Tagliabue ruling underscores lack of due process for coaches


Tuesday’s ruling from Commissioner Paul Tagliabue proves that players have due process — as long as they are willing to fight tooth and nail for it.

And the ability of the players to push back against the NFL via the protections under the CBA and federal law flows from their union status.  Coaches like Sean Payton, Joe Vitt, and Gregg Williams don’t have a union to support them, and so they didn’t have the ability to force the kind of fair hearing that the players eventually received.

This isn’t to say that the coaches should have escaped suspensions.  But when reading portions of Tagliabue’s ruling regarding the proper way to change culture or to prove a connection between tough talk and dirty deeds, it’s hard to imagine that a one-year suspension would have been upheld for Sean Payton, who has been kicked out of the sport for a year because he failed to supervise his defensive coordinator, and because Payton said once the investigation was launched that the assistant coaches should “make sure our ducks in a row.”

In fairness to Payton, “making sure our ducks are in a row” doesn’t necessarily mean “making sure our lies are in a row.”  Lawyers routinely prepare witnesses before hearings and trials not with the goal of suborning perjury but of ensuring that an inadvertent misstatement of fact doesn’t provide the opposition with an unintended “gotcha” moment.

Even if Payton was telling the coaches to lie about the existence of a bounty program, the lack of an obvious connection between words and on-field misconduct coupled with the realities that made pay-for-performance programs an accepted part of NFL culture arguably make a one-year suspension for Payton too much.

But since Payton had too little protection, it’s too late to do anything about it.

16 responses to “Tagliabue ruling underscores lack of due process for coaches

  1. Hey, I work in a union shop. When you go into management, you leave the union, and it’s protections, behind. You’re a “company man” now, and if the company wants to whack you, they do it. In the words of Bruce Hornsby “That’s just the way it is”

  2. Due process or not it doesnt change the fact that the Saints coaches and players are cheaters and scumbags.

    These players and coaches preached intentionally hurting other players. With multiple late hits and intential hits to the head and knees of oposing quarterbacks and other skill players. Personally I think they should have gotten more from the league. The 2009 playoffs will always have an asterix next ot it along with 2002 playoffs. The 2009, 2010 saints are an embarssment to the other players that do not intentionally try to hurt one another because we realize what a blessing it is to be able to play in this league. These players and coaches had no respected for other players heath or careers. They are a true disgrace to professional athletes.

  3. As the dust continues to settle, it doesn’t appear that the more extensive hearings conducted by Tagliabue produced any additional evidence. At least none that contributed to his decision.

    Tagliabue made the identical conclusions that Goodell announced back in March: 1) the Saints operated a program that rewarded the occurrence of injuries to opposing players; and 2) the Saints took great measures to cover it up.

    If the coaches had been afforded the same evidentiary hearing the outcome could easily have been worse. So I don’t see where that was an issue in this situation.

    The largest lesson for management and coaches has got to be the mandate to cooperate with the league as a whole. Probably the most underscored aspect of this whole fiasco was the complete disregard of the league’s interests as a whole by the Saints organization. It was specifically pointed out in yesterday’s opinion that if the Saints had cooperated with the league, the matter would have been resolved the course of weeks, not months. Certainly, there would have been no need to resort to the judicial system.

    Tagliabue’s opinion speaks volumes towards this issue. In light of the concussion lawsuits an new medical realities, the NFL has to change some fairly ingrained practices and attitudes. It’s an incredibly difficult task with which Goodell is faced. In addition, he’s going to be immensely unpopular for the changes necessary to correct something he didn’t create.

    Unlike Rozelle and steroids, Goodell doesn’t have the benefit of a simple drug test to enforce new rules. He is utterly reliant on every team’s cooperation. If they don’t police themselves, the necessary changes won’t occur.

    As such the NFL is clearly putting the onus on teams to institute its new policies. There is a new premium on compliance with directives from the league office.

    So the hammer had to drop hard on the Saints, its management and coaches. They flipped the bird at the league office. No amount of due process would have changed the discipline for their defiance.

  4. Basically Tags completely blamed the Saints organization and Coaches. To me much of the information in the summary is very inappropriate, because the Saints nor Payton was there to defend what was said. After all this was player appeals, but yet somehow Tags ruling is mostly about the non-represented coaches and team.

    I assume this was done to protect Goodell, but I can’t see it going unnoticed. For example Tags said:

    Saints’ coaches and managers led a deliberate, unprecedented and effective effort to obstruct the NFL’s investigation into the Program and the alleged bounty.’’

    My question is what does this have to do with player appeals? And did Payton, Benson & Loomis have representation defending this during appeals? Who presented this evidence?

