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Posts tagged ‘New Orleans Saints’

NFL Timetable of Contention

When the New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI on February 5, 2012, the football season was officially over. Diehard football fans were left to fend for themselves finding other things to fill their Sundays and Monday evenings. What promised to be a long, dull offseason, though, has turned into anything but. So far, the offseason has been a juicy cornucopia of OMG, jaw-dropping moments that have served to supply football fans with an almost daily fix of excitement rivaling any game day. All the stories prompted me to document this offseason into what I call the 2012 NFL Timeline of Contention:

March 8-9 – Colts release Peyton Manning and the next day jettison about 80% of their 2011 offensive production with the release of RB Joseph Addai, QB Curtis Painter and TE Dallas Clark. They also lose WR Pierre Garcon to free agency. This was on the heels of having fired long-time Vice Chairman Bill Polian and GM Chris Polian.

March 12 -– The day before free agency begins, the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins were zapped with steep salary cap penalties for violating a non-existent salary cap limit in the uncapped 2010 season.

March 9-19 – After the release of Peyton Manning, wild speculation begins in the media as to where he will end up. In the running were the Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals, Tennessee Titans and a late running favorite, the San Francisco 49ers. Countless sport talk show hours were spent analyzing, evaluating, and predicting the most likely landing spot for the star quarterback. Many thought the 49ers were the most Super Bowl-ready and would be his best choice.

March 18 -– Incumbent 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, with ruffled feathers, flew off to Miami to try out for the Dolphins.

March 19 –– Peyton Manning agrees to go to Broncos.

March 20 – Manning holds ceremonious press conference announcing his decision. Fans everywhere try to wrap the heads around the idea of Peyton in a Broncos uniform.

March 21 – Meanwhile, Alex Smith and the 49ers make up and he trades in his fins and feathers for a nice new Nike 49ers uniform.

March 21 .A.M. –The day after the Manning/Broncos press conference, news broke early in the day that Tim Tebow would be traded to the New York Jets for draft picks. Questions immediately surface about what his role would be since the Jets already have a franchise quarterback named Mark Sanchez.

March 21 P.M. –But wait, it’s revealed that Tebow is not traded to the Jets. With a ‘closer’ reading of the contract, the Jets discover that they would not only have to give up draft picks, but $5 million as well. The trade talkshit a snag.

March 21 late P.M. –The Jacksonville Jaguars make a bid for Tebow while the Jets contemplate the $5 million dollar snafu. Broncos VP of Operations John Elway announced that it was Tebow’s choice to go wherever he wanted. The world waited. And this was probably the first time that Mark Sanchez rooted for the Jaguars to win at something.

March 22 – The Jets finally seal the deal and announce that Tebow will be a Jet come fall.

March 22 – Seemingly simultaneous with the Tebow/Jets announcement, Roger Goodell laid down the suspensions for the New Orleans Saints in the bounty for hits scandal.  Sean Payton suspended for the entire 2012 season. GM Mickey Loomis suspended 8 games. Asst coach Joe Vitt suspended 6 games. The Saints organization fined $500,000 and lose a draft pick. It was also made clear that player suspensions would be forthcoming. Reaction, analyses, commentary fill the next several days.

March 22 – Meanwhile, recently acquired Jet quarterback Drew Stanton makes clear he wants no part of the QB carousel/circus on the horizon in New York. Mercifully, he is quietly sent to the Indianapolis Colts.

April 1-30 – As the dust of the previous month settles, the usual hoopla and storylines leading up to the NFL Draft carry us through April. Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck become focal points and are analyzed up, down, and sideways.

May 2   — As promised, Roger Goodell hands down player suspensions for the bounty for hits program in New Orleans. LB Jonathan Vilma suspended for the entire season.  T Will Smith suspended 3 games and former defensive players Anthony Hargrove (now with Packers) suspended 8 games and Scott Fujita (now with Browns) suspended 4 games. And the outrage was heard ’round the world.

May 17 — Jonathan Vilma files defamation lawsuit against Roger Goodell. Maybe I missed it, but this did not seem to get a whole lot of press.  Sort of like the thud you hear but don’t want to investigate.

May 22 –  Arbitrator Stephen Burbank dismisses the Cowboys and Redskins appeal of their respective salary cap penalties.

May 23 – The NFL players’ union files suit against the NFL alleging collusion in the uncapped year 2010.

Quite a few other events grabbed our attention enough to keep tongues wagging this offseason too. Retired quarterback Ryan Leaf was arrested on burglary and drug possession charges. Warren Sapp caused a little stir on two occasions, the first when he accused former Saints TE Jeremy Shockey of being the snitch in the Bounty-gate investigations, and secondly when he filed for bankruptcy.  Baltimore Ravens LB Terrell Suggs’ injury and the musical chairs of free agency also gave us some juicy tidbits for conversation.  On a sadder note, the issue of concussions was once again at the forefront following the suicide of retired LB Junior Seau.

So the offseason has indeed been full of sound and fury that, true to Shakespeare’s quote for those outside the football universe, probably signifies nothing.

