The bounty case has only ever mentioned two quarterbacks whom the Saints faced on their early 2010 run to the Super Bowl: former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner and former Vikings quarterback Brett Favre. Though common sense suggests that the team’s defensive attitude also applied to former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning — especially since former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams had said that the team hoped to apply “remember me” hits to the New Orleans native — no evidence had pointed to a pointed effort to target Peyton.
The 22-page written ruling from former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue implies otherwise. Though the name “Peyton Manning” appears nowhere in the document, Tagliabue’s characterization of PowerPoint slides that had not previously been disclosed suggests that information encouraging an effort to knock Manning out of Super Bowl XLIV was given to the Saints players after they had beaten Arizona and Minnesota.
Here’s the full quote from Tagliabue’s ruling, with emphasis added:
“The record includes PowerPoint slide presentations made by the Saints’ coaching staff to Saints’ players following the Saints’ victories in 2009 season playoff games against the Arizona Cardinals (with quarterback Kurt Warner) and the Minnesota Vikings (with quarterback Brett Favre). Several of these presentations are very graphic and suggest that the aim of the Saints’ defense was to injure these quarterbacks. For example, one slide set following the game against the Cardinals includes a photo of Kurt Warner lying on the ground with a caption: ‘SO WE WILL JUST DESTROY EACH QUARTERBACK LEAVING EACH TEAM WITHOUT A FIELD GENERAL! ONE DOWN TWO QB’S TO GO!’ . . . . Another slide set from after the NFC Championship game again includes photos of Kurt Warner lying on the field with a caption of ‘BOO F***ING HOO MISSION ACCOMPLISHED VS. WARNER AND FAVRE’; and the next slide includes photos of Brett Favre being helped off the field and of his bruised and bandaged ankle and leg, with a caption of ‘ONE MORE QB TO GO!!!!‘”
The “ONE MORE QB TO GO” was Peyton Manning. And though the Saints never injured Peyton Manning via the application of legal or illegal hits, he surely was a target. The slides to which Tagliabue refers prove it.