Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Vikings fans: 'Nothing will ever be enough'
By Kevin Seifert
From the beginning, Minnesota Vikings fans have taken the NFL's bounty investigation personally. The league, after all, found that the New Orleans Saints had given players a financial incentive to knock quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2009 NFC Championship Game. Although Favre did not leave the game, he was pummeled throughout and threw two interceptions -- one after an illegal hit -- that had a direct outcome on the game. Even if indirectly, many Vikings fans insist the bounty program impacted the outcome of a contest that decided the NFC's Super Bowl participant.
So shortly after the NFL announced its unprecedented sanctions against the Saints and its leadership, I threw out a question on Twitter: Was it enough for you? Has justice been served in the form of the following penalties?
- Indefinite suspension of former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams
- One-year suspension of coach Sean Payton
- Eight-game suspension of general manager Mickey Loomis
- Six-game suspension of assistant head coach Joe Vitt
- A $500,000 franchise fine
- Forfeiture of second-round draft picks in 2012 and 2013
- Future discipline of individual players to be determined
With varying levels of anger, most of you said no.
"Nothing will ever be enough," tweeted @missjackson75.
@KimSherayko: "no bc what's done is done we can't replay the game."
@Shea_Carr: "I would have like to see at least 1 first rd pick gone."
@JeremyAnderson: "no, I think they should lose the trophy."
And in the end, @PaulFerence had the most thought-provoking response: "I'd take a year suspension for the coach, an 8 game suspension for the GM, and the loss of two 2nd rd picks for a title here."
I don't know if we'll ever settle whether the bounty program squashed the Vikings' Super Bowl hopes that year. Favre's second interception, as well as an inexcusable 12-men-in-the-huddle penalty, both played huge roles in a close game. I do, however, think you're entitled to eternal anger at losing to a team found to have competed above the ethical rules of the game and then lying repeatedly about it when confronted by the league. Often our natural (if immature) reaction is to assume that a victorious opponent cheated. In this case, that's exactly what happened, according to the league.
But in the same breath, I think you're underestimating how much turmoil this punishment will throw the Saints' entire franchise into. Say what you want about Payton, but he is one of the league's best coaches. The Saints won't have him in 2012 and can't promote Vitt, his logical replacement. Whoever coaches the Saints this season will be underqualified for the job, and it's easy to see a disastrous 2012 campaign that could reverberate for years to come. Removing a head coach from the mix for a year is unprecedented, and it would be wrong to assume Payton would seamlessly restore the Saints' championship-caliber play upon returning in 2013. On a personal note, Payton will lose his 2012 salary of $7 million.
And let's not forget that these sanctions could end the career of the man who masterminded the program and has been the first target of your ire. Gregg Williams' suspension is technically indefinite, but will he ever be hired as a defensive coordinator again?
In the end, I'm not sure if there were a set of penalties -- short of reversing the outcome of the game -- that could have distilled your anger in this case. If it makes you feel any better, the bounty program led to the steepest discipline in NFL history. That will have to do.