28 March 2012

Parcells, and a Window of Insight

There's recently been this drowning chorus of damnation from the legion of parrots and barking seals in the mass football media over the Saints' potential hiring of Bill Parcells. 


Like it's not fair or something. 


I have no idea why, but it seems like virtually every axe-grinding media buzzard with a platform (or footstool) is operating under the faulty assumption that the Saints either can't or shouldn't be allowed to win this year. Where was that in Commissioner Goodell's decree of punishment? 


Have these people not been paying attention to what's happened in and around New Orleans for the past 6 years? Or are they just conveniently setting all of that aside in order to slog forward on their sanctimonious quest to see who can bigger-dick the next guy on why the Saints are doomed?


Sorry fellas, who were you expecting to get the call? Curley Hallman? And remind me again please, what does "showing contrition" remotely have to do with trying to maximize an opportunity to win another Super Bowl? Contrition and the desire to win are mutually exclusive; there's no relational aspect between the two, yet too many of these clowns who shape opinion want to tell their audiences that the Saints are bad people for seeking out Parcells. It's a ludicrous position and it's revelatory of the fat-headed myopia with which these tools operate.  


Yes, I'm talking to you Michael Wilbon, Stephen A. Smith, Mike Florio, Len Pasquarelli, Jason Cole and the many other errand boys collecting a bill for the league. I tell ya what, why don't you go get your shineboxes and wait on Roger Goodell instead? What's the difference at this point? 


It's gotten to the point of discrediting the move to hire Parcells that both national and local columnists are intimating a second coming of the ill-fated Ditka era in New Orleans. 


So while we're discussing nonsense, can we please stop with the faulty comparisons between Ditka and Parcells already? Ditka was a screamer. Parcells is a thinker. 


In the football world of identifying talent, maximizing abilities, and leading franchises, Bill Parcells is the Vito Corleone to Ditka's Luca Brasi. They're coaches of distinctly different talent levels. There's a reason Parcells has been around--successfully--for so long, just like there's a reason Ditka retired to a TV job after his failed stint in New Orleans. 


Oh yeah, and there's also this little difference between Drew Brees and the rank, steaming pu-pu platter of Billy Joe Whatshisnames, Danny Wuerffel and Heath Schuler. Just stop it already. 

The Saints are here to win. Get over it. 


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Setting aside the gaping disparity in sanctions dispensed during the SpyGate scandal, do we not see the possibility of the Saints responding in 2012 like the Pats did in 2007? Do these talking heads not remember how personally the Patriots took to the bashing and to the "cheating" label they were saddled with after SpyGate? 


They took it so personally, in fact, that they went all scorched-earth with it, set the league record for points scored, and came within a complete miracle from being considered the greatest team of all time.


You don't think the Saints are ready to attempt the same thing?


So go ahead, keep on hating. 


If I'm thinking about this, you can sure as shit be certain the Saints' locker room is. Hell, Zach Streif came out and said as much


Just remember, the Saints are a team largely intact and highly talented. This is a team that, after finding its balance in 2011, eviscerated almost every foe in its wake (ATL, TENN). Only the trainwreck of five turnovers mixed with the chronic, reckless idiocy of Gregg Williams prevented the Saints from continuing on to Super Bowl glory. 


And this team will be back with an enormous, unseen-before chip on its shoulder. Yet all the pundits have already kicked dirt onto the grave of the 2012 Saints. 


On America's Game: 2009 Saints (the NFL Network program dedicated to chronicling each of the Super Bowl winners through the perspectives of players and coaches), Drew Brees pointedly remarked that "adversity really shapes you." The way in which Brees said this almost seemed like an invitation for adversity, for an opportunity to reveal the inner character of his team. 


Not that Brees and his team ever needed it, but we're talking now about adversity of the highest order: an attempted neutering of the franchise during the peak of its championship window. 


While the national (and local) media might expect the Saints to take this lying down, to recede meekly into the shadows, and to assume a loser's mentality, the overwhelming majority of the Saints' fanbase sees this in a diametrically opposite light. We're not going away. 


Maybe none of this will come to pass. Maybe Parcells will forego the chance for "upside, sublime." But what's not going to change--and I have no idea why anyone logically thinks it will--is the Saints' single-minded focus to win championships. It's an issue altogether removed from admitting to and accepting punishment for their misdeeds. 


