No One Knows What's Like to the Bad Man...
Saints fans were treated to something they hadn't had in quite awhile. A losing season.
Ready to move on from the success of the previous year the Saints literally had the rug pulled out from underneath them as allegations that Saints players were rewarded financially if they injured opposing teams players during the 2009 season -- notably Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner and Vikings quarterback Brett Favre. (No opposing teams' player were in fact injured though).
"Bounty Gate" became one of the most controversial issues in NFL history as commissioner Roger Goodell handed out suspensions and revoked the Saints 2nd round picks of the 2012 and 2013 drafts. Sean Payton was suspended for the year and former Defensive Coordinator Greg Williams was suspended indefinitely. General Manager Mickey Loomis was suspended for 8 games while Assistant Head Coach Joe Vitt was suspended for 6. Players Jonathon Vilma and Will Smith along with former Saint players Scott Fugita and Anthony Hargrove were to serve suspensions as well, but these were delayed and finally overturned by legal action spear headed by Vilma. By the end of the 2012 season the whole issue had become so heated that former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue was brought in to make a judgment.
"I cannot uphold a multi game suspension where there is no evidence that a player's speech prior to a game was actually a factor causing misconduct on the playing field and that such misconduct was severe enough in itself to warrant a player suspension or a very substantial fine,'' Taglilabue's ruling said. "Nor can I find justified a suspension where (former defensive coordinator Gregg) Williams and other Saints personnel so carefully crafted an environment that would encourage and allow a player to make such an ill-advised and imprudent offer. I therefore vacate the suspension of Jonathan Vilma."
was he response. In another statement:
"I affirm Commissioner Goodell's factual findings as to the four players. I conclude that Hargrove, Smith and Vilma -- but not Fujita -- engaged in 'conduct detrimental to the integrity of, and public confidence in, the game of professional football,' "
In the end, the players had their suspensions lifted, but not so the coaches. (though Williams, who after denying the allegations, admitted to them, was reinstated and became the defensive coordinator of the Titans)
Despite another phenomenal year for Drew Brees, the Saints under-achieved and missed the playoffs. (Rich Addicks/AP photo)
Offensive line coach Aaron Kromer began the season as interim head coach as the Saints dropped the first 4 games of the season. Drew Brees seemed very out of sync while the defense surrendered copious amounts of point and record breaking amounts of yards. Kromer did manage wins against San Diego and Tampa Bay before Joe Vitt took over for the remainder of the season after his suspension was served. Vitt notched up 5 wins by season's end including a win over the previously undefeated Falcons in week 10 and a 41-0 shutout of Tampa Bay in week 14 and a most satisfying overtime victory over Dallas in game 15. Unfortunately, those convincing victories couldn't erase equally convincing losses at the hands of Manning Brothers as the Saints gave up 34 points to Peyton Manning and the Broncos and 52 points to Eli Manning and his Giants (Eli had 4 TDs). Against the 49ers and in the second game versus the Falcons it was mistakes that doomed the Saints. Bress had 2 interceptions returned for scores against San Francisco and through 5 interceptions in the Georgia Dome. The season was finally put to an end as 2012 was closed out with a loss against Carolina.
Without a doubt, the absence of Sean Payton had a definite effect on the New Orleans Saints organization. Certain critics of the NFL position even went as far to accuse Roger Goodell of orchestrating the whole plan in an effort to make sure the Saints would not be a Super Bowl contender as Super Bowl 45 was hosted in New Orleans. Whether or not the accusations are true, without Sean Payton at the helm, the Saints had all the mannerisms of the Saints of old. The only bright spot was Drew Brees passed for over 5000 yards for the second year in a row and made the Pro Bowl. Offensive lineman Jari Evans also made the All-Pro team for the 4th year in a row.
And while the offense did struggle at times, it was productive. The defense on the other hand, was without a doubt the weak point of the team. It set a new NFL record in yards given-up with 7042 and was 31st in the league with 454 points surrendered. One of the first things Sean Payton did when he was reinstated after the season was fire Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.