It’s been a tough off-season for the New Orleans Saints, and it’s only going to get tougher. The week started with allegations embattled Saints GM Mickey Loomis “allegedly” wiretapped opposing teams headsets, being able to toggle between offense and defense audio. Today, USA Today reports Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith told NFL Network about a conversation he had with a Saints player.
“I was going out of bounds, and the guy went for my ankle. I said, ‘Hey, man, cut that out.’ He’s like, ‘Well, we get fined if we don’t go after your legs when you go out of bounds.’
Smith then added this about former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams…
“And actually this past year, this last game when we played them, I had a little conversation with Gregg Williams. … He took responsibility, he was saying it wasn’t right, but that’s who he was.”
Let’s face it, opponents and former employees alike are all taking advantage of kicking the Saints while they’re down. It will be no surprise to hear more and more critique on the organization.
On the one hand, there is the argument which defends the Saints. It would be tremendously naive to believe no other team in the NFL is guilty of playing in the grey areas of the NFL constitution. Okay, well, maybe other teams guilty of breaking those guidelines. We know about “Spy Gate” which tainted the New England Patriots for some time, as that of the fines passed down to Josh McDaniels during his time with the Denver Broncos. There have even been reports which state the idea of a bounty system is far from something recently devised by the Saints. Some form of cheating is involved in every sport. They may call it seeking competitive advantage, but in reality, we all know what it is.
On the other hand, there is validation for downright contempt of the organization. It is one thing to try and put a player on his backside, but quite another to attempt and end careers. It’s one thing to steal signals, but quite another to use espionage type equipment to steal audio. Where the Saints have gone wrong is by racing over the line instead of stepping over it.
What is most tragic about the current spiral the team is facing, is how it affects the players. Reports always state the name “Saints”, a connotation which includes the whole team. However, things are starting to point it was not up to the players. If Smith’s alleged conversations are true, the players had no choice but to play within the bounty system. Though they still had the choice to pick between right and wrong, in the moment, the prospect of losing money or perception of being the odd guy out could have fractured them from the locker room. Football is a brotherhood and to betray that brotherhood is among the biggest of sins. It wasn’t as easy as choosing between right and wrong.
Now, all these players face entering the season without their coach for the entire season, the loss of their defensive mind, and the loss of the man who helped sign them. They are trying to be positive, but these are off the field issues which can’t help but cause a distraction. Drew Brees handles himself as professional as any player in the league. Yet even he has been involved in the Sean Payton suspension. All of this doesn’t even include player suspension still yet to come. No matter how things are spinned, this ranks among the most tumultuous off-seasons a team has faced in recent memory.
Nobody is a Saint, they never claimed to be. It just happens to be this team’s name.