A day before the Saints played the Falcons on December 7th, the NFL’s Arthur Blank-led compensation committee finally rewarded Roger Goodell with a $200M contract extension.
Goodell’s contract came after months of bad blood and threats of litigation from Jerry Jones, who had obstructed the formalities. Blank eventually won this power struggle between two of the NFL’s most influential owners, and delivered Goodell his new contract.
On Thursday the 7th, the Saints played the Falcons and Goodell’s lackeys were lined up in support of Blank's Falcons.
The pregame festivities were highlighted by some good, old-fashioned institutional cheerleading by ESPN—"A Few Good Men: Why the Atlanta Falcons are the NFL team America needs right now.”
The Saints were playing in Atlanta, their fifth Thursday night road game in six seasons, a scheduling peculiarity that seemed less indicative of randomness and more reflective of intent.
Crazy that in the @seanpayton era the @nfl has given the Saints only one midseason Thursday game at home.— Nick Underhill (@nick_underhill) December 8, 2017
The Saints lost 20-17 in one of the more maddening games the Payton-era Saints have played. The Falcons covered the spread by a half-point.
During the game, the Saints were penalized eleven times for eighty-seven yards (the Falcons four for thirty-five). Sheldon Rankins, of note, was flagged for a phantom roughing-the-passer penalty on a failed third down, which soon thereafter resulted in a Falcons touchdown, a sequence that significantly impacted the game.
That flag took 3 points from the Saints, and the phantom roughing the passer gave the Falcons their lone TD. That's a 10 point swing in a 10-10 game. Massive involvement by the officials tonight.— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) December 8, 2017
This was a particularly-awful call from what I deem an officiating crew favorable to the home team, a nod perhaps from Goodell to Blank for his months-long, steadfast support during contract negotiations.
An officiating crew, it turned out, staffed by a former Falcons player who wasn’t a regular member of this crew, but assigned to work the game nonetheless.
An officiating crew that awarded the Falcons nine first downs via penalty, the highest total in the NFL in twenty years.
It got a little bit worse too …
Toward the end of the game, while the Falcons were running out the clock, Sean Payton tried desperately to call a timeout and preserve the few seconds remaining. When referees didn’t acknowledge his overtures, Payton ran on to the field to get their attention. For this, the officiating crew penalized Payton and assessed the Saints a ten-second run-off of the clock which ended the game.
Sean Payton was trying to get a timeout for 8 seconds, the ref didn't give it to him and then flagged him for getting mad about it. Unreal.— nick wright (@getnickwright) December 8, 2017
The resulting mess was a one-sided officiating job that drew the ire of Saints fans and Sean Payton alike.
Sean Payton still upset with the refs from yesterday: "I thought the officiating was extremely poor. Inconsistent would be a great way to put it, and I thought that had a lot to do with the way this game ended."— Josh Katzenstein (@jkatzenstein) December 8, 2017
The day after the game, the NFL announced Payton was facing discipline for his actions towards the officiating crew. Then, because this wasn’t all infuriating enough, we got another little knife twist on Sunday morning when Jay Glazer reported that the NFL recently hired Mike Cerullo.
Cerullo, of course, was the NFL’s purported source of and key witness during Bountygate. During Bountygate, legal testimony revealed Cerullo as an unreliable employee, a disgruntled former coach, and a liar—including his admission that key parts of his Bountygate testimony were “inaccurate.”
And yet, five years after helping the NFL craft its grand and spectacularly-unjust Bountygate PR campaign, Cerullo landed a job in the league office. Because of course.
Quid pro quo.
Same as it ever was.
Now the league department that employs Cerullo will determine how Sean Payton is disciplined as a result of the Falcons game, the cherry on top of the festering pile of bullshit heaped upon the Saints and their fans this week.
How’d Payton react to the news?
@NFLonFOX @NFL— Sean Payton (@SeanPayton) December 10, 2017
Troubling report by @JayGlazer regarding league hiring of fired @Saints employee.
And here we go.
Now we await the disciplinary ruling.
The next truckload of bullshit may not be far behind.