Commentary

The logic behind Payton's appeal

Saints coach needed to buy his team time and learn parameters of suspension

Originally Published: April 2, 2012
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

Appealing a suspension from a commissioner angry enough to kick a coach out of the league for a year might not seem like the smartest decision, but in Sean Payton's case, it was the right decision.

For Payton, his season is now. Simply accepting the decision to be suspended would have been foolish. Asking for an appeal to fully understand the parameters of the suspension gives all involved the chance to figure out how to get through what might be the craziest year in Saints history.

No coach in the NFL has been suspended for a season. Even though the investigation of the Saints' bounty system lasted three years, the organization had only 11 days to digest the impact. The team lost its head coach for the season, its assistant head coach (Joe Vitt) for six games and its general manager (Mickey Loomis) for eight games. It lost two second-round picks, and it could lose players to suspension.

The Saints need guidance for planning, and if Payton's suspension started Sunday, he would be out of the loop until the end of the 2012 regular season. With Payton and Loomis flying to New York on Tuesday to meet with the NFL, it appears the Saints aren't looking to challenge commissioner Roger Goodell's decision; they need to get answers to a few questions.

The most important one: How stringent will the commissioner be in enforcing Payton's suspension? Payton is not supposed to be in contact with people in the organization, but Goodell knows it's inevitable some contact will occur. Goodell doesn't want Payton coaching the team from home, and clearly that won't happen. Payton just needs to know what is allowed and not allowed.

With that information, Payton can make a recommendation on whether the Saints' interim coach should be hired from the current staff or from outside the organization. If it's the latter, it would probably result in the hiring of Bill Parcells to take charge this season. The Saints could also hire Parcells as an adviser.

The Saints needed to get a firm grip on the terms of their suspensions. It doesn't appear they are challenging the decision with hopes of overturning it.

From the inbox

Q: Am I crazy or should Packers GM Ted Thompson pull an Atlanta-type trade this year to get in position to draft Trent Richardson? I know running backs don't have tons of trade value and it would consist of two first-rounders at the least, but it seems like that he would be a missing piece for them. Plus, of all teams, they can afford to lose a couple first-rounders.

Ryan in Chicago

A: Can't see him doing that. Thompson values draft choices and dislikes free agency. The Packers have proved you don't have to overdraft or invest gobs of money in running backs. They need a back as a running threat. They need a back to catch the football. To move from the bottom of the first round into the top five, the Packers would have to offer a Redskins-like trade of three first-rounders and a second-rounder to get a running back. They can get one who fits in the second or third round.

Q: Adding more automatic replays to the game is a disaster for home viewing, pacing and excitement. Really, football is exciting when the game moves at a good clip. For decades, big plays have come immediately after turnovers because of a sudden change that catches defenders emotionally and mentally unprepared to run on the field. With a stop after every single turnover, say goodbye to the 50-yard bomb following a fumble. Isn't this just a way to add even more TV commercials to every game and stretch the norm from three hours to 3.5 hours?

Martin in Bainbridge Island, Wash.

A: It's not going to be that bad, but I think you are on to something. An interception won't take much time; it shouldn't take more than a second to review a defender catching the ball. That shouldn't slow things down. Fumbles are different matters. The balancing act is whether the booth reviews of fumbles shrink the number of coaching challenges. If there isn't a significant drop in coaches' challenges, the game will get longer. Rich McKay of the competition committee said the average game last season was three hours and six minutes. Keep that number in mind when we look back at the 2012 season to see if the game gets longer.

Q: I saw your recent report on the stagnant salary cap going forward, as well the information about the salary-cap space rollovers to teams that were under the cap last season. My question related to the salary cap is this: When does the salary floor start to come into play? I remember the salary floor being a big part of the labor negotiations, and then hearing that the floor would not apply in the first year of the labor deal. But when does it start to kick in?

Pat in Dallas

A: The minimum figure per team doesn't go into effect until the 2013 season and lasts the final eight years of the deal. With cap ceilings in the low $120 million range, teams won't have any difficulty getting to the minimum number. I remember counting last season and the leaguewide minimum was reached in September.

Q: I read the story about how Roger Goodell will not allow any cash payments between players, whether the clubs are involved or not. How would that apply to Tom Brady buying his O-line dinner or Chad Ochocinco offering to pay the fine of another player? Is the league going to monitor that type of transaction too?

Rob in Watertown, Mass.

A: It could. Goodell is still solidifying the policy but that appears to be the case. The pool of money that players collect for kangaroo courts is supposed to be out. Pools of money between teammates for good plays and bad plays are out. The problem I wonder about is how it will be enforced.

Q: I know it is impossible to answer what-if questions, but if Matt Barkley and Landry Jones would have declared for the draft this year, how would the top-four QBs have ranked? Would either of them have been ranked ahead of RG3?

David in Nashville, Tenn.

A: It's not out of the question Barkley could have been the No. 2 quarterback, but if not, he would have gone to Cleveland at No. 4. I think Jones would have been the fifth quarterback, behind Ryan Tannehill. Jones probably would have received a low-first-round or second-round grade, but he was wise to go back to college for another year. Barkley didn't need to go back. His ratings were solid. Had Barkley and Jones come out, the Seahawks wouldn't have had to sign Matt Flynn because they knew they would get a top rookie quarterback at No. 12. Miami would have had options at No. 8.

[+] EnlargeJonathan Stewart
AP Photo/Chuck BurtonThe Packers could use another running back. Should they trade for Jonathan Stewart?

Q: Realizing the market and draft value for RBs have fallen and Carolina has locked DeAngelo Williams in for at least this year because of the potential cap hit to cut him, why wouldn't the Panthers try to get a second- or third-round pick for Jonathan Stewart? Conversely, why wouldn't a team like the Packers be willing to give that up? He's just what they need, a guy who can take the ball 16-18 times a week and catch it out of the backfield 4-5 times.

Kelly in Chicago

A: Good question. The Panthers might consider trading Stewart for a second-round choice. The problem facing the Packers is getting a defensive lineman or two and a pass-rusher with their top two picks. Despite going 15-1 and being one of the favorites in the NFC, the Packers do have some critical needs. They solved the center problem by signing Jeff Saturday. They really do need another running back. I like your idea. What I don't know is whether they can get Stewart for a third-round choice.

Q: With owners approving the motion to move the playoff overtime format to the regular season, do you foresee any likelihood that the number of games ending in a tie will increase over the next few seasons?

From DanK in Erie, Pa.

A: I do. That's why I don't like the change. A tie is like a wasted week. You build up your anticipation for a result and you end up with no outcome. Don't like it. Here's what I see happening. You'll have about three to five games in which two teams match field goals. That will eat up almost half the quarter. If no one scores for the remainder of the period, it's a tie. Don't like it.

Q: How many wins do you see the Buffalo Bills earning this year? I know it's hard to tell so early but they have had a great offseason thus far. They need to shore up the OL with the No. 10 pick.

Cody in Missoula, Mont.

A: I can see them getting to seven or eight wins. With the additions of Mark Anderson and Mario Williams, the defense should improve significantly. If the defense gives up 20 points a game or fewer, then there is a chance the team could get to nine wins. It can be argued that the Bills might be better than the Dolphins. They are closing the gap between themselves and the Jets. They aren't good enough to catch the Patriots, but you can start believing.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer