Sean Payton Says The League Tried To Get Him Fired With The Punishment They Handed Down For 'BountyGate', Which Makes A Whole Lot Of Sense
You know, in retrospect it seems silly that I never really considered that the NFL was trying to strong arm Sean Payton out of his job for good by making an example out of the New Orleans Saints instead of looking in the mirror in regards to the player safety agenda they still stumble over their own feet in trying to push. Looking back on it, it seems pretty obvious that by giving him an unprecedented penalty (for a practice that was common, albeit unspoken) that forced him entirely out of an insanely demanding job in which the small amount of security barely allows for a week's vacation, never mind a year long shunning, was meant to get him ousted to the unemployment line.
Of course, this new tidbit that two unnamed owners basically let Tom Benson in on the league's intention when a sentence got handed down makes that an indisputable fact, but - after seeing how the NFL has handled just about every controversy since - the lines don't seem as though they should have been all that difficult to read between. The NFL couldn't flat out fire Sean Payton, but if it was their heavy-handedness that was ultimately responsible for getting him canned then they'd forever have his disgraced dismissal to point to as proof of just how deeply they care (about looking as though they actually care) about the well-being of players. I'd never use the word "genius" to describe Roger Goodell & Co., but in being one step ahead in their thinking they were actually two steps ahead of how far most people deem them capable of thinking.
Unfortunately, they chose the wrong target. A head coach that were even slightly less than psychotically competitive might have been broken by being blamed for BountyGate, and I know that because even the most psychotically competitive of head coach was noticeably bent by it. Which was the cause and which was the effect is a little hard to differentiate when looking at the relatively dispirited of demeanor that Sean Payton had on the sidelines through three straight 7-9 seasons, but you won't find too many Saints' fans that didn't think 2012 threw a wet blanket on the fire burning inside him.
As the result of some combination of "time heals all" and "winning cures all", that fire is now as blazing as it's ever been, but a suspension that lasts the NFL equivalent of an eternity isn't served in a vacuum. The extent of it is uncertain, but there was a hangover of sorts that...well...hung over both the Saints and Sean Payton after the wasted year in which they weren't granted the opportunity to build on the championship run that got away in 2011. Granted, they were a playoff team again in 2013, but that seems like an aberration given the three year purgatory of the rebuild that followed.
I can't speak for Sean Payton when it comes to why he chose now to be so open about the time he had his livelihood unceremoniously stripped from him, but considering that he's two weeks removed from randomly seeming friendly with the man with which he fairly recently held an obvious grudge (Gregg Williams), it leads you to believe that he's finally been able to put the past in the past. A head coach of lesser conviction probably couldn't have done so, as Sean Payton's commitment to continuing his career in New Orleans is, in conjunction with the loyalty of the late Tom Benson, likely the main reason why the NFL's true objective of getting him axed by New Orleans mostly remained a mystery until right now.