With “Man of the Year” Drew Brees leading the offense and a plethora of likeable characters on defense, the Black and Gold had been placed on a seemingly towering pedestal, never to be knocked down. In 2009, the city of New Orleans celebrated the organization’s first ever Super Bowl victory. The team and its future had never looked brighter.
Little did the city know about the events happening behind the scenes.
According to an NFL investigation, the Saints had been placing bounties on opposing players. So what does this mean? For those who don’t know, this involves giving incentives, including money, benefits, etc. for the injuring of a player. In this case, New Orleans took it to a new extreme.
Here is what the USA Today wrote regarding the situation:
“The investigation revealed that the money pool reached $50,000 or more during the 2009 playoffs, and players were paid $1,500 for a “knockout” and $1,000 for a “cart-off” with payouts doubling or tripling during the playoffs. Players were also paid for plays like interceptions and fumble recoveries.”
Recently on ESPN, reporter Adam Schefter recalled an incident involving veteran LB Jonathan Vilma. He stated that, prior to the 2009 NFC Championship Game against the Minnesota Vikings, Vilma placed $10,000 on the table for Brett Favre’s removal from the contest.
It has also been reported that former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was involved in the placing of the bounties. Even head coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis had knowledge of the bounty system, yet neither seemingly attempted to stop the practice (information provided by Yahoo! Sports).
So where does that leave the organization?
An 18,000+ page report has now clouded the Saints’ once clear blue skies. The first place to look is team leadership. As information is provided over the next few days, it will be interesting to discover how much of the locker room knew about the behind-the-scenes practice. One can only imagine how people will begin to judge the leadership of Brees if it is found that he had full knowledge of the happenings. What about Payton? Can a head coach be trusted to keep the organization from buckling after the news?
Honestly, there are a million questions that could be asked.
The only thing that we know for sure is this: the Saints are in trouble. Big trouble.
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