Not only is acquiescing no longer in the DNA of this franchise, but it's also not a tenet of the sanctions that the Saints can't be competitive. The sanctions might be an attempt at that, but they do not represent a fait accompli. It's too bad the large majority of the "cognoscenti" can't see it that way.  


Simply, the mere fact that Parcells is in play is indicative of the Saints' mindset and resolve in the aftermath of BountyGate. The Saints' players and front office are among the most competitive, proud men representing some of the most loyal, resilient fans on the planet. 


What do you expect them to do? Shrink from the moment? 

21 March 2012

Cruel and Unusual; Or, an Ode to Al Davis

Understanding the medieval sanctions levied upon the Saints in light of the bounty scandal requires just one premise: Roger Goodell is in charge and he won't be defied. 


While this punishment was surely about both an institutionalized system of pay-to-injure and the overarching drive to craft the perception--hollow as it might be--that the NFL cares for the safety of its players, it was equally so a retributive curbstomp to a team who dared not follow Goodell's orders. 


Judge, jury, and (foremost) executioner. 


To be certain, this was a seething guillotine of cold justice to a franchise perceived, and perhaps rightfully so, as renegade, arrogant, and unwavering in its philosophy to relentlessly push the envelope of its hegemonic mission statement. 


As it stood for Roger Goodell, the ducks all aligned in a perfect little row for him at an opportune moment: taking a phony stand for player safety in order to protect his entity from the prevalence of mounting lawsuits; disciplining a rogue franchise that had veered off path; and reminding any traitorous dissidents in his midst that you do not ever fuck with Roger Goodell.  


A perfect storm of Goodellian justice. 


But the limits of power only go so far. And the autocratic, single-entity justice system of the NFL is not immune to abuse nor is it perpetually free from righteous assault. The issuance of the excessive penalty to the Saints' franchise, not to mention the immense wrongdoing hurled upon its loyal fan base, underscores the fact that in the NFL Commissioner's Office, cruel and unusual punishment is an accepted practice regardless of the poignant hypocrisy with which it's done so. 


None of this is to suggest that the Saints are innocent or undeserving of punishment. The Saints willfully disregarded the Commissioner's office and then tried to cover it up in an act of either desperation or hubris. Punishment was deserved and expected. 


But to savagely punish the legion of loyal fans who faithfully serve as a recurring, massive stream of revenue, to capriciously undermine the competitive landscape of the league by attempting to castrate one of its elite teams, and to set such a dangerous, punitive precedent is a stark revelation of the sadistic nature of Roger Goodell. 


Unfortunately, it was rained down upon the New Orleans Saints. 


So where do the Saints go from here? 


To start with, they can summon the ghosts of Al Davis. 


If the Saints are going to be demonized, outcast, branded as evil and punished accordingly, then they might as well start taking some cues from the late, great Davis


In case you don't remember or didn't know, Al Davis doggedly sued the NFL for years under then Commissioner Pete Rozelle. Eventually Rozelle resigned, tired of the unending battles with Davis and the Raiders. Davis was no saint, and had flaws aplenty, but what he also had in droves was panache and chutzpah. Instead of cowering to the self-serving whims and heavy-handed dictates of the NFL during his career, Davis righteously and ferociously fought back, branding himself as an outlaw and attracting a cult-following of loyal fans everywhere. 


And you know what? He won a bunch of Super Bowls along the way. 


And so here the Saints and their loyal fanbase stand today, a bit bewildered and mostly pissed. At this point, what other choice is there but to punch back against the cruel and unusual retribution delivered by the league? It's certainly not time to timorously shrink into the night. Instead, it's high time someone occupied the hallowed spirit of the mercurial and iconoclastic Davis. Might as well be the Saints.


In the end, one misdeed should not induce a worse one, especially from a governing body intent on suddenly proving its beneficence to the world at large. It's beyond the realm of reality to rely upon fairness or restraint from a billion dollar corporation single-mindedly focused on protecting its brand and revenue stream at all costs. 


The only choice now is to assume the villainous mantle and fight back accordingly. 


Just win, dawlin'

03 March 2012

Mickey Loomis: An Unraveling

Maybe I'm overreacting. 

