Guest Column: Joe McGrath On The New Orleans Saints and the Bounty Situation

Editor’s Note: Mr. McGrath has long and storied history in the management of professional sports franchises, most notably as the general manager of the Charlestown Chiefs of the now-defunct Federal League. Oh, and this is probably a good time to mention that Mr. McGrath’s views are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of Dubsism, our staff, or anybody else whose house you might want to burn to the ground.

To be honest, there’s so much wrong with this story, I really don’t know where to start. I think the best way to make you understand where I’m coming from on this the to begin from today and work backwards.

First of all, somebody needs to explain why anybody thinks having Bill Parcells as an interim head coach is a good idea. I understand that if you are the Saints, you’ve lost your head coach for a year. But you simply just can’t replace him. The first problem you are going to have is why would anybody take the job on a temporary basis. You’re not hiring a temp secretary to re-organize your files; you are placing somebody in a leadership role for a multi-million dollar franchise.  If you are the Saints, you really only have two choices – you replace Sean Payton, or you don’t.

If you feel the need to replace Payton, then fire him for being stupid enough to get himself suspended and hire a real, full-time coach. Think about it – what the hell is a temp head coach going to do considering all the current staff of assistants and coordinators will still be there? Speaking of which, why is nobody worried about replacing the others who were suspended? This team is not just without the head coach, it also has lost the general manager and another coach. Because they are taking the same approach they need to be taking with the head coaching spot – simply have somebody who is already on the staff take over for a season.  Bringing in a temp will only screw things up worse.

Not to mention, why would anybody take the Saints head coaching job as a temp? Don’t forget, you take this job today, and tomorrow you are going to find out half your defensive players are going to be suspended.  Screw that.  Besides, there no upside to it for wither you as the temp coach as the team.  Think about it, there’s really only two things that can happen.  You either preside over a team that underperforms, in which case you say, “Well, what did you expect? I’m just a temp,” or worse yet, you win and now there’s a “coaching controversy.”

Now for the part I really don’t get at all.  If you are going to do the “temp” thing, why in the hell would you want Bill Parcells? Does anybody really think Parcells is the kind of guy who would make a good “baby-sitter?” Not at all, he’s a control freak; he’s not going to just be your auto-pilot for a year. Besides, if you are the Saints, why do you want this 70-year old guy who hasn’t been relevant in the NFL in nearly 15 years?

Now, let’s get the the actual bounty thing. Boy, did we blow this all out of proportion. There were people out there who said these guys should get kicked out of the league forever.  What a bunch of bullshit.  Are bounties wrong? Yes. Is coaches being involved in it wrong? Very much so.  Look at the crap I had to go through when that goddamn Reggie Dunlop took out a bounty on that goon from Syracuse Tim McCracken.  I told him that you can’t place a bounty on a man’s head; that it could get us all tossed into the klinker. Know what he said to me? “Bullshit.”

Trouble is that asshole was right.  Nobody is going to go to jail over this, and worse yet, whether it is football or hockey, there is a shitload of hypocrisy riding on this issue.  Forget about the fact that the Charlestown Chiefs drew the biggest crowds in the Federal League after Dunlop turned the Hanson Brothers loose. Think about how this has happened in the NFL before, and it was celebrated.  Remember the Bounty Bowl?

The Bounty Bowl was all about an incident in 1989 between bitter rivals in the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys. The first game in Dallas was noted for allegations that the Philadelphia Eagles put a $200 bounty on the head of Cowboys’ kicker Luis Zendejas, who had been cut by the Eagles earlier that season.  These accusations of bounties led to a media circus before the rematch in Philadelphia.  The stage was set, between the smell of bounties in the air and those crazy-ass Philadelphia fans.

See, the problem is that everybody knew what was about to happen. The league knew what was about to happen.  The players and coaches knew what was about to happen.  And sure as shit the television people knew what was about to happen.  They were counting on it.

It was CBS Sports who coined the term “Bounty Bowl,” and they went all out with the presentation of this being a shootout at the OK Corral.  Their coverage came complete with wanted posters of the offending players with the bounty posted.   NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue was in attendance.  The stage was set for a melee, and that’s exactly what happened.

Being December in Philadelphia, a recent snowfall had blanketed Veterans Stadium, and the grounds crew did not remove the snow that had piled up for several days.  The mix of beer, snow, and bounties created a pro wrestling-style crowd frenzy and those same crazy-ass Philadelphia fans started throwing everything within reach.  Verne Lundquist and Terry Bradshaw announced the game for CBS, and they spentdodging snowballs aimed at the broadcast booth, at one point Lundquist stated on the air that an oral surgery a few days prior had not been as unpleasant as broadcasting an Eagles game.

