Pardon for Payton

Pardon me, but I feel the need to call “bullsh*t” on something.  It is NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s one game “pardon” of New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton, Assistant Coach Joe Vitt, and General Manager Mickey Loomis, to witness Drew Brees’ history making play at the Superdome in New Orleans on Sunday night.

Not to take anything away from Brees, who with a 40 yard pass to Devry Henderson, broke Johnny Unitas’ 52 year record of 47 consecutive games with a touchdown pass.  That is no small feat, and it’s a record the Saints quarterback will likely pad and hold for a while.  Maybe forever.  Congratulations to Drew Brees.

But I’m calling foul on the visitor pass given the suspended trio to share the evening with the team, albeit from a luxury suite and not on the field.  So as to avoid any look of impropriety,  Payton sat alone and when he was on camera (which was often), he looked stoic.  He was seen before the game visiting with Brees’ wife and children and did have a smarmy grin on at the end of the game, as the Saints picked up their first win of the season.  Loomis and Vitt sat together and talked throughout the game, just not with Payton.

Remember, people…these are three men banned from the NFL and the New Orleans Saints; Vitt for one more game, Loomis for three more, and Payton for the rest of the season, for the role their team played in a bounty program for injuries to opposing players.  Former defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams is suspended from the NFL indefinitely.  During the suspension, they are to have nothing to do with the team, the players, coaches, or employees.  They aren’t even allowed in the buildings, on the grounds, or at games.

Granted, the discipline process has been a clusterf*ck with a capital “C” (or is it a “K”?), it’s been tried in the courtroom and the court of public opinion and has yet to be resolved.  On Tuesday, Goodell reissued the Saints player suspensions, Defensive End Will Smith for four games, Linebacker Jonathan Vilma for the rest of the season, Linebacker Scott Fujita (Browns) one game, and Defensive End Anthony Hargrove (free agent) seven games.  The players have the right to appeal the ruling.  Again.

Brees petitioned Roger Goodell for a one game reprieve so his coach, assistant coach, and general manager could be present for his NFL history making throw.  I understand and respect that.  But given the seriousness of the charges and the NFL’s crackdown on injuries, it was both inappropriate and hypocritical.  It was also a huge distraction and if anything, took away from Brees’ historic milestone.  I swear, I saw Payton on camera more than Interim Coach (Offensive Line Coach) Aaron Kromer and was even aware of his potty breaks.

So, here I go…Bullsh*t.

Pardon me.


Coffee Cup Quarterback: Hall of Fame Game 2012 (The One With the Replacement Refs)

Good morning!  What a great time of year.  I saw the first school bus today.  The kids are starting to go back to school and fall is just around the corner.  And best of all…football is back!  Did you hear me?  Football is back!!  Last night the Arizona Cardinals and the New Orleans Saints played in the first NFL preseason game and the 50th anniversary Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio.  Looked like a beautiful night.  But I would say that if it was 40 degrees and raining, because football is back!!!  Did I already say that?

This is also the first Coffee Cup Quarterback column of the year (and ever).  This is where I post my thoughts on the previous day’s games while drinking coffee and waking up.  My apologies if I seem a little groggy.  I was up late watching football.  Sounds so great to say that.

A few thoughts…

It’s time for the Saints, their fans, and the NFL to move on from Bountygate, and it starts with Saints Quarterback Drew Brees.  Marshall Faulk’s interview with Brees aired prior to the start of the game.  Obviously, the scandal was discussed, as well as the fallout, and the effect it will have on the team this year.  Brees (carefully) backed up the recent comments he made to SI’s Peter King about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.  He lamented on the process, the leaks, the mistrust, the broken hearts…just kidding on the last one.  But honestly, let’s move on.  Football has started.  The appeals process is underway and until it is resolved, as the quarterback, captain, team leader, and King of New Orleans, Drew Brees needs to let go and drive his team and his people forward.  What’s done is done.  This didn’t come out of nowhere.  Roger Goodell didn’t throw down dire sanctions for no apparent reason.  And it wasn’t like it was without warning.  Is Vilma taking too much of the fall?  Did other players know more?  Less?  I don’t care.  Let them work it out in appeals.  Either way, it’s time for Brees to put on his big boy pants and go play football.  He shouldn’t say another word about any of it and let his team come together and make a collective statement on the field.  That’s what a leader does.

And…that’s what Drew Brees did when he took the field last night.  Brees scored a touchdown on his first (and only) possession, then spent the rest of the game singing, dancing, and eating sunflower seeds on the sideline.  See?  That’s what I’m talking about.  More dancing, less whining.

The Cardinals came into their first preseason game with a controversy of their own, a quarterback controversy.  At least until a dreadful Kevin Kolb threw an interception on his first pass of the season and was hurt on his third unproductive possession.  John Skelton showed up in a big way and demonstrated real promise as a starter.  No update on Kolb’s potential rib injury, but it was certainly ill timed.  We’ll hear more, I’m sure.  But if I’m Skelton, I feel great about my position on the team.

I know no one really cares about the outcome, but I feel like I should say that the Saints defeated the Cardinals 17-10.

The other notable issue in last night’s game was the NFL’s use of replacement referees while negotiations with the official officials continue.  It started with a botched coin toss.  Yes, seriously.  Then I really didn’t think the officials were an issue in the first half.  Then I realized there weren’t really any calls in the first half.  There was an interception or two to review though.  Remember?  All interceptions go under the hood now?  The second half…was rough.  But hey, it’s the preseason for them too (and their first NFL game, unless of course, they were used as replacements in 2001).  Either way, I think we’ll see this crew throughout the remainder of the preseason.  At least.

So…while Brees works on his quiet skills, Kolb nurses an injury, the referees practice their coin toss…and we get ready for more football on Thursday night!

Ahhh…life is good.