12.12.12 Kristian@wwl.com - I think we learned what we expected when former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue rendered his ruling that vacated the suspensions of former and current Saints players. We learned the NFL's case and claims of an alleged bounty was not as air tight as they originally lead us to believe. However, we also learned that according to the findings of Goodell and Tagliabue, the Saints coaching staff, including Sean Payton, knew of the system in place and did nothing to stop it. In fact, they admitted to being less than truthful through the process. So, remove the fact there was no bounty system in place, but merely a pay for performance in place. Does that make it any less concerning? It shouldn't!
Head coach, Sean Payton, allegedly knew about it. If that's true, then it's a clear failure in leadership. The leader who has done such an extraordinary job of leading this team on the field, failed in the face of adversity. It was his job to stop it. Furthermore, Payton was a part of the coaching staff that misled investigators and encouraged players to cover it up. The simple fix would have been to knock it off. Wait, the real simple fix would have been to not allow it to go on in the first place. Payton has preached character from his players since arriving in New Orleans back in 2006. This kind of behavior flies in the face of men with character. So, it wasn't a bounty, but would we all agree there was a pay for performance system in place? Coaches and players have said they've never participated in a pay to injure program. Yesterday's ruling proves that. However, there was some less than above board behavior going on. That much I'm certain of. That much is disturbing. Leaders lead.
Now more than ever Payton owes the city, the fans, and the organization. Payton led the Saints into calm, crystal clear waters of a Super Bowl championship; he also led them into the choppy, murky waters of the biggest scandal in franchise history. Sean Payton, by his lack of action, was instrumental in a lost season that originally had Saints fans thinking Super Bowl in their own home town. I'm not too big on proving loyalty when it comes to negotiating contracts and in business. In this case I think Payton owes it to team owner Tom Benson, the organization, the players and you, the fans, to return and fix the mess he created with a lack of institutional control. He needs to take a stand for right over wrong. He's the head coach. He’s head honcho. He didn't act like it. Payton didn't show conviction when faced with tremendous controversy. He missed the mark of a truly great leader.
Can the Saints put this behind them and regain momentum that carried the Black & Gold to 41 wins in the previous three seasons? Time will tell, but the 2012 season is one they'll never get back. The window of opportunity is only open for a short time in the NFL. Let's hope the Saints can keep the window open just a bit longer and Payton rectifies the situation in 2013. 2012 is over, and for the most part so is the bounty mess.
Leaders lead. Now, Coach Payton…inspire us. Lead. Let’s do the job.