COLUMN: Sean Payton Should Be Fired
And with former Saint Steve Gleason, who retired two years ago, suffering from ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), how could you possibly enact a program to allow hits that cause players like Gleason to have terrible post-football diseases? Saints players were offered several grand to knock out players, including $10,000 to anyone who could knock out Brett Favre before the 2010 NFC Championship game. What Williams did is despicable to say the least, but the fact that Saints head coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis knew about this program should result in both of their dismissals.
Much like college football coaches who allow NCAA violations to go on unabated, Payton's hiding the bounty program from commissioner Roger Goodell and not doing anything to stop it is shameful. According to the NFL press release, "[Payton] was aware of the allegations, did not make any detailed inquiry or otherwise seek to learn the facts, and failed to stop the bounty program. He never instructed his assistant coaches or players that a bounty program was improper and could not continue." Payton knew, and yet he did not try and stop it.
Commissioner Goodell has made player safety his top priority, fining and even suspending players for big hits. With the way that Goodell has treated the players regarding these huge hits, it's only fair that he treats coaches that encourage hard hits even tougher. I mean, these coaches are paying players to go against the commissioner's goal of making the NFL a much safer league. In order to send a message to future bounty program coaches, Goodell should force the Saints to fire Payton.
What GM Mickey Loomis did was even worse. He not only knew about the bounties, he was told by Saints owner Tom Benson to ban Williams' program. He ignored his own owner, and the Saints continued with the system. Just to reiterate, Loomis stood against his owner, the man who hired him and pays him, to allow this illegal program to partake. That should be reason enough for Loomis' dismissal.
Commissioner Goodell is expected to levy the Saints with harsh punishments rather soon, and he is expected to hit them extremely hard with penalties like fines and lost draft picks (think similar to the Patriots' punishment for spygate). However, I think the bounty program is more serious than Spygate and deserves a harsher punishment because this directly involves player safety and is the complete opposite of what Goodell is trying to achieve.
And if Payton and Loomis remain on the Saints staff, there will always be a dark cloud hanging over their heads because of this scandal, even though those two men led the Saints to their first ever Super Bowl just two short years ago. However, just like those college coaches, one scandal can blow up your career, and sometimes a team can just use a brand new start.