don’t ever take responsibility at any point in life for anything. He or she that breaks the law or commits immoral or unethical acts the most while still getting away with it gets the most free spoils to the detriment of the honest and fair people that play by the rules. That’s the message you are being taught from the big boys with the big power and money.

    So make your choice kids, live like a bigshot or live like a victim. Or be a lawyer and win no matter what.

  46. jimmygrahamchrisivory says: Dec 11, 2012 2:08 PM

    The hell with Vilma & co. I wanna know if we’re getting our draft picks back!!!

  47. thefacts121 says: Dec 11, 2012 2:10 PM

    They weren’t clean, legal hits. The Saints committed several roughing the passer penalties in the NFC title game including one unnecessary roughness penalty for hitting Favre on a running play. To say that they were clean, legal hits is just not in accord with a reality where they were penalized multiple times for dirty, illegal play.

  48. bucs13 says: Dec 11, 2012 2:10 PM

    This is an unexpected, but fair, outcome (based on what has been reported).

    Despite what some Saints backers have tried to say, the evidence is pretty overwhelming that there was an illegal bounty program run by the Saints coaches, and that Saints management lied and covered it up. The Saints organization and the coaches have been rightfully punished for both the program and the coverup.

    It’s a little harder for the players. Goodell wanted to send a message re: player safety. There is evidence that the programs was in place, and perhaps that these players were involved. However, this was team wide. Why should these players be singled out for punishment (not equitable)? Why should these players be punished for following what they assumed to be standard team procedure that the management was having them follow, and didn’t result in excessive penalties or fines? Moreover, management covered it up, thereby obstructing the Leagues investigation into which players (if any) were truly culpable.

    Seems about right.

  49. agdre22 says: Dec 11, 2012 2:11 PM

    People actually miss Taglibue?? Lol what a joke. The guy let the NFL get infested with bad character guys. He refused to discipline Ray Lewis when he was arrested for triple murder and later pled guilty to obstructing justice, and perjury. He refused to discipline Nate Newton when he was busted with 40 kilos of cocaine. Taglibue was finally forced out by the owners when the NFL’s image was in shambles. Say what you will about Goddell, but he cleaned the NFL up.

  50. clownworldmovies says: Dec 11, 2012 2:11 PM

    marionbarber24isgod says:
    Dec 11, 2012 1:44 PM
    Still think there should be some consequences for their actions.

    They went from a 13-3 team to 5-8.

    Most of the world calls them cheaters (and worse).

    And you say there were no consequences?

  51. mungman69 says: Dec 11, 2012 2:11 PM

    I’m confused.

  52. kenstabler says: Dec 11, 2012 2:12 PM

    I really blame Al Davis for the current demise of the NFL. His fight and winning against the NFL to move to Los Angles against Pete Rozelle made the NFL realize that they needed lawyers in the front office, and not a pubic relations specialist like Rozelle. We are now seeing the seeds of this with all the regulation changes, massive fines and the basic flag football regulation of the game. TAGS, and GODDELL took over after Rozelle, both high profile lawyers. Not football people, lawyers!!!. The game used to be run by football people. Sorry to say, those days are gone. I hope GODDELL gets fired, or at least vote to make a four year term for the commissioner, so he can not become Caesar, ruler of all, guilty or not guilty and feed those people to the lions for sport and media glory.

  53. gurnblanstonreturns says: Dec 11, 2012 2:13 PM

    John Mara, via his minion Goodell, got the Saints, Cowboys and Redskins this offseason. It is the Mara Football League. Beware Falcons and Niners – this year’s success only puts you in Baby John’s sights. Mara is a disgrace to his father and exhibit A against inheriting a football franchise.

  54. cags777 says: Dec 11, 2012 2:13 PM

    If Vilma gets hurt, I won’t feel the least bit sorry. He was given a gift today. If he’s wise, he’ll drop the defamation suit.

  55. lancer255 says: Dec 11, 2012 2:15 PM

    Did you order a code red!!!

  56. macbull says: Dec 11, 2012 2:15 PM

    But, the truth may yet be forced out of Roger Goodell as Vilma continues to pursue his defamation lawsuit.

    I want to see Roger Goodell under oath because the truth is more important than anything else in this case.

    In light of Tagliabue’s ruling, attempting to support Roger Goodell, but claiming the case was mishandled should be seen for what it is…a cop out by the NFL.

    I would not doubt the NFL already has offer on the table in an effort to make Vilma’s defamation suit go away.

    The NFL has been a mess since the owner’s voted Roger Goodell as their commissioner…and it’s not just the Bounty case.

    Time for the owners to face the real problem…the guy they chose as NFL Commissioner…Goodell needs to be replaced.

  57. bdoubleoey says: Dec 11, 2012 2:15 PM

    I love how the Saints fans are saying they won (something they havent been able to do much this year). Tags said the coaches are guilty and the players were only doing what they were told to do. So to say there was no such thing as a bounty would be idiotic. Tags said there was evidence of wrong doing but it fell more on the coaches. So Saints fans you were not found not guilty, they were found guilty. But Im sure you will spin this any way you can to make you look like a victim.

  58. RavenzGunnerz says: Dec 11, 2012 2:16 PM

    This will forever tarnish Godell’s legacy, not that it wasn’t tarnished anyways.

