One day in mid-June we’ll do a post that isn’t related to Peyton Manning or the Saints and their payments to inflict pain. Until then, we’re treating these stories like a rented mule whose only purpose in life is to flog horses.
The estimates for the punishment that will be handed out to Gregg Williams and the Saints for the bounty program have been wildly yet quite predictably scattered. It’s Williams’ punishment where we’re finding the most creativity, with some calling for just a half season suspension, while others want a full year, and the lunatic fringe has discussed a lifetime ban.
A heavy fine and a loss of multiple draft picks this year seems to be the consensus for the Saints’ punishment. However, we’ve now been assured of at least one certainty: they won’t be stripped of their 2010 championship.
Mike Florio’s wandering mind and stream of consciousness led him to a few phone calls and/or emails to explore that possibility, and the answer he received was quite clear.
The potential consequences for the violation, we’re told, will be limited to those expressly identified in the league’s press release of March 2: fines, suspensions, and forfeiture of draft picks.
Vacating games or taking away titles isn’t on the table. The Saints will have to write a large check to the league, and the Saints will be prevented from writing a name on a card during one or more rounds of the 2012 (and maybe 2013) draft. That’s it.
I’m trying to envision an illegal deed that would be deemed devilish enough that a team would be stripped of a championship. I could sit here staring at a blinking cursor for several hours, and I’d still fail in that effort to justify a truly cruel and unusual punishment.
That extreme measure has been taken in college football, a penalty handed to USC in the fallout of the Reggie Bush scandal. The Trojans had to vacate all their wins from the 2004 season, a crushing penalty that included their BCS title game win.
But although this is admittedly a steaming lie, the players on college teams are supposed to be students before they’re athletes. Tampering with the integrity of the college game played by unpaid players is therefore a more serious crime, and is worthy of a more severe punishment.
What the Saints did may or may not be common. But they were caught, and the team will collectively become Roger Goodell’s whipping boy, and their punishment will serve as a shining example of what happens when you pay defenders to hurt opponents. Or at least pay them extra, because defenders are already paid to hurt people. We just don’t talk about that.
But there’s simply no conceivable situation in which a championship would be stripped from a team’s history, and it takes a pretty adventurous imagination to dream of such an outcome. So bravo on that, Florio.