With the Saints in bountiful distress, the rest of the NFL laughs

Sean Payton could be penalized heavily by the NFL. (AP photo)

Hard-charging Saints coach Sean Payton could be penalized heavily by the NFL. (AP photo)

If you listen hard, you’ll hear giggles. But you have to listen hard. The NFL, which has a deft hand for publicity, hasn’t gone to great lengths to advertise just how despised the New Orleans Saints have become. Within football circles, they’re regarded as the spoiled child who wears a sense of entitlement on his shoulder pads.

The formerly feckless Saints rising to excellence in the wake of Katrina and finally delivering a Super Bowl to New Orleans? A feel-good story of the first rank. Alas, not all of its architects were such swell guys.

On Friday the NFL released the findings of what it termed “a lengthy investigation” into the Saints’ pay-for-mayhem scheme, and this probe — unlike, say, those conducted by the NCAA — wasn’t the product of some media report. This was all the league’s doing, and from its pointed language we’re left with only one conclusion: The Saints are in real trouble.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who will decide the penalties, has already tipped his hand, saying: “The payments here are particularly troubling because they involved not just payments for ‘performance’ but also for injuring opposing players.”

From the NFL’s findings: The Saints’ bounty scheme spanned three seasons — the Super Bowl run included — and involved 22 to 27 defensive players; it was “administered” by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams; it was no secret to either head coach Sean Payton or general manager Mickey Loomis, the latter of whom lied to the NFL about its existence and then failed to heed owner Tom Benson’s instructions that the practice be discontinued.

The Washington Post has reported that “lengthy suspensions” could be levied against Loomis, Payton and Williams (who’s now with the St. Louis Rams). How lengthy? According to the Post’s Mark Maske, quoting an unnamed source: “A half-season or longer.”

It couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch.

The same audacity that enabled Payton to lift the Saints from mediocrity has been allowed to shape operational policy. The Saints act as if they’re better and smarter than everyone else. The NFL was aghast over the Saints’ behavior during its Super Bowl week: The team was late for Media Day, Payton was late for nearly everything and then, as a capper, he tried to duck the winning coach’s morning-after briefing.

In his autobiography, Payton admits he did some celebratory drinking and barely slept. Only through the entreaties of his pal Mike Ornstein did he make the press session, of which Payton wrote: “I’m lucky I could string a sentence together at all.”

The same Mike Ornstein, according to an NFL memo obtained by Mike Freeman of CBS Sports, pledged money to the Saints’ bounty fund in both 2009 in 2011. In 1995 Ornstein pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud: While the NFL’s director of club marketing, he’d submitted $350,000 in invoices for goods never received. In 2010 Ornstein, then described as “a marketing agent,” pleaded guilty for conspiring to scalp Super Bowl tickets. Question: Why is an NFL coach consorting with a felon?

(To Payton, appearances apparently mean little. He caused a stir in New Orleans — which is, post-Katrina, hugely sensitive to relocations — when he moved his family to Dallas in 2011. And whose house did the Paytons lease in the posh Westlake suburb? Why, Atlanta-Brave-for-a-year Mark Teixeira’s.)

In 2010 the Saints were sued by former security director Geoffrey Santini, who accused “senior staff members” of stealing Vicodin from the team’s prescription-drug supply. Payton was identified as one of the senior staffers but denied any wrongdoing. In an interview with Glenn Guilbeau of USA Today, Santini accused Loomis of trying to oversee a coverup. The lawsuit went to arbitration; no resolution has come to light.

On Dec. 27, 2010, some Saints players and coaches celebrated victory in the Georgia Dome by posing for a photo at midfield. Defensive tackle Remi Ayodele told Pete Prisco of CBS Sports that he’d urinated on the Falcons logo. A year later, Payton allowed quarterback Drew Brees to keep throwing at the end of a nationally televised rout of the Falcons in the (successful) attempt to break Dan Marino’s record for passing yards in a season.

