The bounty scandal is in somewhat of a holding pattern as we await word on punishment from commissioner Roger Goodell. Fortunately, Peyton Manning and the Colts have given us the filler required to bridge the gap between Bountygate and the start of free agency or Goodell’s sentencing — whichever comes first.

And since the initial shock pertaining to the Saints’ illegal pay-for-performance program has worn, we now have a chance to ponder the forthcoming punishments that the league will deliver to Gregg Williams, Sean Payton, Mickey Loomis and the defensive players involved in the shenanigans.

Williams is expected to be slapped with the stiffest penalty, and one particular former player thinks it should reach “unprecedented” territory.

In a column for the Wall Street Journal, Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton calls bullshit on the theory that paid bounties for injuries are — or were — commonplace in professional football, and he claims that he and all of his former peers are dismayed and disgusted by the details of this case. For that, Tarkenton implies that Williams should get the Shoeless Joe treatment:

The NFL has to come down hard on this scandal because every team, coach and player needs to get the message that this is not ok. Gregg Williams should never be seen in the NFL again. Others in the Saints organization who knew about the bounties and did not stop them, including General Manager Mickey Loomis and Head Coach Sean Payton, both of whom I like and respect, must also be severely punished. Players who participated should face consequences, and the Saints 2009 Super Bowl championship will be forever tarnished.

I’m not convinced that Super Bowl victory will be tarnished, but at the very least, it’s something rival fans will use against the team till the end of time — just as Patriots haters do with Spygate. I’m not sure that is enough to constitute tarnishment, but it’ll still piss off Saints supporters.

As far as a ban goes, I think the league would be smarter to suspend Williams indefinitely — for at least one season — and see what happens beyond that. There’s a good chance no one chooses to touch Williams again, simply because of his toxic name in the professional football sphere. See if he’s blackballed himself. If he hasn’t, he surely won’t be a recidivist with a final lease on his career. If he has, then the NFL won’t take heat for going too far in an attempt to make an example of someone.

Essentially, the league should hand out an initial, substantial punishment, and then beyond that, it should let the football world decide Williams’ fate.