Arrogance, in part, brought down the Roman Empire, one that had spread itself over miles of land and sea for years upon years.
Today, we found out that arrogance can still cut through an empire.
The Saints have fallen, knifed at the head by the ruler of an empire even bigger than the one that had been building on Airline Drive.
Commissioner Roger Goodell’s powerful message to the Saints – and the rest of the NFL – is that you don’t cross him or the league’s shield.
As you’ve likely heard over and again by now, it’s never the crime. It’s always the cover up.
And with the Saints, it was lying to Goodell, covering up knowledge of the program time and again, that sliced the franchise apart.
The pay-for-performance program was certainly bad enough.
Goodell’s biggest project during his tenure is making a violent game less so (be it because of lawsuits or any other reason) and the bounties fly in the face of player safety.
The bounties alone would have carried a stiff penalty.
Yet, by repeatedly telling NFL investigators that the program wasn’t real, that they didn’t know anything about it, Goodell was left with no other option.
Are his penalties a bit vindictive? Possibly.
But do they make a point? Absolutely – don’t foster a bounty program and don’t lie about it when confronted.
Owner Tom Benson is now left with quite the conundrum.
He can stand by the coach that brought the franchise, at least for a time, to respectability, winning the club’s first-ever Super Bowl and making the team a yearly contender.
Or he can start from scratch, finding the anti-Payton, someone with a bit of humility and much less arrogance.
The same can be said about Loomis.
Does Benson keep the man who put together a team that made the city proud or does he release the man who has brought tons of shame to the franchise?
Fan reaction has been firm and swift in favor of their heroes, the men who led the Saints to the highest heights, not that that’s any surprise.
The sad fact is this – if the Saints had been honest and had stopped the bounty program when the topic was first broached by the NFL, we wouldn’t be here today talking about precedent-setting punishment.
And that is why the Saints’ empire has come crashing down.
Payton was too arrogant, too proud to release the truth when asked about it.
Not that this should be a surprise.
This is the same man who has called various media members over the years, berating them for reporting legit, factual news.
This is the same person who kept around a two=time convicted felon despite the NFL’s insistence that man was not one the league wanted around its teams.
This is the same coach who hacked off the NFL during Super Bowl week for continually being late to scheduled events.
No one is saying you have to be an angel.
But it is wise to follow the rules and, at the very least, tell the truth when you’re caught doing something you shouldn’t be.
The only question now is where do the Saints head from here?
That, for now, is something no one, not even the Saints know.