Goodell Ruling Against Saints Shows Spygate Was Merely Jaywalking In His Eyes

The Bountygate punishment was handed down by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to the New Orleans Saints on Wednesday and it was very stiff to say the least. Saints head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the entire 2012 season and the team was fined $500,000 for operating a bounty program against opponents for starters. Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who is now with the St. Louis Rams, was suspended indefinitely from the NFL, effective immediately and GM Mickey Loomis was suspended without pay for the first eight regular-season games of the 2012 season. In addition, assistant Joe Vitt was suspended without pay for the first six regular-season games and the Saints were stripped of their 2012 and 2013 second-round draft picks.

We have heard ever since the investigation into the Saints bounty program was front page news a few weeks ago that the penalty would be steep, as Goodell would be attempting to put his foot down hard enough for all of the league to hear in regards to player safety. It does seem though that he has turned a blind eye to blatant bounties put out by the likes of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs on Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward and running back Rashard Mendenhall a few years ago.

If that hypocrisy is not enough, Goodell is basically let the league and fans know that player safety is a much more serious offense than cheating is. Of course this relates to the New England Patriots Spygate. The Patriots were disciplined by the league for videotaping New York Jets defensive coaches\’ signals during a September game in 2007 from the sidelines. After an investigation, Goodell fined Patriots head coach Bill Belichick $500,000 and the Patriots $250,000. The team also was stripped of original 2008 first-round draft pick in addition, but that was conditional, because had the Patriots missed the playoffs that year, they would have only been stripped of their second- and third-round selections instead.

That Jets game apparently wasn\’t the only Patriots taping incident either as Belichick had admitted to taping signals dating back to 2000. After the investigation of all of the tapes was completed, they were reportedly destroyed, which led several to think that there was more being information being hidden and that something else was being covered up. Then Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher, who was also a member of the NFL Competition Committee at the time, said that it was up to Goodell to determine culpability. He was quoted as saying, “It\’s clearly against the rules. … With technology the way it is now, things can get out of hand in a matter of weeks if we don\’t protect the integrity of the game.”

Ah, the integrity of the game. Steelers safety Ryan Clark, who was on NFL Total Access just over a week ago, said pretty much the same thing when asked about the difference between Bountygate and Spygate. He said he was curious to see if Goodell would treat Bountygate as a bigger black eye than Spygate. Well, today Clark got his answer and that answer was as expected, a yes.

So while Goodell will hide behind protecting the safety of the players with his harsh ruling handed down on Wednesday, he can\’t hide behind the fact that he considers bounties on players as more serious than cheating. For comparison sakes, Goodell thinks bounties on players is first degree murder and cheating as jaywalking.

  • Jefferson St. Joe

    I don’t think you can make this an apples to apples comparison with Spygate. The biggest difference is that the Saints instituted a cover up plan and lied to investigators while continuing the bounties. I’m sure the conspiracy is the biggest part of the punishment.

  • Nice writeup. If I wasn’t already convinced he was a power mad egomaniac, I would think Goodell had gone out of his mind.

  • Not that I disagree with the punishment itself (though there is an element of hypocrisy to protecting players out one side of your mouth while promoting big hits and shots to the knee out of the other), but it shows just how poorly he handled spygate.

  • RW

    I’m not sure I understand the direction of this article. As you suggest, it shouldn’t have even been a question as to whether this punishment would be harsher than Spygate. Goodell has made it his mission to make the game “safer”. Some could argue that he favors a pass-heavy, defense-light league, but this is irrelevant. His quest to make the league safer is going to be a priority and that will be reflected in these types of discrepancies. I, like you, think the punishment for Spygate should have cost Bellicheck his job, considering he knew about it, but we’re comparing apples to oranges here, especially in the eyes of Goodell. He’s got to consistently punish offenders of his safety policies in a harsher way than almost anything else (aside from personal conduct policies, maybe). If not, he looks like the ultimate hypocrite, especially to Steelers fans. I, for one, at least find some solace in his attempt to be consistent (i.e., the Steelers aren’t the only ones being punished for their perceived over-aggression). I still think that we are unfairly targeted by referees and the league, but this at least shows that he’s out to enforce these rules (as they relate to player safety) for all teams.

    Now, like I said, don’t let this detract from the fact that the punishment for the Patriots should have been harsher in retrospect, but I do think Goodell had to be harsher here.

  • BigBen’s Libido

    Yeah he can be inconsistent. For instance Goodell seems to think putting a bounty on an opposing player is more serious than an NFL team employing a serial rapist as a QB.