The Saints are such a classy crew that they don’t know real class when it lives in their locker room. Last week Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports reported that Loomis had referred to Brees, whose contract is expiring, as merely a “very good” quarterback. Unable to work out a long-term deal, the Saints slapped the franchise tag on Brees, which means they’ll keep him for 2012. But why run the risk of alienating the best player that city has known? Why not lock him up for five more years? (And thereby save the franchise tag for guard Carl Nicks, who could be targeted by the Falcons.)

If you listen hard, you’ll hear giggles at the thought of the Saints getting their comeuppance. The loudest of those might well be emanating from Flowery Branch, although the Falcons are too smart to admit such a thing. Old political adage: When your rival is in the process of destroying himself, get out of the way.

By Mark Bradley

168 comments Add your comment

zgoldatl

March 5th, 2012
11:11 am

The aints are still a dirty Team, just like that cess pool of a city (and I lived there, so I know). Go Falcons, Rise Up Atlanta.
We Dat

zgoldatl

March 5th, 2012
11:12 am

New Orleans is the cess pool of America

Rickster

March 5th, 2012
11:12 am

Dang.. second again.

Maybe some pseudo-kudos? :-)

VP

March 5th, 2012
11:14 am

Who dat indeed. We can finally get back to the Saints being the laughing stock of the league.

And may be finally all the homeless bums from NO, who are draining ATL’s resources can shut up and go home.

Arno

March 5th, 2012
11:15 am

Falcons beat the Saints twice this year– that would be good punishment too.

Mark Bradley

March 5th, 2012
11:16 am

Pseudo-kudos are the rhyming kind, Rickster. You got ‘em.

zgoldatl

March 5th, 2012
11:17 am

My first ”first” . Highly overrated

Fish Bisch

March 5th, 2012
11:19 am

The Saints have not acted saintly.

Mark Bradley

March 5th, 2012
11:20 am

I’m sorry you feel that way, zgoldatl. Especially since I was ready to offer a bounty, as it were, to today’s first-er.

George P Burdell

March 5th, 2012
11:21 am

The Saints will get fined and a public reprimand. They might lose a draft pick- after that- they will be back to what they want. The Falcons need to worry about their own issues. Which they have more than enough of their own.

ls1z28chris

March 5th, 2012
11:24 am

Sorry, Bradley. It is just you. Everyone else loves New Orleans and loves the Saints, in spite of what Gregg Williams brought here with him

Sugar Bowl, BCS National Championship, Super Bowl, NCAA Basketball Final Four, everything is here in New Orleans. They’ve been here, they’re coming back, and there is no stopping it. We understand you jelly, but try not to sound so desperate. Everyone who knows anything has left your pathetic city, including your flagship news daily. And now you want to run down New Orleans to compensate. This from the city that abandons its own team in the third quarter, winning or losing, to beat the traffic back to the ‘burbs. From the franchise that starts a fight on the field every time it starts losing. (I’m looking at you, Roddy “Down Low” White.)

Now you want to act like y’all are classy and above all that? Give me a break, brah. Enjoy fighting Tampa Bay for last place in the NFC South this year.

Larry

March 5th, 2012
11:25 am

I always thought of Peyton’s open mouth gum smacking as just poor manners. Now I realize it was hydrocodone induced arrogance.

The stench grows in the quarter…

Dirtybird 82

March 5th, 2012
11:25 am

Where is Seendatb4 now??

Sonny Clusters

March 5th, 2012
11:25 am

One of those Cobb County teams put a bounty on us one time but we turned the tables on them. It looked like they had our leg broken on a play at the plate but we just shrugged it off and stayed in the game. Later, we was to hit 2, 3-run home runs and win the game. That just goes to prove that it’s hard to keep a good Clusters down.

Mark Bradley

March 5th, 2012
11:27 am

We have bounties all the time out here in Cobb. Most of them are levied against me.

