When a dictator issues a heavy ruling on a matter related to the land which he rules, there’s instinctive fear, and worry about an unquenchable thirst for power. Roger Goodell is the NFL’s dictator, and there are peons working in his shadow who are now concerned that his hammer has become far too heavy, and his fist uncontrollable.

Nearly a day later with the dust somewhat settled, that’s the feeling in some corners as we begin to assess the severe and unprecedented penalties issued to the Saints for their bounties imposed over a three-year period. The hesitancy for what lies ahead is understandable. A head coach has never been suspended for an entire season, and the aftershock of yesterday could lead to Gregg Williams’ time as an NFL coach in any capacity ending.

The supporting arguments have now grown stale, though, especially the ones referencing football as an inherently violent game. That statement is certainly true, but the mentality is stretched to its logical extreme when there’s an extra incentive given to injure a player. The size of the incentive is irrelevant, and it’s presence in a locker room–any locker room–is all that matters.

The penalties from Goodell were harsh and damaging, although in at least one respect they’re a touch overblown. Losing a general manager for half a season isn’t too awful. Once the season starts, a GM’s work is mostly complete, and he’s left to sit and watch from high above as his team either sinks or swims.

There was a balancing act executed by Goodell yesterday, the same one he tip-toes around with nearly every major disciplinary decision. He has to fight the spread of a barbaric, neanderthal label and protect the safety of his players, while also still ensuring that the product on Sunday remains the same. Those are his basic motivations, but some, like Tim Cowlishaw, saw a much different motive:

A year without pay?

Payton will be as remembered for this lost season as much as for 2009, a Super Bowl victory that’s now stained by these charges and rulings.

I’m not sure Lord Acton had a vision of the multi-billion dollar industry that is the NFL when he said, “Power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Yet that’s where we are with Goodell and the NFL.

It’s almost as if Payton and the Saints are paying a price for the lockout and all those months in which the league office couldn’t impose fines and suspensions.

The price paid by the Saints was massive, yet deserved for their combination of arrogance (Williams), and ignorance (Payton). We’ve seen in recent years with various disciplinary decisions like the suspensions handed to Michael Vick and Ben Roethlisberger that Goodell is in the message-sending business.

This has always been about public perceoption. That’s not a new idea, and it’s never been a hidden league secret. Those who tarnish the league’s image will always be treated with a heavy hand.

The totality of the punishment here is much larger than those given to Vick and Big Ben, but the intent is the same. There is no thirst for power, and no corrupt behavior. The prevailing motivation is to maintain integrity, and banish the mere thought of bounty programs from the game forever.

Those goals were accomplished yesterday, and the Saints’ brazen actions made them Goodell’s precedent.

And now you want to know the rest of the story…

  • Tim Tebow had a conference call with reporters last night after his whirlwind day, and he sounded exactly like Tim Tebow always sounds. Polite, genuine, utterly uncontroversial, and boring. Very boring. [Newark Star-Ledger]
  • How the Tebow deal unfolded yesterday over about a 10-hour period was also so very Tebow-ish, and was only a small dose of the insanity set to come for a Jets general manager who’s now tied his future to a backup quarterback. [Steve Politi]
  • We’ve heard the jokes about Tebow’s throwing ability, and made plenty of bad ones ourselves. But this can’t be repeated enough: Tebow isn’t Ronnie Brown, so the Jets’ wildcat will be much different, and likely much more effective. [The Jets Blog]
  • Gisele gave Tom Brady his allowance for 2012. There’s $7.2 million he’s not allowed to spend, so he restructured his contract to give it back to the Patriots. [Ian Rapoport]
  • Stevan Ridley will likely be Brady’s primary running back next year with BenJarvus Green-Ellis set to sign a three-year deal with the Bengals. [Karen Guregian]
  • The Bills already made their major splash with Mario Williams, but their defensive line became scary good when they signed Mark Anderson to a four-year deal worth $27.5 million. [Buffalo Rumblings]
  • The 49ers inquired about Mike Wallace during the first week of free agency, but like many other teams they found that he was a little too expensive for their liking. [Matt Barrows]
  • Alex Smith isn’t offended at all by the 49ers’ pursuit of Peyton Manning. [San Francisco Chronicle]