  • Fatxbrian

    You must be one of those Ravens fans that can’t get enough Steelers talk because your obsessed with everything Steelers.

  • Anon

    Didn’t Goodell have a previous friendship with Robert Kraft? All the Pats fans are rolling their eyes at this type of article, but I think you are right on. Not a SINGLE suspension for Spygate, which was openly admitted by all involved (they hid behind “everyone is doing it” at first, then they scapegoated that one guy). In fact, hadn’t the league previously warned the Pats about their taping? I guess Goodell doesn’t feel like his friends were “lying to” him.
    Player safety is more important than cheating, I’ll concede that. But this is obvious favoritism for the Pats.

  • IrishTerrier

    Living here in Mass and hating on the Patriots ( in my house we refer to them as the Tape-Tri-otts ) I’ve done much research on Spygate. I’m one of those who feel the Pats were maintaining an elaborate system, using many video cameras located in different spots to film defensive signals. I also feel they had such an impressive system going on that this “unfair advantage, cheating” was being used in game, not just to be studied and used in future games. In fact it wouldn’t surprise me if Brady was getting the defensive call sent into his helmet. How else to you explain beating every single blitz package in the 04 AFC championship game? So when Pats fans use the excuse, ” everybody was doing it ” it doesn’t hold up. Yeah I’m sure some teams were attempting to steal signals but not with such a chronic, elaborate system that the Patriots were using. They will also say it was BB’s arrogance that got him in trouble in terms of continuing the practice after being told to stop. Yes, BB is quite arrogant and a bit of a douche but this system was very important to them in terms of winning games. Not one Pats fan can answer a simple question with a keen answer; after being told to stop cheating and face possible punishment, why would you continue and risk so much, pretty simple – it was too important to their success so they couldn’t stop…like a drug addict kind of.

    Yes you are correct, Krafty Bob helped Goodell get his position in the NFL so that definitely relates to the punishment and don’t forget about the hastily destroyed tapes too. I guarantee there was some hanky panky going on B4 the 01 Super Bowl too in terms of secretly taping the Rams. It will all come out someday. 01, 03 and 04 Super Bowl victories = ******************

  • The question is: Has Goodell actually accomplished his “mission”?

  • I thought hypocrisy was Roger Goodell’s middle name…

  • David

    I hear everything this article is saying. However, there are a few other factors that I would not doubt are going into play here. These involve the federal government.
    A. Hosting a sporting event where players are being given incentives to injure other players begins to walk onto a grey line of US law. If I pay a group of people to jump someone and rough them up, that is illegal. If Goodell had let this go by lightly, I truly wonder if law enforcement would have gotten involved (or already is) in an investigation. I don’t know of any career in the US where it is okay to pay incentives to put someone out onto a stretcher.

    B. Taxes. We’ve heard chirps about this already but these guys are exchanging large amounts of cash under the table. I would not doubt that Uncle Sam wants a piece of the action. Notice how Goodell mentioned non-contract bonuses in his press conference. He knows there are a lot more eyes on this than just sports fans. There is a bigger picture.

    C. This one involves all of the former players who are trying to sue the NFL. If Goodell looks too soft on this bounty punishment, not to mention all the other punishments he’s giving out, you can believe that the lawyers of these former players are going to find a way to paint an “un-caring” picture of him in court. Plus responses from current players as they begin to retire and get health problems down the road. It will be much easier to sue if Goodell doesn’t over-react to all of these roughness/bounty instances.

    In summary, while I in no way like or agree with what Goodell is doing, I see all of this as covering the NFL-brand’s ass, and his own, from many different sides. At least that’s how I am seeing his punishments. As a fan it sucks, but it unfortunately is what it is.

  • David

    So the Senate is already involved. We need to realize that while cheating compromises the integrity of the game and is a bigger deal to us as fans, the issues at hand with bounties go larger than the game itself. That is what I speculate leads to the harsher punishments Goodell has laid down.

    Senate to hold hearing on bounties per ESPN:

  • RW

    I don’t think anyone will know the answer to that for quite some time… We’ll all have to see how many head-trauma related deaths/disabilities occur during this era as compared to previous ones.

    Regardless, the only thing that will eventually make the game safer is for the league to start investing in better research and development for their equipment. New technology has always been ahead of the players’ ability to get “bigger, stronger and faster”… until Goodell took office. He’s trying to use policies rather than technology to decrease injury. It likely isn’t a money thing – I think he’s trying to change the game, as I suggested. A policy will take away from the aggression, whereas new technology will not only condone it, but encourage it.

    Personally, I’m in favor of the newer technology – aggressive defense is why I love the Steelers.