New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton will be barred from coaching the team, or having any interaction with the franchise, effective April 1st after receiving a lengthy one-year suspension from the NFL as a result of the league’s investigation into a “bounty” program.
Former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams administered the program during his tenure with the team, and from 2009 to 2011 the NFL claims the Saints targeted opposing players while rewarding them monetarily for “cart off” and “knock out” hits.
Williams has been suspended by the NFL indefinitely. He will however has a chance at re-instatment after the 2012 season.
The reason the NFL came down on the Saints so hard — besides their increasing push for player safety — is the league claims the Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis were fully aware it was going on, yet did nothing to officially bring it to a halt.
Also the NFL questioned the Saints after the 2009 season, at which time they denied involvement in a pay-for-performance program, and again, at least according to the league, purposely covered it up while feeding investigators mis-leading information.
However, the extent of either Sean Payton’s or Mickey Loomis’ knowledge of the “bounty” program is up for interpretation.
For now the Saints are in a recovery mode of sorts, bracing for life without Payton, and of course without general manager Mickey Loomis (eight game suspension), and assistant head coach Joe Vitt (six game suspension).
Several candidates have emerged internally to act as interim head coach of the Saints including offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr, running back/offensive line coach Aaron Kromer, and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
Carmichael filled in for Payton last year while he was out after injuring his leg when tight end Jimmy Graham was pushed out of bounds into Payton, breaking his tibia and fracturing his knee cap.
Without Payton the Saints kept up their same dominant offensive pace with Carmichael at the helm, all be it with lots of help from coach Joe Vitt.
Kromer garnered plenty of attentions as head coaching candidate this off-season, and Spagnuolo of course spent three years as the head coach of the St. Louis Rams before losing his job after the 2011 season.
But it doesn’t appear that Payton will take a vacation during his suspension as Fox Sports has interest in adding him as a TV analyst for their NFL coverage, this after nearly every other network declined to put him in a booth.
Payton stands to lose $5.8-million dollars over the course of 2012, and while it’s unknown how much this affects him financially, the possibility of having a job and a lucrative pay check is likely very appealing to Sean and his family.
Furthermore the NFL has no authority to prevent Payton from securing a job outside of the league. The decision will be up to Sean and Fox Sports — but it makes sense for both sides.
Payton is one of the NFL’s most successful coaches and the architect of one of it’s best offenses.
His football knowledge is vast, and for what it’s worth the feeling around the league is the he was “overly” punished and made an example of by Commissioner Roger Goodell.
He is well respected around the league and certainly deserves the opportunity regardless of how the general public perceives he, the Saints, and bounty gate.
Bottom line, he is a good guy and a great coach.