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Saturday, March 24, 2012
Assigning blame for 2009 debacle

By Kevin Seifert

We just completed an unprecedented week of NFL news, one that revealed details of a New Orleans Saints bounty program that targeted two NFC North quarterbacks over the past three seasons. But the occasion brought forth disparate views among NFL players, especially among those who play defense and those who play offense.

Specifically, who should be blamed for the beating Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre took in the 2009 NFC Championship Game? The Saints' (apparently incentivized) defenders? Or the Vikings' pass protection?

Consider these statements from two of our players this week. First, here is what Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said about bounties during an ESPN 1000 radio interview.

"If you don't want your quarterback to get hit, protect him," Urlacher said. "You don't want to get hit? Then don't play offense. They're going to hit you. It's the referee's job to mandate [legality]. If they think it's excessive, throw a penalty on it. That's all there is to it."

On the other hand, Vikings center John Sullivan objected to criticism his offensive line took after that game.

"A lot of the hits on Brett were illegal," Sullivan told KFAN-1130. "So what are you supposed to do to prevent that? That's not our job. That's the official's jobs."

In essence, Urlacher is saying it's up to the offense to protect its quarterback and for officials to punish defenders if they play beyond the rules. Sullivan, on the other hand, suggested it's up to officials to provide enough deterrent to eliminate illegal plays.

We could spend days in a college-style sociological debate on the effectiveness of deterrence as a form of discipline. But what do you think? How much do you blame the Saints for what happened to Favre? And how much should the Vikings themselves be blamed? Or did the officiating crew drop the ball? I'm all ears.