Kristian: Can the Saints overcome Bounty Gate?
Peyton Manning's divorce from the Indianapolis Colts has helped push the Saints bounty scandal to the back burner for the time being in the national media. They'll likely find themselves smack dab in the middle of it all again once the commissioner hands down punishment later this month.
Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis and Coach Sean Payton both face possible suspensions, fines, and the team could lose multiple draft choices. The Saints admitted fault in the scandal and accepted responsibility as they are trying to move on. They await NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's decision with baited breath so they can move ahead and start the process of building their team for the 2012 season.
Drew Brees contract talks aside, the Saints have their work cut out for them. When Sean Payton arrived in New Orleans in January of 2006, he was taking over a team that was 3 and 13. The Saints lacked star power and talent. They were back in a city that was still on its knees from Hurricane Katrina, after playing every game away from the Crescent City the year before. It didn't take long for Payton to turn the tables.
That first season he brought them to within a game of the Super Bowl. Three years later he guided the Saints to their first ever Super Bowl appearance and win. Payton, along with General Manager Mickey Loomis, rebuilt a team's image and viability in the wake of the darkest days for the city and organization. The GM/coach tandem accomplished their fantastic feat as a result of a carefully thought out plan and making tough, hard decisions along the way. Loomis and Payton will need a similar methodical hardnosed approach as they attempt to recover from the black eye in Bounty Gate.
Loomis and Payton's crown has a bit of tarnish to it. It's not as shinny as it once was, but they can and will recover. Payton wins. He knows what it takes to prepare teams for Sunday football in the NFL. Yes it will be difficult without draft picks for a couple of years, but it's not insurmountable. You could argue that Payton is often driven by naysayers and challenges. He talked about manufacturing crisis from time to time in his book "Home Team."
While the bounty scandal was not manufactured with intent, it's nevertheless a significant challenge. The Loomis/Payton era will undoubtedly be tested, but if there are two people in the NFL seemingly cut out to handle the pressure and obstacles that come with a scandal like this, it's Mickey and Sean. First and foremost, they accepted responsibility. They've done that! Now they have to come with a plan. I'm sure it's in the works. The Saints will survive this, but they'll take some lumps along the way.