When you go back and look at what happened there, and compare it to the Saints situation, one question becomes clear: Aren’t all defensive players essentially playiong for a bounty? Think about it…defensive players get paid to “blow guys up,” and they have been doing so for years. Players who consistently make “big plays” get paid, plain and simple. Why? Because ESPN loves “big plays;” they make good television.

As far as why bounties are wrong, it is because they are the purest illustration of the hypocrisy of the NFL. The league loves “big plays,” they make the league as television-friendly as it is. It really isn’t anymore complex than that. The NFL needs violence, but it also now is discovering that it needs to worry about the health and safety of the players.  However, don’t think for a minute this is based on a legitimate concern for player safety. This is all about money.

See, the trouble is Roger Goodell finds himself straddling a straight razor, and on either side of it is a big lie Goodell and the league have perpetrated. On the one side, he knows that violence, a.k.a. “big plays” are what sells tickets. Goodell and the rest of the NFL leadership know what sells their product, and they also know now the value of star players has sky-rocketed. Look at the situation in Denver.  Nobody is going to watch the Broncos if somebody converts Peyton Manning from a $90 million quarterback into a head-popped-off Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robot. In other words, in a lot of ways, “player safety” just means “star player safety.”

But on the other side, he’s the commissioner of a league that is in the middle of a plague of lawsuits which are forcing Goodell to act in a manner consistent with a guy who is getting sued.  In other words, Goodell is coming down hard on a bounty system not because it effects the “integrity of the game,” but rather because doing so lends creedence to his bullshit position that he cares about player safety.  What he and the NFL owners care about is that player safety now threatens to become a major expense on the books.  If it weren’t for the lawsuits, the Saints would just be this decade’s answer to the Buddy Ryan Philadelphia Eagles.

And those Eagles were good for business.

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7 responses

  1. Great job from top to bottom. Read it TWICE I liked it so much. You have a QB who throws for eight zillion yards a season to twenty different receivers with no consistent running game whatsoever. Enter the “Tuna.” Are you kidding me? Good luck with that, New Orleans. Bounty Bowl – the local Philly papers had QUOTES from team members and coaches alike about how cool they thought it was and how it made the game ultra-special. You could hear crickets coming from the league office. The very essence of football is “bounty-like.” You blow up the guy in front of you and then do the same to the guy with the ball. Anyone who is about to get the ball is fair game also if you time arrival correctly. Roger wants to try to tamper down all these concussion lawsuits by appearing to get tough on all things violent. He also wants to keep the stars on the field for the TV networks. Yet, one of his cronies was bragging just yesterday about how moving the ball up 5 yards on kickoffs brought down concussions on that play 40%. Does that mean a certain % of concussions is acceptable? If you really want to get the attention of future jurors you might consider ELIMINATING the play instead of “accepting” a certain amount of bell-ringing is fine. Can we discuss the extension of the number of regular season games…as well as increasing the number of Thursday games, not allowing players to recover fast enough. Goodell is a complete joke…and the future of what we all grew up with as football is fading fast. Some folks say just because football has been “this way” doesn’t mean it should stay “this way.” Hey, I’m all for making players safer within the confines of equipment modifications, intelligent scheduling and proper medical evaluation. I am NOT for changing the very essence of the game. Awesome post!

    1. Once I heard the word “bounty,” I knew Joe McGrath was the “go to” guy on this topic…

  2. I have a better idea.

    Let’s rewind the clock, have Parcells sit in for Goodell for the year and see how he would have doled out the bounty penalities.

    1. Can you imagine if Goodell had been the commissioner back in the 50’s or 60’s?

  3. I just hope that if he’s gonna coach them, he’s gonna coach them. I’m so tired of it being this back and forth nonsense.

    Seriously.

    Meehan

  4. “You want to know the real reason Roger Goodell came down so hard on the Saints for Bountygate? Take a walk down to the federal courthouse in Philly and peruse the lawsuits filed by more than 400 ex-players charging the league with negligence and deception over the long-term effects of concussions. Goodell and the league hope that if they mention enough times how important player safety is to them, they might be able to sway a potential jury. If Bountygate had surfaced 5 years ago, the league would have fined Gregg Williams $50,000 and moved on.”

    – Paul Domowitch, Philadelphia Daily News

  5. [...] pieces saying the whole drama created over the New Orleans Saints and their bounty system was much ado about nothing, but the fact that Goodell shipped Jonathan Vilma off to the gulag with a complete absence of due [...]

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