Ralph Malbrough / Contributing writer
Every Saints fan knows Roger Goodell ruined the 2012 football season by suspending Sean Payton. Did you know he's ruining the 2013 Saints season as well? If Roger Goodell doesn't allow Sean Payton to return until the day after the Super Bowl, the Saints may not have nearly as good a coaching staff next year.
NFL teams are hiring head coaches and those head coaches are hiring assistants. What happens if Pete Carmichael gets the Bears job he just interviewed for and he takes Aaron Kromer with him?
I'll tell you what happens: the Saints two best offensive assistant coaches are gone and Sean Payton has to wait until every team has filled their coaching vacancies before he can even return to the team.
Is it the end of the world? No, but you can be sure the replacement Payton hires in February won't be as good as the one he could hire now.
If Carmichael does get the Bears job, the Saints offensive coordinator job would be maybe the most coveted coordinator job in the NFL. The guy who would be hired gets to coach Drew Brees and the best passing offense in football. He would be on the fast track to a head coaching job and Payton would probably be treated like a rock star in Mobile at the Senior Bowl if he were trying to fill that job.
If Carmichael does leave and the Saints have already put some sort of contingency plan in place where Payton told GM Mickey Loomis who to hire if coaches left, I have my money on Tony Sparano. Sean Payton wanted to bring Sparano with him from Dallas in 2006, but Bill Parcells wouldn't allow it.
I know what you are thinking; Sparano is horrible and he just coached the train wreck known as the New York Jets offense, but don't hold that against him. If you asked Emeril Lagasse to cook you a meal using ingredients only from your trash it would be as awful as any Mark Sanchez quarterbacked team. Remember Sparano did have the good sense to keep Tim Tebow mostly on the sideline so we know he's not all bad.
Potential coaching hires aren't the only reason the Saints desperately need Sean Payton to return ASAP. They, also depending on whom you believe, may or may not have a defensive player mutiny on their hands.
Steve Spagnulo got the dreaded 'ripped by an anonymous player' treatment in the Times Picayune. Curtis Lofton jumped to Spagnuolo's defense in an interview with our own Bradley Handwerger, so depending on your opinion of Spagnuolo you can either say it's just one disgruntled player or he's a horrible coach and all the players hate him.
I'm not sure whom to believe but I know we've never seen any player anonymous or otherwise rip a Saints coach like that since Sean Payton arrived. Not good.
Jonathan Vilma dropped the 'We're not the Jets, who run to the media for everything' line in outrage, but Jonathan you are only one Skip Bayless 'First Take' rant away from being the Jets.
So the Saints would be wise to either put the full court press on Goodell to reinstate Payton immediately or maybe just tell him, 'You already burned our 2012 season to the ground so could you please make like Smokey the Bear, have some decency and put out this fire?'
Cincinnati (+4.5) at Houston: The Texans are in a complete collapse and the city where I live is looking forward to this game as much as a dentist appointment. The Texans need a really good start so their own fans don't turn on them. They won't get it.
Green Bay (-7.5) vs. Minnesota: Root for the Packers because there is no way Christian Ponder wins in Green Bay then goes to Atlanta and wins next week. Remember kids when the Saints aren't in the playoffs it doesn't matter who wins the Super Bowl as long as it's not the Falcons.
Indianapolis (+7) at Baltimore: Ray Rice may run for 200 yards and this pick might look awful after 15 minutes but I hate Ray Lewis and want him to lose his last game at home.
Seattle (-3) at Washington: The Seahawks can go to Atlanta and win so I'll be rooting for them here. Plus, if Pete Carroll wins another playoff game he's officially a better coach than Nick Saban, which might make Saban more likely to leave Alabama. It's really my dream January scenario; Atlanta loses first playoff game and Alabama makes a horrible hire to replace Saban. Come on Seattle!
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.