Just as the news about Tim Tebow being traded to the came out, so did news about the punishment the New Orleans Saints received for their bounty program. The NFL announced the punishment this afternoon, and to say the very least, Roger Goodell went HAM on the Saints.
Here's a breakdown of the penalties the Saints and those directly involved with the bounty program received from the NFL:
- Saints: Fined $500,000 and lose second-round pick in 2012 and 2013 drafts.
- Saints head coach Sean Payton: Suspended without pay for entire 2012 season (effective April 1)
- Saints general manager Mickey Loomis: Suspended without pay for first eight games of 2012 regular season
- Former Saints and current Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams: Suspended indefinitely (he's out for at least 2012)
- Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt: Suspended without pay for first six games of 2012 regular season
What punishment players involved in this will receive remains to be seen, but the message has already been sent loud and clear by the NFL: bounty programs will not be tolerated. Back when this scandal first broke, the thinking was that the NFL's punishment would make spygate look like child's play. Well, this punishment makes spygate look like nothing more than a blip on the radar. Not only has the Saints franchise been hit directly with a fine and loss of draft picks, but they will be without their head coach for an entire season and their GM for half of a season.
I never expected Goodell to go quite that far in terms of the punishment, but he obviously felt it was necessary to make an example of the Saints in order to prevent bounties from happening again. Given how much the Saints have lost as a result of this, you would have to be pretty dumb to even utter the word "bounty" if you work for an NFL team, especially now that the league is requiring all of its teams to confirm in writing that they don't have a bounty program.
While this news doesn't directly affect the Lions, the road to the playoffs in 2012 certainly looks a bit easier. Obviously there's no telling how the season will play out, especially for the Saints, but let's just say this: If the Lions are trying to get into the playoffs via the wild card again, it seems unlikely that New Orleans will be a big threat to them considering they won't have their head coach.
This news does actually involve the NFC North in one aspect. The NFL confirmed that the Saints had bounties on four quarterbacks, including two from the NFC North: Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton and Kurt Warner. Note that Matthew Stafford, who played against the Saints twice last season, is not on the list.
For more on bountygate, check out SB Nation's StoryStream, which is following all of the latest developments.