- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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New Orleans Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt and his attorney, David Cornwell, spoke briefly to the media after Vitt had a hearing on his appeal of a six-game suspension at the NFL offices in New York.
Vitt said he had a good meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
“We tried to make the point to the commissioner that the results on the field didn’t match the punishment,’’ Vitt told reporters.
Vitt didn’t have much else to say, but Cornwell certainly did. Cornwell suggested the blame should lie with former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and not Vitt. Cornwell also said that coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis went to Williams before last season’s playoff game with Detroit and told him “there’s no place for’’ a bounty program. Cornwell went on to describe Williams as “a rogue coach, who was about to get fired."
Cornwell said Williams had issues beyond the bounty program with other Saints’ employees. Cornwell said Williams was fired the next week after the Saints lost a playoff game to San Francisco. That doesn’t match up with the official word on Williams’ departure from New Orleans.
Immediately after the season ended, it was reported that Williams’ contract was up and he wanted to go join close friend Jeff Fisher with the St. Louis Rams. The Saints quickly hired former St. Louis coach Steve Spagnuolo as their defensive coordinator.
The other problem I have with Cornwell’s comments is the part about trying to make it sound like Vitt was in the clear once Payton and Loomis told Williams to stop the program. The NFL has said the bounty program went on for three full seasons and the Saints were told to stop it several times, but didn’t. So, if Payton and Loomis told Williams to stop the bounty program for his last two games with the Saints, should that clear everyone else?
I don’t think so. The NFL’s report on its investigation is very extensive and specifically mentions wrongdoing by Payton, Loomis, Vitt, middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma and other unnamed players over the course of three seasons. The NFL hasn't issued any punishment for players yet. Williams is the only coach or administrator who did not appeal his suspension.
There’s no doubt Williams deserves his indefinite suspension -- maybe even a permanent ban -- but I don’t think you can pin this whole thing on just one guy.