The balance of power shifts in the NFC South
The recent allegations and punishments/fines meted out in the New Orleans Saints bounty case are revelatory. Never before have punishments like that been levied out to a franchise. Spygate pales in comparison. Interestingly Spygate, which has been mentioned more than once as people try to compare it vis-à-vis to this case, isn’t even in the same ballpark on any level. I’m not going to get high and mighty and suggest that these things don’t happen or haven’t happened before, quite obviously that’s not so, but it was arrogance and egregiousness (a term Roger Goodell mentioned more than once) that doomed the Saints here.
As a Bucs fan I have been subjected to Sean Payton’s smug countenance more than a typical fan should ever have to be. As we recall with the benefit of hindsight now karma seemed to begin embracing the Saints during their home game at RJS last year. As most will recollect, Payton had his knee destroyed on the sideline because he neglected to get out of the way of some players as they tumbled to the ground. As it turns out that was far less painful than the mega bucks he will miss out on this year due to his suspension.
The NFL asked the Saints about bounties. And then they asked them again. We know what the Saints said, “not us”. Then the NFL compiled evidence. And more evidence. And eventually reportedly around 40,000 pages of evidence not counting all of the secret eyewitness testimony. It was the lying and arrogance that crucified the Saints. Now, after the fact, Gregg Williams is contrite. He’s sorry. Sean Payton, patronizing till the end can’t believe he’s, gulp, actually being punished. Smugness be damned.
Aside from the suspension of Saints coaches and the 8 game suspension of Mickey Loomis, the other penalties are in the form of cash and draft picks. Saints ownership and management have many things to sort through. With Drew Brees flapping in the wind due to their neglect in not signing him to a long term deal already, that is probably priority one. But the NFL has informed the Saints that player punishment will follow. This almost certainly means Jonathan Vilma and some of his friends.
The Saints, who were already looking at FA linebackers would then be in great need. They flirted with Curtis Lofton but his price was too high. Now they’ll have to commit dollars to Brees. And they’re left without their 2nd round pick this year to boot. More importantly, how good does New Orleans look to a FA of any position now? Sure, throw dollars around and someone will come, but Brees is now immediately in a position of basically creating his own asking price. And if he threatens to sit out, his trump card, the Saints would be doomed.
So how does this change the complexion of the NFC South? Greatly I would say. Pundits will immediately elevate the Atlanta Falcons as the defacto ‘best team in the NFC South’ with the Saints second, assuming they can sign Brees and other players of need. If they can’t, they will be without the astute play calling and daring of Payton as well as the majestic and heady play of Brees. This could spell an Indianapolis Colts type disaster. It would also immediately elevate both the Bucs and Panthers into legitimate NFC South title contention. This would have seemed inconceivable even just a few days ago.
There’s an axiom that in the NFL everyone gets what they deserve. The Saints got what they deserved. And the rest of the team in the NFC South will ultimately benefit.