Hit them where it hurts
The NFL handed out $750,000 in fines to the Patriots for Spygate and took away a first-round draft pick. The punishment slapped on the Saints should be even greater, especially considering that the entire chain of command in the organization had been aware of the bounties.
If Goodell wants to stomp out these bounties across his league for good, he needs to hit the Saints where it really hurts by taking away multiple draft picks and by suspending coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis — and also Gregg Williams, now with the Rams — for allowing the bounty system to continue under their watch.
Swift and severe
Los Angeles Times
The penalty should be swift and severe.
Gregg Williams, the defensive coordinator who evidently had installed this program throughout his career, should get a lifetime ban. Saints coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis should both be suspended for a year.
Players who participated in the program, too, should be fined and/or suspended, though not as severely as their coaches. But I think there's a way to link a penalty to another issue too. The league could reduce the Saints' salary cap by, say, 10 percent for one or two seasons and donate that unspent money to a fund for retired players. The NFL needs to send a strong message about this, and I believe it's ready to do so.
It's not surprising the NFL released results of its investigation into the bounty system with the Saints but has yet to announce punishments. This is a sensitive issue for a commissioner that has made a very public platform based on player safety.
Financial implications for coaches Gregg Williams and Sean Payton won't be as significant as potential suspensions. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis figures to be ensnared and players could also face discipline.
The focus has been on Williams, who now works in St. Louis. Williams admitted his role on Friday in a public apology and was called to New York on Monday. It wouldn't be a surprise if he's sidelined for half a season or more.
Don't hurt the fans
The nature of a defensive player is to be forceful, to inject fear into an opponent with physically intimidating hits. All New Orleans did was put a price tag on them, and get caught.
I covered a legendary Florida State team in the late '90s that took a great deal of pride in putting quarterbacks out of the game. Doubt any of them got paid cash for it, but their helmets were usually filled with stickers. Maybe the NFL needs helmet stickers.
What the NFL doesn't need to do is penalize the team to the point where it hurts the fan. Heavy fines for the coaches and the organization, sure. But limit lost draft picks to no earlier than the fourth round.