Marcus Hayes: Justice wasn't served in New Orleans

Sean Payton and Bill Parcells shook hands after a preseason game in 2006. Now, they might be shaking hands again - on a deal to coach the Saints.
Sean Payton and Bill Parcells shook hands after a preseason game in 2006. Now, they might be shaking hands again - on a deal to coach the Saints. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Posted: March 29, 2012

SO, LET'S GET this straight: The New Orleans Saints run a bounty scheme for the past 3 years, win a Super Bowl with it, get caught, their excellent head coach gets suspended . . .

And they wind up with a better head coach?

This is justice?

Somehow, it doesn't seem likely that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell expected the Saints to become a more respected team when he played hangin' judge last week.

Goodell suspended Sean Payton for 10 months, beginning April 1, unless Payton appeals.

Payton is sounding out Hall of Fame candidate Bill Parcells to serve as his stand-in for this season.

Which is like Lady Gaga asking k.d. lang to do her concert tour.

Hiring, say, Steve Spagnuolo to step in for the season - well, fine. Spags, like Payton, is a former assistant with the Eagles, but Spags just got fired by the Rams. He might be valuable, but he's damaged goods for the moment, and he is no Sean Payton.

Promoting offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael surely hurts the club. At least, it creates a domino effect that weakens the franchise by watering down the chain of command. At most, since Carmichael never has been a head coach at any of his stops - collegiate or professional - his promotion to the top job of a bejeweled but besmirched franchise could end in disaster.

Parcells? He loves the spotlight, he craves controversy, and he has a pedigree.

He won Super Bowls with the Giants in 1986 and 1990. No team in American sports, except perhaps the Yankees, is covered with more scrutiny than the Giants.

Parcells then drove Northeast and exhumed the Patriots, returned to the Meadowlands and revived the Jets, headed South and overshadowed Jerry Jones in Dallas for 4 years, then retreated to Miami, where, in the front office, Parcells proved he belonged on the sideline.

Along the way, Parcells employed three coaches who combined to win six Super Bowls as head coaches - Bill Belichick's three in New England, Tom Coughlin's two with the Giants and Payton's soiled triumph in New Orleans.

Bill Walsh might be perceived as coaching royalty and Mike Holmgren as a sort of genius, but Parcells is the most significant NFL coach of the past 3 decades.

But, then, how can Goodell keep the Saints from hiring Parcells? Or any other upgrade, for that matter?

What if the Saints decide to court TV caricature Jon Gruden? What if Tony Dungy decides he's tired of selling children's books?

Either might be enticed by the chance to sample head coaching again, and a toe-in-the-water situation at New Orleans might be perfect . . . especially if the price is right.

The Saints will pay, be assured. They are an elite franchise with a recordsetting quarterback in Drew Brees, a franchise in its prime. Losing a year of its window of opportunity by having a deficient head coach would be devastating . . .

But isn't this sort of discipline supposed to devastate?

Again: How could Goodell make this hurt most?

He cannot.

Apparently, his iron hand reaches only so far. He cannot keep a team from adding coaches to its staff, or "consultants," if that's what Parcells or whoever else wants to be called.

And that sort of stinks.

Of course, most of the fallout from the bounty investigation stinks.

Payton expected to get a 4-week suspension. He expected to have assistant head coach Joe Vitt, another former Eagles assistant, take over . . . but Vitt, also complicit in the scandal, got smacked with a 6-week suspension.

Clearly, the 10 months Payton received for knowingly having a bounty program run by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is too harsh . . . or not harsh enough.

Williams, who had left the Saints and had joined the reconstructed coaching staff in St. Louis, was suspended indefinitely for running the bounty program. His NFL career could be over, especially if Goodell remains angry and keeps Williams sidelined past this season.

For his part, Payton knew of the program's existence. He lied to NFL investigators. And he hired Gregg Williams, who, it was well-known in NFL coaching circles, was not above putting a price on an opponent's head.

This is more than unfortunate administering. This is explicit solicitation. Payton got what he paid for: a hell of a defense, run by a hell of a cheater, who got him in a hell of a mess.

As such, why no indefinite suspension for Payton? Or Vitt?

The inconsistencies rankle almost as much as the crimes.

And now we await the penalties for the unnamed players . . . just after free agency has begun, and just before the draft lands.

The two dozen or so players expected to be named are scattered around the league. Some are more accomplished than others, including ferocious linebacker Jonathan Vilma, a three-time Pro Bowl player.

Still, no matter how harsh the penalties for Vilma or any of the others, the Saints surely can replace him if need be, even with the punitive loss of their second-round pick in April's draft.

So, to review:

Goodell's suspension of Payton could lead to the hiring of the greatest coach of his era.

Goodell's suspension of Williams has no effect on the Saints, who no longer employ Williams.

Goodell's suspension of Vitt is utterly toothless. Vitt's six-game suspension begins with the regular season, which means he can work through training camp, even as head coach, then step aside for a month and a half when the plans are firmly in place.

Goodell's imminent discipline of players happens at the exact time when the Saints can do the most to lessen the impact.

Goodell snatched second-round picks this year and next; not precious first-rounders, but helpful second-rounders. Goodell also fined the Saints $500,000, which is approximately the amount the club makes in hotdog sales in the first half of a preseason game.

It sure seems like the penalties are not very penal.


Contact Marcus Hayes at hayesm@phillynews.com.

 

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