Finally, the homonculoid troll known as Roger Goodell has crawled from beneath his rickety bridge to launch one last fireball at the New Orleans Saints. Earlier today Goodell announced the suspensions of 27 NFL players involved in the alleged Saints Bounty Scandal and provided the media with hard evidence that Saints defensive players willfully and with malice aforethought did indeed attempt to injure opposing players.
Oh, wait… he didn’t.
What he did do was announce the suspensions of Jonathan Vilma – entire 2012 season, Will Smith – 4 games, Anthony Hargrove – 8 games and Scott Fujita – 3 games. Goodell verbally asserted the evidence: “multiple independent confirmations” that Vilma offered $10,000 to anyone who took Kurt Warner out of the 2009 divisional playoff game and made a similar offer regarding Brett Favre in for the NFC Championship game; that Hargrove participated in and lied to “investigators” about the alleged bounty program; that Smith initially helped former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams design and implement the alleged bounty system and that Fujita contributed to the bounty pools.
Now look at that again. Goodell alleges that Will Smith helped create a program for which one head coach is serving a season-long suspension and one assistant coach is serving an indefinite suspension and he’s only out for four games. Meanwhile, the “evidence” against Vilma is that he offered payouts on two NFL quarterbacks (granted, very large payouts,) and yet his suspension is four times that of Smith. More if the Saints make the playoffs. Does this make any sense? Of course not.
Months ago the NFL shocked the world by announcing they had collected 50,000 pages of evidence implicating as many as 27 players in the alleged bounty scandal. And now Goodell hands out four punishments? I stand by my earlier statement that when Tom Benson opened the Saints e-mail files to Goodell’s “investigators” they counted every single e-mail as “evidence” to inflate the gravitas of the press conference. What they ended up with was 50,000 pages of banal crap that had perhaps a half-dozen e-mails which may or may not have been incriminating. Seriously, you have 50,000 pages of evidence against 27 players and you punish four?
Considering the player punishments, I think there was probably even less hard evidence, otherwise Goodell would have offered it to the media to take the heat off of himself and prove this isn’t simply a witch hunt. Now without hard evidence, like a smoking gun e-mail, Goodell is left with only testimony to implicate players and unless that testimony comes from an actual Saints defensive player or coach it’s simply hearsay. “Well, Will Smith told me they had a bounty system.” Really? And this has nothing to do with the fact that you face him twice a year during the regular season?
That Goodell has refused to furnish the media or the NFLPA with any evidence whatsoever is most suspect. Fans continue to promulgate the ridiculous theory that he doesn’t want a home team hosting a Superbowl, but I still believe that this is a personal vendetta against the Saints mainly for the coverup in the initial investigation, but also for the chummy relationship they shared with twice convicted fraudster Mike Ornstein who once siphoned over $350,000 from the NFL’s coffers.
And think about this: Anthony Hargrove wrote a letter to the NFL admitting his participation in the scheme, but received a longer suspension than Fujita and Smith because he initially lied to “investigators”. Here’s a guy that’s coming clean, but because he admitted to the initial cover-up, he gets a harsher punishment? Clearly there was a bounty scheme and clearly everybody lied about it, but the one guy that admits it gets a longer suspension than the others? Now there’s a good lesson for the kids: Tell the truth and get a bigger spanking!
Of course, Goodell could have made his pitiful announcement prior to the draft, allowing the Saints to use picks to bolster positions lost to suspension, but no, he chose to withhold his ham-fisted justice until after the draft in order to fluster the coaching staff and ultimately the fans.
How all this affects the Saints 2012 season is yet to be realized, but I doubt anyone will really notice. Only Vilma and Smith are currently on our roster with Hargrove in Green Bay and Fujita in Cleveland. The Saints, as well as the rest of the world, could see the Vilma suspension coming a mile away months ago and stole Curtis Lofton from the Falcons. Lofton is essentially Vilma with four extra years of youth. The only difference besides age is that Lofton has been playing without a decent team around him.
Smith’s suspension will hit the team a little harder, but only for the first four games; Redskins, Panthers, Chiefs and Packers. Of those, the Panthers will be the toughest challenge considering their offense has a full year under Cam Newton. The Redskins are in the midst of a major rebuild that starts here on our turf and the Chiefs have a high powered offense when it clicks but it rarely does on the road so by the time we get to Lambeau our defense will have had three games to gel and the team should be 2-1 at the worst.
Of course, that’s assuming that Saints General Mismanager Mickey Loomis can ever sign Drew Brees. And now that we have Vilma’s $6-million 2012 salary to play with, that should be done tomorrow, right Mickey…?