Larry

March 5th, 2012
11:28 am

And, Mark, kudos to you for the courage to tell it like it is.

Bravo!

Dawg Haus

March 5th, 2012
11:28 am

It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving bunch.

Sean

March 5th, 2012
11:28 am

It really couldn’t happen to a more disgusting bunch, save for maybe the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the early-2000s.

Hollywould

March 5th, 2012
11:30 am

Loving all of this. Man, need to go to nola.com and read all the crying. Only one not crying is Payton in his vicodin stupor.

Mark Bradley

March 5th, 2012
11:31 am

Let’s be fair: Not all Saints are, er, sinners. Drew Brees: Class. Marques Colston: Class.

JEFF

March 5th, 2012
11:31 am

I just kind of think it’s comical that the (ain’t) players actually had to be paid extra aboce and beyond their salaries to tackle somebody…. LMAO.

Larry

March 5th, 2012
11:32 am

“We understand you jelly”

Wow…utter, unabashed illiteracy. That’s a Saint’s fan for sure! LOL!

ATL Fan

March 5th, 2012
11:35 am

Vicodin the quicker picker upper.

ATL Fan

March 5th, 2012
11:35 am

Oh, wait, that’s Bounty.

ATL Fan

March 5th, 2012
11:35 am

Speaking of Bounty…

Larry

March 5th, 2012
11:36 am

JEFF

March 5th, 2012
11:31 am

“I just kind of think it’s comical that the (ain’t) players actually had to be paid extra aboce and beyond their salaries to tackle somebody…. LMAO.”

No bounty paid for takling Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch! LOL!

ATL Fan

March 5th, 2012
11:37 am

Did some one just pee on the Falcons logo?

Larry

March 5th, 2012
11:39 am

Pretty soon it can’t be Peyton or Williams…they’re going to get neutered!

ATL Fan

March 5th, 2012
11:40 am

Maybe part of the penalties should be having the Saints players scrub the Falcons logo.

dajim92

March 5th, 2012
11:41 am

ls1z28chris – Do you live in N.O. or Atlanta? If you’re here, you can go ahead and leave my “pathetic city”. If you live in N.O. don’t you have something better to do in that great city where “everything is here” than to read an Atl sports column? Finally, the reason people have to leave to “beat the traffic” is because so many people moved here from N.O. ;) If our teams ever won anything, we’d have a lot more class – it’s an exhausted and frustrated fan base here. I know, I’ve been one for 30 plus years. But eventually we’ll get some winners and I’m going to enjoy it that much more!

sam

March 5th, 2012
11:42 am

Mark: What are you hearing about the likely punishment for the Saints? Losing draft picks? Suspensions? Fines? Forfetting their Super Bowl title (my favorite! i know, dream on LOL).

tonyb

March 5th, 2012
11:43 am

I remember sitting in the Superdome this past December watching my team get clobbered. And low and behold, with the game well in hand, and the Saints having one more game on their schedule, Payton trots out Drew Brees so he could get his record live on Monday Night Football. And yes, he did get the record, throwing on a beaten team in the red zone, and everyone cheered and celebrated. Yet, I told my son at the time what they were doing was classless, and simply broke the code of good sportsmanship. So yes, when they get hit, I will be laughing. And no, I am not surprised by the Saints conduct.

Mark Bradley

March 5th, 2012
11:43 am

I’ve heard a fine of up to $1 million, a lost first-round draft pick and suspensions for Payton and Loomis. But that could be wishful thinking.

FalconsFan

March 5th, 2012
11:44 am

Where’s old SEENTHISB4? LOL

Who Dat team I can bandwagon jump to next?

