I can somewhat understand the New Orleans Saints’ decision to keep Sean Payton’s coaching position vacant during his suspension from the NFL this season. Offensive Coordinator Pete Carmichael will take over Payton’s duties, much like he did when Payton was out with a broken leg last year. What I can’t quite comprehend, is the fact that they’re actually going to leave his seat vacant. His seat, literally. At team meetings, on the plane, on the bus…
When I first heard this, I stopped and thought, “Did I miss something? My God, what happened to Sean Payton?” I googled him and thankfully he is still with us. So, why would the team leave a seat open for someone who is still alive, yet suspended for failing to stop the team’s illegal cash bounty payouts? One word: protest.
This is the Saints’ way of protesting what they deem to be harsh punishment from the NFL. And it is harsh. One year suspension. No contact with the team or players (or players from another team). Banned from all Saints facilities. The reason it’s harsh is that this was not an oversight. The Saints had been warned several times, and flat out ordered to shut the practice down by the NFL and team owner. Commissioner Roger Goodell made it clear when he handed down the sentence (the harshest in NFL history for a coach) that he had been lied to by the team and Sean Payton.
So while Payton is on sabbatical, golfing, fishing, maybe studying film, the team will carry on as if he’s there. His empty seat will serve as his reminder. Payton will be eligible for reinstatement in the spring of 2013, shortly after Superbowl XLVII is held in New Orleans. Bet they get him a great seat.