March 2, 2012 will be known as the day the party ended. If you think the Saints will come out from the bounty disaster resembling anything close to the 13-3 championship contender they were at the close of 2011 you are fooling yourself. This scandal is about to rip the Saints apart. Why? The lying is going to do them in.
Sports Illustrated is reporting Mickey Loomis lied to both the NFL and Tom Benson about the Saints bounty program. Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis better lay it all on the table because one way or another it's coming out. The national sports media is about to descend on New Orleans and empty out every skeleton in the Black and Gold closet. Everything is fair game now. If the Saints lied about the bounties what else did they lie about? The media is going to dig and dig and dig. Remember the story about the missing vicodin? The national media does and they are going to get details.
A friend of mine who follows politics put it best, "The Saints front office is about to get investigated by the media like a candidate running for President."
This scandal has everything ESPN and the other sports media love. It has lying, cover up, the NFL's new obsession with player safety, and the ability of any media person to climb on their high horse and scream through your TV about morality and all of it involving America's favorite feel good title winning team from just a few year's ago. It will even have something the political talking heads favorite part of a scandal is which is the demand somebody's head gets rolled. It even involves two of ESPN's favorite things; Brett Favre and Tim Tebow.
Favre is involved because the Saints tried to break him in half during the NFC Championship Game and Tebow is linked because the Broncos former defensive coordinator Dennis Allen and current Oakland head coach was on the Saints staff in 2009-10. Profootballtalk.com is speculating Allen might have lied to the NFL about the bounties. The only thing this scandal is missing for ESPN ratings gold is sex and Jeremy Lin. All those Saints fans who say ESPN and the national media ignore the Saints and they deserve more coverage just got their wish granted in the cruelest way possible. ESPN is about to become 'Bounty Gate' all day every day.
The worst thing of all is the Saints have no one to blame but themselves. They pulled the double play combo of dumb and stupid. Gregg Williams was dumb enough to start a bounty program to stroke his defensive players egos over what amounted to financial peanuts. Then the Saints were stupid enough to lie about what they were doing to the NFL.
The NFL has known for a long time teams have bounties. Buddy Ryan, Gregg Williams mentor, reportedly had them in Philadelphia but there was never any proof. Now the NFL has proof of a team running one. They are going to make an example of the Saints because even though reaction from most NFL players and even Kurt Warner, who the Saints knocked out of a playoff game, is a sort of shrug because they know bounties have been in football forever the NFL has a chance to scare teams from never having a bounty ever again.
Want to know how most players feel about bounties? Read this column from Matt Bowen http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/football/bears/ct-spt-0304-bowen-nfl--20120304,0,4015992.column
America loves football in part because it's a violent game but the Saints bounties are a peak behind the NFL curtain to see something Roger Goodell wishes didn't exist. Saints fans dreams of another Super Bowl are about to get crushed. The national media is going to demand blood and maybe even a couple of scalps from Airline Drive because of some great moral injustice committed against football. Roger Goodell always talks about protecting the NFL Shield which really means, "I don't want any bad PR about how our players are criminals and how our game is too violent and barbaric."
The Saints bounty scandal fits the latter to a tee and Goodell is going to make them pay. I'd expect the NFL to take at least three draft picks away from the Saints, including their 2013 #1 pick, and Loomis and Payton will get huge fines. Payton may even face a suspension along with players. Since 22 0f 27 defensive players are implicated Goodell can't suspend them all because then the Saints would have to play Darren Sproles at cornerback. Some will feel the wrath though. I'm looking at you Jonathan Vilma and your 10K bounty on Brett Favre for the NFC Championship game in 2009. You probably won't see the field until October.
This was the most important off season in New Orleans since 2006 and that was before a giant scandal got dropped in the middle of it. Mickey Loomis by all accounts has Benson's support right now but his off season to-do-list of signing Drew Brees, Carl Nicks, and Marques Colston just got a lot more complicated. It's going to get worse before it gets better. If the Saints do get Brees signed before the Monday franchise tag deadline don't expect a press conference announcing it because the media would spend about 10 seconds on Brees and then grill Loomis over the bounties. If someone can explain to me how Loomis survives all the lying I'd like to hear it.
Gregg Williams before the Super Bowl against the Indianapolis Colts promised to deliver some "remember me shots" on Peyton Manning but the defense never hit Manning hard in Miami. Williams did manage to deliver a shot to Saints fans we'll remember forever. The Saints aren't the lovable losers who helped rebuild a city after Katrina and won a title anymore. They are the dirty bounty hunters and might as well be the 1970's Oakland Raiders of the Deep South. The Saints are about to go from America's sweetheart to America's villain. Williams killed the best party we ever had and Loomis let him do it.
Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, find him on facebook, follow him on twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/MilneMalbrough or download his podcast at Itunes.