Saints Bounty Scandal Overblown

Let the vilification begin. The Saints are on their way from being seen as, well, saints to scoundrels. The team that boosted the morale of the city ravaged by Hurricane Katrina aren’t so angelic after all. The halo hovering over Sean Payton are now devil horns grotesquely protruding from his head.

The severe punishment the Saints will undoubtedly receive is justified. However, the accompanying public slander is not.

Don’t get me wrong, the bounty system is despicable and I’m not talking about those cute little characters from the animated movie. In a game where violence is already front and center, adding a monetary incentive to hurt opposing human beings is downright heartless.

I am all for Roger Goodell’s stance on eliminating head shots from the game of football. The NFL may be a little sissier in this era but for the long-term health and safety of the players who don’t understand enough about the issue to help themselves, the increased sissiness is well worth it.

The New Orleans Saints have to be penalized severely for this bounty scandal. The NFL has to do it to send a message around the league as it has done with head shot artists like James Harrison. If it takes a couple of draft picks a million bucks that is fine by me.

What I won’t stand for though is the defamation of the Saints. Similarly to the UCLA incident earlier this week, the Saints are going to be seen in a light that they don’t deserve. It isn’t right that UCLA basketball players were doing ecstasy at raves or that star players were receiving excessive preferential treatment. The problem with the Sports Illustrated story was that it made out UCLA to be the only team in the country to have those issues.

That shouldn’t happen for the New Orleans Saints either.

The sad fact of the matter is that the bounty program is an old practice in the NFL. Gregg Williams didn’t invent it in 2009. Heck, the Washington Post reported that the Washington Redskins had a bounty program under Gregg Williams as well. The famous bounty bowl games in 1989 where Buddy Ryan had bounties placed on quarterback Tory Aikman and kicker Luis Zendejas are the most famous instances of this practice.

It’s an age-old system that certainly still takes place across the NFL. The Saints just happened to be the team that got caught.

Brett Favre’s comments on the subject speak volumes considering he was one of the biggest targets of the Saints bounty scandal. Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma offered up $10,000 to knock him out of the NFC Championship game in 2009. Favre took some brutal shots that very much bordered on the illegal variety that game. Nevertheless, Favre was not upset, noting that that bounties are simply a part of the game. The ageless wonder stated that “said or unsaid, guys do it anyway.” “I’m not pissed. It’s football.”

Like steroids, because everyone is doing it doesn’t make it right but vilifying the Saints alone isn’t warranted. I’m no NFL insider but this is surely a practice that is understood by players around the league as not being uncommon and possibly the norm. Listen to what Brett Favre is saying. He wasn’t the least bit surprised.

Everyone seems to be placing this scandal on a different level than Spygate. The title of John Clayton’s article on ESPN is “Saints bounty story worse than Spygate.” I don’t see it that way. To the best of my knowledge, the filming of opposing team’s walkthroughs is not one of those unsaid things that teams around the league do. I’m thinking Brett Favre would be more than a little bit pissed if he had been told that the Saints had been videotaping his team’s signals.

Who knows, Spygate might have been the reason behind a Super Bowl victory or two for the New England Patriots. Other Super Bowl champion teams aren’t doing that kind of thing. If we are strictly talking about integrity of the game, this bounty scandal can in no way be worse than Spygate.

A tarnished legacy for doing what other teams are doing and have been doing for years isn’t fair. Do we really know that the Minnesota Vikings didn’t have a bounty program as well in 2009? Sure, it’s naive to believe no one other than the New England Patriots have at least attempted to cheat the game using comparable methods but nothing has come out since 2008. The Washington Redskins have already been outed for their bounty program of the past. How much more is out there?

Hopefully Roger Goodell sends a message loud enough so that these bounty programs can finally be put to a halt. Player safety is the number one priority. Give the Saints the chair so to speak.

Just don’t let it ruin the their reputation.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

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Don’t Forget About Us!

Can Drew Brees and the Saints overcome a season plagued by inconsistencies?

As far as sleeper teams can go the New Orleans Saints probably do not qualify as one heading into wildcard weekend. Their inconsistent play has left their obvious Super Bowl Contender pre-season status to be lifted by many people. Despite the drop off in their level of play this season, reaching the playoffs does not exactly qualify them in the hangover category either and fans should realize that this is a team that should not be overlooked.

In their final game of the season with the possibility of overtaking the Atlanta Falcons in the very competitive NFC South the Saints came out flat against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Even though the likelihood of Carolina Panthers beating the Falcons was slim to none with a division title on the line, the Saints still didn’t put forth a performance of a Super Bowl Contender.

The Buccaneers were better than the Saints in virtually every aspect of the game. Drew Brees threw an interception for the 12th consecutive game and saying that is very uncharacteristic of him may even be a bit of a stretch with the way he has played this season.

However, we should not fall asleep with regards to the Saints and their chances at making a legitimate run at the Super Bowl.

After weathering their initial Super Bowl “hangover” the Saints seemed to hit their stride if you want to look at wins and losses exclusively, but it was evident that these were not those same Saints that won the NFL world over with their magical run last season.

With that being said, the Saints have shown flashes of returning to their Super Bowl form as a team. At numerous points during the year there were times when many people, including myself, thought “hey, they’re back.”

The Saints have laid the foundation that is needed to win a Super Bowl as they have lost very few players from their Super Bowl winning team. Outside linebacker Scott Fujita is probably the most notable of the players who did not return to the team this season. The issue has been putting it all together on a weekly basis.

There is no reason why the Saints can’t get hot for a four game stretch much like the New York Giants did when they slipped into the playoffs a few years back and knocked off the undefeated New England Patriots.

Drew Brees is probably the biggest factor when it comes to the Saints success as any quarterback is to their respective team. His ability to make almost every throw imaginable has been such a large part of what has made the Saints a great team.

I mentioned above his 12 consecutive games with at least one pick which is a remarkable feat for a guy one year removed from breaking the record for the highest completion percentage in a single season. His individual consistency essentially symbolizes what the New Orleans Saints have been like as a team throughout the season.

Nevertheless, Brees is still one of the most accurate passers in the history of the game. He has proven that he can handle the pressure of the big game and if he can perform in the playoffs in a similar manner to the way he executed against the Steelers in Week 8 when he threw for over 300 yards in a 20-10 victory then there is no telling what this team can do.

Their offence still ranks in the top 10 in the league in points, total yards and passing yards. Even though the team ranks 27th in rushing yards the running game has gained some steam in the last few weeks behind undrafted rookie Chris Ivory and the return of both Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas to the lineup.

More importantly though, their defence has not experienced too much of a dropoff in level as they rank 11th in total points allowed and 6th in total yards allowed. Although their total amount of so-called “takeaways” has fallen off with only 25 compared to 39 forced turnovers last year should not be such a cause for concern. Even though better defences are able to force more turnovers the Saints did it at an alarming rate last season that it was most likely not going to be repeated again this year. In my eyes, the amount of turnovers a team “forces” generally has more to do with the mistakes of the opposition rather than the supreme ability of the defence making this a stat that should even out to a certain extent over time and I think that is precisely what is taking place this season.

Moreover, for the better part of the season the defence was not stellar last year and if the offence plays like it should be able to then there is no need for the Saints defence to be extraordinary. Making the plays they are supposed to make and coming up with a big play on occasion may once again be enough for New Orleans.

The playoffs are a whole other beast and to forget about the Saints at this point would just be plain stupid. In a season where the Super Bowl is up for grabs more than ever, with no team able to take a stranglehold of top dog in the NFL, the Saints are primed to make a run at Vince Lombardi.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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