In his first remarks to the media, six days after his suspension, I would say that Saints head coach Sean Payton was conciliatory.
At no time did Payton say he was sorry. But, he said enough when he said, “(I am) trying to look closely at how I can improve is probably a better way for me to handle this, than to vent or look outwardly at other programs. I have tried to take that approach.”
Payton wouldn’t get into specifics of what for him was a damning NFL report. But, he did say that NFL investigators first approached the Saints about potential bounty allegations at the end of the “2009-2010 season.”
Payton has a long way to go to get out of the NFL’s doghouse. At the league meetings in Palm Beach, Florida the buzz is that the bounty program was the tipping point in the league’s overall unhappiness with Payton.
In 2010, Payton and assistant head coach Joe Vitt were both accused in a lawsuit by the team’s former security chief, of theft and abuse of the pain killer, Vicodin. The Saints denied the allegations, and said the suit was baseless, and filed by a disgruntled ex-employee.
When the topic was the Saints this week, the word arrogance was tossed around almost as much as the number of passes Drew Brees threw in the 2011 season.
If I were Payton, there are two things I wouldn’t do: I would not ask owner Tom Benson to hire Bill Parcells as the head coach of the Saints in 2012. And, I would not appeal the season long suspension.
Parcells doesn’t seem all that interested. And, bringing someone who Payton calls “a parent” to the Saints sideline would only reinforce the notion that Payton will be heavily involved during his suspension.
Parcells should serve in an advisory role, only.
And, appealing a suspension would only seem to buy Payton a few extra days past the scheduled April 1st start of his suspension.
What Payton should do is hire one of his assistant coaches to steward the club through the 2012 season. Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, who called plays for much of the 2011 season, would seem to be a likely choice.
Carmichael has a huge comfort level with Drew Brees. And, this is critical. Remember, Parcells has often had love/hate relationships with his quarterbacks. That is something the Saints don’t need as a distraction in Payton’s absence.
Payton should remain contrite. That isn’t in his nature. Even Tuesday, with cameras and reporters surrounding him, Payton had a moment of tempered bravado. He said the Saints would continue to win.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has reduced suspensions, previously.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger got a 6 six game ban in the spring of 2010. But, that ban was later reduced to 4 games.
Payton should consider to say what he said Tuesday in Palm Beach. That is “I have to do a better job” and “as a leader I am responsible.”
Right now, Sean Payton is in the NFL’s version of the penalty box. But, his penalty might not be a “game misconduct.” If he lays low, and stays humble, there’s always a chance the commissioner might reward contrition with a return sometime late in the 2012 season.