    Even worse Tags said this:
    “It is important to note that Commissioner Goodell has been forced to address the issues of misconduct by some individuals in the Saints’ organization since early 2010 to the present.”

    Is he talking about Vicodin? Why is this brought up in player appeals?

  5. God-dell went after these guys like a junkyard dog to a bone. He fabricated, blew out of proportion, and flatly lied about things in order to disembowel this organization.

    He should be fired simply due to the fact that he destroyed franchise for this year and maybe beyond and did horrible damage to the coaches and players “involved”.

    The NFL stands for Not For Long – the limited windows that these coaches, players and franchises have, demands more than a Commissioner with a God complex.

    Add in the players strike and the Ref debacle for good measure an God-dell should be fired, plain and simple.

  6. skidooman93 says:
    Dec 12, 2012 10:32 AM
    Due process or not it doesnt change the fact that the Saints coaches and players are cheaters and scumbags.
    Your so fair, and unbiased in your commenting.
    Please tell me more fair commenter, for your words hold such meaning and weight in all of our daily lives.

  7. I see people still hating on the Saints. Never once did Tags say Saints intended to injure any player. He did however say Saints had a pay for performance program. He justified the organization & coaches’ punishments by saying they were told not to have a salary cap violation program but continued to do so. Understand that under Tags’ own words, IF it’s ever found that the Packers have a pay for performance program, the organization will be fined $500K, the head coach will be suspended for 1 year, the coach in charge will be suspended (or banned) indefinately, the GM suspended 8 games & all other coaches involved suspended 6 games. Remember they were found to have a pay for performance program in 2007, went unpunished & specifically told not to do it again.

  8. Goodell was furious with Sean Payton’s behavior at the Super Bowl in miami during media rounds and it ticked Goodell off and when the bounty scandal broke and saints coaches dodged and covered up the pay for performance program, Goodell was ready to drop the hammer on Sean and the rest of saints organization..I believe Goodell wanted to send message to Payton that I am Godell and I will take you out of football for your behavior and Saints were punished for that reason only by not cooperating with investigators…Sean Payton was foolish in his behavior and that was costly to the fans and saints organization this season..unions do have their flaws, but they have great protection to its members..Saints coaches will take the blame because they can’t defend themselves as Tags stated..that’s a one-sided victory for the league.

  9. Why is it that when one disagrees, it is labled as “hating?” Maybe this is also a culture that needs to be addressed.

    The Saints were not cleared of any wrong doings, the players were simply let off the hook. If they are smart, they will put this behind them and get back to what they’re paid for…. entertainment.

    I’m sure that we have ALL heard more than enough of this by now.

  10. What seems clear now is that the coaches made their statements under duress; specifically, they were probably threatened with being blackballed for life. This is why their testimony cannot be relied on…..it was either sign a confession, or never coach in the NFL again.
    Goodell bullied them into saying what he wanted to hear to justify his agenda to lay the groundwork for defense of liability in upcoming concussion lawsuits.
    Tagliabue has found middle ground to give players relief, while saying Goodell ruled correctly as to the coaches. Again, this prepares for the eventual concussion liabilities.
    As to the future…..Vilma will not let up….he was defamed….he will not settle, no money amount will buy him off his day in court, and then the judges will order release of all testimony and transcripts. Goodell will be fired for the legal distractions, and the NFL will pay damages to Vilma when he proves malice. Then Sean Payton will file suit to recover his lost wages, and damaged reputation. Tagliabue will take the commish job back just to settle things down.
    Payton will return to coaching, probably to the Saints, with a raise, and pursue another title with a vengeance. It remains to be seen if they can continue to create new offensive wrinkles each week, as they did before.
    In case folks hadn’t noticed, this is a head coaches league, and Payton is one of a small handful of men who can succeed at this game.

  11. This is all very meaningless. If you are a Saints fan, the season’s over, Payton missed it, draft picks have been taken away, 500k in fines paid, its all over. We move on.

    If you hate the Saints, you’ve had your year to see “justice” done, you’ve had your hating frenzy, our season was tanked, you got what you wanted. Hope you enjoyed it. Its over.

    My point is, no matter where you sit on the issue, the damage is done and its over. Gloating or pouting either way, changings nothing.

  12. You know how you protect yourself in a meritocracy? Be great at your job either currently or at some recent point in the past. Even if one boss gets sick of you, another will be along shortly to snatch you up. Great coaches are harder to come by than any one great player. Same with great GMs. Heck even guys who are mediocre get chance after chance (HI NORV!). That fact alone shows how hard it is to come by great execs and coaches.

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