- Mike Sando, NFL Insider
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Initial thoughts on the NFL's announcement regarding punishment for Sean Payton, Mickey Loomis, Gregg Williams, Joe Vitt and the New Orleans Saints stemming from their bounty scandal:
What it means for the Rams: Williams, their new defensive coordinator, has been suspended for at least the 2012 season. Commissioner Roger Goodell will review Williams' case following the season. This is a significant setback for the Rams and one that calls into question Williams' future with the team. Head coach Jeff Fisher and assistant head coach Dave McGinnis do have experience as defensive coordinators. They'll take the lead on defense, presumably. Williams cooperated with the NFL's investigation. I suspect failure to cooperate might have led to stiffer punishment. A lifetime ban, perhaps? Payton received a one-year suspension. Loomis got eight games and a $500,000 fine. The Saints drew a $500,000 fine while losing second-round choices in 2012 and 2013. Vitt drew a six-game suspension.
Commissioner expands power: Teams will take Goodell more seriously when he issues warnings behind the scenes. Goodell had instructed the Saints to handle this issue. Any team faced with similar warnings in the future now must take them more seriously. Goodell has made his point. Defy the commissioner and you're going to pay.
Statement to players: The league has yet to announce punishment for players involved in this case. It's safe to assume the Saints organization and leadership will pay the highest price. Those critical of Goodell for his unilaterally administered punishment of players must now acknowledge the commissioner will hold teams and coaches accountable, too. The talk about higher standards has more merit following this punishment.
Players safety issue: Handing out such stiff penalties potentially improves the NFL's position when fighting lawsuits relating to alleged negligence on concussions. The league now has tangible evidence -- not just words -- demonstrating the seriousness with which it takes all matters related to player safety.
What it means for Steve Spagnuolo: The Saints hired former Rams coach Spagnuolo as their defensive coordinator when Williams left for St. Louis. Spagnuolo would be a logical candidate to serve as interim head coach in New Orleans. He would stand to benefit from such an arrangement, perhaps putting himself in position to succeed Payton or land another head coaching job in the near future.
Williams can apparently improve his chances for returning.
"Commissioner Goodell said he will give close attention to the extent to which Coach Williams cooperates with the NFL in any further proceedings," the NFL said in a news release.
Williams has every reason to cooperate. I would expect him to do so, and I would expect the NFL to reinstate him in return. Will the Rams still have interest in retaining Williams at that time? I would think they would be best off moving forward without him, but Williams' friendship with Fisher could work in his favor.