03 July 2012

An Offseason for the Ages (A Timeline)

If there's one thing to be thankful for as a Saints' fan these days, it's relevance. 


While the seemingly cataclysmic events of the 2012 offseason have spawned disquietude and rage, they've also fortified an already fearsome solidarity. 


The well-established, dual tenets of loyal fandom and proud insularity have undergone rebirth and are poised to reemerge stronger than ever in 2012. 


As it quickly fades away, this offseason like no other deserves a documented review.


What follows is a timeline of notable events in this strange, strange offseason that somehow, someway feels almost appropriately New Orleans.  


January 19: Highly-coveted and respected defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo joins the Saints to transform a defense that failed in the most inopportune moments during the past two postseasons. After a brutal Saints' loss to the 49ers in the divisional playoffs, this hiring signifies a positive offseason trend that fails to accurately portend. 


March 2: Out of nowhere BountyGate breaks, birthing a chapter in the NFL's history that will be noted as a landmark for many different reasons: the corruption of absolute power, the outing of a scapegoat, an overarching fear of litigation, and an accompanying realization of vulnerability. What was soon to unfold was both unforeseeable and unprecedented, and its ultimate resolution may never come full circle.


March 3: The Saints place the franchise tag on Drew Brees, much to the chagrin of Brees and Saints' fans alike.


March 13: Marques Colston signs a five-year contract extension, periodically pacifying the growing discontent of Saints' fans everywhere. 


March 13: Robert Meachem, author of one of the most memorable plays in Saints' history, departs for San Diego


March 14: To the dismay of nearly all Saints' fans, all-pro OG Carl Nicks signs with division rival Tampa Bay. A momentarily dismal loss. 


March 15: The Saints replace Carl Nicks with free agent Ben Grubbs, a highly-respected OG that former Saint and current pundit LeCharles Bentley praises


March 21: The NFL unleashes unprecedented, punitive sanctions on both coaches and the Saints' franchise in the aftermath of BountyGate. 


March 21: DT Brodrick Bunkley quietly signs with the Saints on the same afternoon that sanctions are announced, a transaction that Pro Football Focus calls "a superb defensive signing."


March 24: MLB Curtis Lofton shuns division rival Atlanta for the opportunity to join the Saints, citing the potential of winning a championship


March 26: In light of Sean Payton's yearlong suspension, the Saints court Payton's mentor, coaching legend Bill Parcells, to coach the team in 2012. Ultimately, Parcells declines. 


April 5: Sean Pamphilon--filmmaker, charlatan, opportunist, and delusional savior--releases inflammatory audiotape of Gregg Williams' speech recorded prior to the Jan. '12 playoff game in San Francisco. 


April 13: In the midst of the Saints' most volatile turmoil since Hurricane Katrina, Tom Benson buys the New Orleans Hornets


April 23: In another mind-boggling twist, ESPN implicates Saints' GM Mickey Loomis in a pre-Katrina wiretapping scheme, allegations that ultimately appear baseless. 


April 30: Joe Hummel, the NFL's lead investigator in the BountyGate scandal, suddenly resigns before player sanctions are dispensed, prompting speculation as to the nature of the timing in light of the growing skepticism regarding the veracity of the NFL's evidence. 


May 2: Doubling down on the draconian punishments levied against coaches, the NFL drops the hammer on players for their role in BountyGate. 


May 17: In one of the most head-turning developments in recent NFL history, Jonathan Vilma solidifies his legendary status in New Orleans by suing Roger Goodell for defamation


May 29: Amidst growing acrimony, and unable to work out an agreement with the Saints, Drew Brees seeks arbitration to clarify the status of his franchise tag assignment. 


June 8: Tom Benson hires ex FBI-director Louis Freeh to conduct a comprehensive internal investigation of the Saints' organization. 


June 26: The NFLPA launches an investigation of the Saints' contract negotiations with Brees, seeking to determine if the Saints have operated in good faith in light of Brees' strong union ties. 


July 1: Jonathan Vilma, rightfully disgruntled over the delay in appeal rulings, files another lawsuit--this one against the NFL over a variety of claims. 


July 2: Mike Cerullo is outed as the whistleblower in the BountyGate scandal. 


COMMENTARY
As I'm writing this, the news of Sean Payton's divorce filing splashed across the internet. In the meantime, there are two weeks left for Brees to sign a long-term deal. Moreover, we're still awaiting both clarification on the franchise tag from 'Special Master' Burbank and a ruling on the player appeals from Goodell. 


The train rolls on, and the Hall of Fame game is just a month away. No rest for the weary. An unprecedented season of both animosity and redemption is upon us. The game just got more fierce.  


Say what you will about the Saints and their fans. Aside from a few select venues anywhere in sports, you're not going to find a more steeled, expansive, dedicated, battle-tested fanbase than you will in the composition of Who Dats. And if you think we're suddenly backing down and meekly slinking away into the shadows because of a little adversity, then you'd be foolhardy and dead wrong. 


If it wasn't already, it's certainly personal now.  The season can't get here fast enough. 

5 comments:

  1. Outstanding piece. And I'd missed the Payton divorce thing until seeing it here.

    What a few months it's been for Sean.

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  2. Seriously got chill bumps reading this. The Saints and their fans are not going away.

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  3. Knew about the divorce action, but not Louis Freeh's having been hired to do an investigation.

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  4. Apr 11, 2012 Mike Cerullo was speculated as the whistleblower in the BountyGate scandal although he is being outed by Vilma's lawsuit.

    Here's the link for validation:
    http://sports.yahoo.com/news/mike-cerullo-fans-perspective-021700298--nfl.html

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  5. "If it wasn't already, it's certainly personal now. The season can't get here fast enough."

    Amen, brother.

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