  59. elyasm says: Dec 11, 2012 2:17 PM

    Decisions like this are why the NFL experienced its greatest growth in popularity under the watchful eye (and laissez-faire hand) of Tagliabue, and why Goodell has been such a shocking disappointment at the position ever since.

  60. bgrab1 says: Dec 11, 2012 2:19 PM

    Now that the shame of an NFL witch hunt has been exposed I want the Saints draft picks and all the coaches back. I want monetary damages for Team , players and fans who have had to endure this shame of an NFL season.

    The league explains that everything was contaminated by the Saints organization?

    Who conducted the investigation?

    Who conducted the interviews with players?

    Who leaked out stories for the press?

    Who collected the evidence?

    Oh yea, that’s right, the Saints Organization did all of that…. WHAT???
    This is simply verbal judo trying to slide blame somewhere other than RG.

    Fire Roger Goodell ASAP I dont want to see that man in my city come February.

  61. thesmedman says: Dec 11, 2012 2:19 PM

    Advantage, Judge Berrigan.

  62. randomguy9999 says: Dec 11, 2012 2:20 PM

    while in black and white it’s really ugly…reality is…. Taggy probably ended all the legal wrangling and the players have still been punished significantly and the lawyers made a LOT of money

    everybody loses, but the biggest loser as far as career, magnitude of money in comparison to pay, and common sense is Vilma.

    He’s putting in a way substandard year for him and now has a rep for being a pain…. and that will get factored in at contract time for sure…. combine that with the huge lawyer bill and giving up a chance at a mid career recharge year off that probably would have added 2-3 years to his career…. at the end of the day… no way he’s better off for doing this…

    but lawyers are very convincing at saying “don’t take that! we can win! lets fight at $450 an hour!” …… lol

  63. thesmedman says: Dec 11, 2012 2:20 PM

    Time to rehire Mr Tagliabue.

  64. monkeesfan says: Dec 11, 2012 2:22 PM

    Tags is too good to everyone (which is probably why he was the best commissioner the league has ever had). The reality is Goodell LIED. The so-called “bounty” was simply REAL FOOTBALL. Punishing coaches is wrong as well because it’s real football. No one has a right to protest Vilma going after Brett Favre because Favre is Vilma’s enemy; they are supposed to defeat the enemy.

    Goodell skates because Tags doesn’t want any more damage to the shield. That’s a noble sentiment, but the harsh reality is Goodell is a cancer to the game and the reality that he lied about the Saints just as he’d lied about the Patriots before that should disqualify him from his job.

  65. cowboycjn says: Dec 11, 2012 2:30 PM

    Saints fans say he has won BECAUSE – if what he did was so wrong, Why is there no up-holding the suspension??
    Other people (those wishing & relishing on hearing the most negative) won’t accept the fact that it is far from over. Not only Vilma’s case aganist R.G. but also the fans case aganist the NFL for wrecking the Saints season is just starting and this only adds ammunition for them to reach positive end results. Wait you haven’t seen anything yet.

  66. kattykathy says: Dec 11, 2012 2:30 PM

    bdoubleoey says: Dec 11, 2012 2:15 PM

    I love how the Saints fans are saying they won (something they havent been able to do much this year). Tags said the coaches are guilty and the players were only doing what they were told to do. So to say there was no such thing as a bounty would be idiotic. Tags said there was evidence of wrong doing but it fell more on the coaches. So Saints fans you were not found not guilty, they were found guilty. But Im sure you will spin this any way you can to make you look like a victim.

    **************************************

    Kind of like how you are spinning this to make YOU look like the victim?

  67. dexterismyhero says: Dec 11, 2012 2:34 PM

    5-8…..HaHa!

  68. dartwick says: Dec 11, 2012 2:51 PM

    Welcome to the NFL Hall of Fame Paul Tagliabue.
    You are now welcome to join.

  69. Patskrieg dot com says: Dec 11, 2012 2:52 PM

    In Boston when you appeal a parking ticket that you can 100% prove you didn’t deserve you get a letter from the city telling you that you’re wrong, you’ve always been wrong, you should learn how to park, but they’re going to drop your fine even though they were right the whole time.

    That’s what this sounds like.

  70. clu1perceiver says: Dec 11, 2012 3:01 PM

    Basically, Goodell used his CBA powers to take player culpability a charge too far. The widely winked at rules against pay for performance, morphed into a “bounty” program with aggressive language, but little on field evidence of pay for illegal hits. The problem is, was, and will be that the game is violent by nature and players can be “carted off” without the contact being illegal. The original penalties were excessive and symbolic as far as the players are concerned; a bulwark against current and future legal issues.

  71. bdoubleoey says: Dec 11, 2012 5:52 PM

    KattyKathy-shows how ignorant and blind you are. Your post earlier talks about how the coaching staff is innocent after this. Where did you see that? They didn’t even say the players were innocent. Tags said the player and the player only suspensions were too much for the bounty system. So if you find where it says Innocent you will prove me wrong and everyone else. This is a small victory for the players and the players only. And I am not a Victim of this, I have no horse in this race. So take off your Gold and Black glasses and use that mass in between your ears and try and put a decent answer back.

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