It wouldn't be out of the ordinary. But I don't see how Mickey Loomis survives this "bounty" scandal as Saints' GM. 

In fact, I'd be surprised if Loomis was still employed by the Saints a week from now. This is a story made ugly nationally, and for these transgressions there is always collateral damage. 

Enter Mickey Loomis.

At a crucial juncture in the NFL's drive towards player safety and at a time where lawsuits are mounting against the league for a variety of game-induced health maladies, the Saints were implicated in the sanctioning and rewarding violence towards opponents through an established, administered team protocol. The timing could not have been worse.

The public divulging of what appears to reflect an institutionalization of violence--a maintenance of an internal culture that supposedly runs counter to both the spirit of the game and to league mandates--is not something the NFL will take lightly.

Instead, this will certainly be another in a line of tipping points leading to a safer, less violent brand of football strictly regulated by the league, with a dearth of leniency for its transgressors. The Saints will stand to be made example of, and the league will surely send a loud, ominous message.

The meting out of punishment--fines, suspensions, forfeiture of draft choices--won't simply be disbursed externally from the league offices, but also driven from within the Saints' organization as a recognition, admission, and contrition for their wrongdoings.

When the league upbraids the Saints with its own brand of paternal gravitas, citing conduct that poses a “serious threat to the integrity of the game,” the onus will be on Tom Benson to recognize that, aside from the fact that his directives were plainly ignored by a high-ranking employee, his business interests are threatened by the revelation of this scandal. Mr. Benson will be forced to send his own message and re-establish who's in fact in charge in New Orleans.

Not only will Benson feel vulnerable for employing a consigliere (Loomis) who failed to follow orders, in and of itself a threat to the profitability of the enterprise, he will also risk alienating segments of consumers and advertisers who will be less than enchanted by the totality of this event. In business, every piece of the revenue stream counts no matter how marginal. 

It's been established that Loomis misrepresented the truth (lied) to the league about the bounty scandal. 

Further, Loomis failed to follow Tom Benson's orders to cease the operation of the program once Benson learned of its existence. 

When you combine Loomis' intransigence with his repeated mendacity, you find yourself not with a feckless patsy but with an empowered, willing participant complicit in wrongdoing. Repeatedly. 

This is not a grey area. It stretches the imagination to think that Loomis can survive this ordeal in light of his failure to heed both the warnings of the league and the directives of his boss.   

After all, the Saints haven't exactly been clean under Loomis' guidance. The recent Vicodin scandal cast a cloud over the Saints' Super Bowl celebrations and identified Loomis as directing a cover-up in an effort to protect his coaches. This situation first called into question Loomis' decision-making and suggested the notion that Loomis' motives and machinations were far from impeccable. As this case was sent to arbitration, further details were suppressed from the public record and for a time, the event was simply a bump in the road.

Now it seems premonitory.

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Of all the uncertainty that faces the Saints right now, the one issue that should emphatically not fall into the realm of "uncertainty" is Drew Brees' future with the club. But suddenly, without a contract for Brees and storm clouds raging, anything is in play.

Perhaps the situation revolving around Brees' contract is a microcosm of how Loomis has heretofore been handling internal issues with the team. His approach to signing Brees has been marked by a lack of urgency, a neglect of foresight, miscalculation, and most egregious of all, the underestimation of Brees' resolve.

If these are the traits that have defined the execution of the biggest no-brainer decision in the history of the team--locking up Brees to a long-term, lucrative deal--then what are we to make of issues that seemed of less significance to him?

Did Loomis consider the ongoing implementation, administration, and funding of the bounty program a non-issue or simple annoyance to be brushed off in light of other issues? Did he consider the broader implications of such a program? And why did he feel empowered to ignore the directives of the team owner? Was this an isolated incident or modus operandi?

These further developments, unfortunately, might be revelatory of a GM who is not quite the genius he's been repeatedly purported to be in Saints' circles. If nothing else, it muddles the established truths and smears the myriad successes Loomis has personally orchestrated during his tenure.

What now seems inevitable is the initial unraveling of the presently-constituted Saints' franchise. 

If Loomis is unceremoniously dismissed as Saints' GM in light of the bounty scandal, his will be the first frayed thread to signal a changing of the guard in New Orleans and the precursor to a new era.