Mark Bradley

March 5th, 2012
11:44 am

It would have been one thing if the last drive against Atlanta was Brees’ last chance at the record. But the Saints still had a game left.

sam

March 5th, 2012
11:47 am

Thanks Mark. I also have heard that the final report from the NFL was quite exhaustive. Is there is web site or somewhere else you can go to read the entire report?

extremus

March 5th, 2012
11:49 am

I have to admit there’s more than a slight feeling of vindication here; for the past few seasons you could tell in television announcers’ statements and tones of voice that they were shameless homers for “America’s feel-good story” the Saints and their QB Drew Brees. Now to be fair, echoing the comments above I’ve never heard Brees toot his own horn or do anything that didn’t show professionalism and class, but the sheer level of adulation that has been poured on him (especially during the game where he surpassed Marino’s mark) left a sour taste in my mouth.

As for the Saints as a whole, I agree with the above assessment; they’ve seemingly played as if exempt from some of the rules the rest of the league has to abide by (example: the questionable hitting a defenseless player call that extended a Saints drive and resulted in a touchdown in our last game, then a non-call on a blatant hit on a Falcons player who was in the air and had his back turned to the defender). Stuff like that teams and fans remember, and quite frankly it calls into question whether certain teams/markets are getting deliberate biased treatment.

So no, I don’t feel pity for the Saints, especially in light of such serious allegations; I hope this brings their franchise back down to pre-Katrina levels in more ways than one. And I also hope that no Falcons team or coach will ever stoop to doing the same things; if you can’t beat the other team by playing clean you aren’t a true winner anyway.

tonyb

March 5th, 2012
11:53 am

Mark, my point exactly.

C

March 5th, 2012
11:54 am

This is so great! Everyone’s favorite small market, feel good, underdog story is IMPLODING! Get ‘em Falcons!

falconsrus

March 5th, 2012
11:55 am

If you dance you gotta pay the fiddler

Falcons4Eva

March 5th, 2012
11:56 am

Its A Great Day! ! Stick it to the Aints Godell

nola falcon fan

March 5th, 2012
11:59 am

MB – great read, esp being a life long falcon fan living down here. You hit it right on the head, the Saints are as cocky an organization as I have ever seen.

Down here the big rumor (and has been confirmed by folks close to the family) is that Sean Payton was caught with a Saintsation cheerleader, thus the family move to Dallas. Karma? I’d say so

Durrtydogg

March 5th, 2012
11:59 am

This was the best article I have read in awhile!! Thank goodness the Saints are getting it right where they need it. I hope they take away picks, fire coaches and take the super bowl they won away as well. The NFL built this rag tag of cheaters and losers and now look at you. And if I here another person from Louisiana talk about my city and state, Ill hit you with an English book and hooked on phonics tape. You guys come here and fly your sorry flags and have never been to a game. I laugh at you that call yourself fans. HA HA HA HA HA! Oh yeah. The boo boo is hitting the fans. Thank goodness! When the Saints go marching home huh? LOL!!

saintsation777

March 5th, 2012
11:59 am

Wow. a little harsh you may think. As a saint fan I am too very disappointed in their stupid bounty thing but this article is way too far. Sounds like jealousy to me!! Bounty or no bounty you all still couldn’t beat them sorry as our defense were at the time. Suspending all those defensive players and ridding greg williams actually is a great thing.

falconsrus

March 5th, 2012
12:02 pm

knock the bloom of the lily yet?lol lmaootfr

Durrtydogg

March 5th, 2012
12:02 pm

@ saintsation Man sit down. You guys are infamous for two things. Mardis Gras and murders. No one cares about your sorry franchise. All I remember is the bags on your heads and now you got your chest poked out. Please. Hold on to that championship and those memories. It wont last long. I wish you guys would pack up and leave. Like Goodie Mo Bee says, If you dont like where I stay, fly away, fly away!!

falconsrus

March 5th, 2012
12:03 pm

les et bons temps roulle

C

March 5th, 2012
12:04 pm

Saints fans a posers.

Mark Bradley

March 5th, 2012
12:06 pm

I don’t know that the entire report is available, sam. As I understand it, that was sent only to the NFL teams.

C

March 5th, 2012
12:07 pm

@Durrty-Great posts. Preach on!