Saints Have Football Fans Scratching Their Heads

The Saints have had a tumultuous offseason, no doubt. Because of Bounty-Gate, head coach Sean Payton and top defensive player linebacker Jonathan Vilma have both been suspended for the entire 2012 season. Assistant coach Joe Vitt, General Manager Mickey Loomis and defensive end Will Smith have all received suspensions of various durations. Former DC Gregg Williams has been suspended indefinitely while former defensive players Anthony Hargrove (now with Packers) and Scott Fujita (now with Browns) have also received suspensions. Obviously the Saints 2012 season has received a serious blow and remains disrupted from the subsequent fallout in the media, among football fans, among players and within their own organization. So out of all this turmoil, one of the most perplexing actions, or rather non-actions, by the Saints organization is their failure to re-sign quarterback Drew Brees to a long-term deal. At a time when restoring stability to the team should be priority #1, having a contract dispute with the team’s top player only adds to the dysfunction and fractures confidence in the locker room. Surely players will wonder, if they can do this to the leader of the team, how will they treat me? This does not look good for the organization — most are thinking just get it done. Period.

For those who follow football, it is almost laughable to have to justify giving Brees a decent, long-term deal.  But here goes:

Record-breaking stats from 2011 season

  • Most passing yards, season: 5,476
  • Most consecutive 300+ yards passing games: 7
  • Most consecutive 350+ yards passing games: 4
  • Most consecutive 400+ yards passing games: 2 (tied)
  • Most games, 250+ yards passing, season: 16
  • Most games, 350+ yards passing, season: 8
  • Most games, 300+ yards passing, season: 13
  • Most games, 30 or more pass attempts, season: 16 (tied)
  • Most pass completions, season: 468
  • Most consecutive games 20 completions: 36 (2009-present)
  • Most games 20 completions, season: 16 (tied his own 2010 record)
  • Most games 30 completions, career: 29 (2005-present)
  • Most games 30 completions, season: 9
  • Most games 30 completions and no interceptions, career: 14 (2006–present)
  • Most games with 30 completions and no interceptions, season: 5 (tied)
  • Highest completion percentage, season: 71.2 (468 for 657)
  • Most games with more than 80% pass completion rate, career (minimum 20 passes per game): 12 (2004-present)
  • Most games with more than 80% pass completion rate, season (minimum 20 passes per game): 3
  • Most consecutive seasons 4000+ yards: 6 (2006-2011)
  • Most career seasons 5000+ yards: 2
  • Most games, 350+ yards passing, career: 29
  • Most Games 5+ TD Passes, Career 7, (2004-Present)
  • Most Games 1+ TD Passes, Season 16 (tied)
  • Most Seasons, 45+ Touchdown Passes, 1 (tied)
  • Most consecutive passes, None intercepted, post-season: 226 (January 21, 2007 – January 14, 2012)
  • Most games with 400 yards passing and no interceptions, career 4 (tied)
  • Most games with 5 touchdown passes and no interceptions, career 5 (2004-present)
  • Most games with 30 completions and no interceptions, career 14 (2006-2011)
  • Passing Yards in a single month 1,687 (October 2011)

Besides this mountain of achievements from last year, Brees is a 6-time Pro Bowler, was named 2008 Offensive Player of the year and led the Saints to a Super Bowl win in the 2008-09 season and was named the Super Bowl XLIV MVP.  The Saints response to all this: Okay, you’re good, here’s a franchise tag and a one-year deal. Brees said Wednesday on WWL radio in New Orleans he is ‘extremely frustrated’ that he and the Saints have not reached agreement on a long-term deal. We hear you, Drew.

Note: stats via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_New_Orleans_Saints_season#Individual_Records_Set_or_Tied

Roger Goodell Channels Wyatt Earp

Actually, Roger Goodell is not new, he’s been the NFL Commissioner since September 2006. But we certainly have witnessed some new and unprecedented rulings handed down by the Commish lately. Perhaps the boldest so far has been the one-year suspension given New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton for his role in the Saints’ bounty scheme. This week another NFL policy came to light regarding unruly fans. If you are ejected from an NFL game, you will have to pay $75 to take an online code-of-conduct test. And you must pass the test with a minimum score of 70% before you will be allowed at another game. It seems that the rules may vary by stadium, but a few teams like the Jets, Giants and Patriots have already begun enforcing the policy.

I really don’t know how much of a hand Goodell played in this policy, though I assume any NFL policy must be signed off by him. One thing I do know though, Goodell is starting to remind me of Wyatt Earp. Earp was a lawman in the Wild West and he had a somewhat dubious reputation. In dispensing justice, he often became a law onto himself. Much like Goodell and the NFL. While we applaud his efforts to ensure player safety and control unruly fans, we are also aware of the arbitrariness of some of his decisions. For instance, Goodell makes a ruling as in the case of the Saints suspensions and at the same time he is the one who hears the appeal. Not very likely that he will overrule himself folks. Goodell has a tough job. He has the unenviable task of trying to change a culture steeped in broken bones, blood and concussions. One hundred years ago, Wyatt Earp brought law to lawlessness sometimes in a lawless way. Will Goodell have success taming the NFL Wyatt Earp-style?

Ray Rice — Pay Da Man

Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice is another key player that was franchised last month. And like QB Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints and RB Matt Forte of the Chicago Bears, Ray Rice has not signed his franchise tender and can not join his team in the voluntary offseason workouts that started this past Monday.  As the Ravens featured back, Rice is a key component in their offense. For the 2011 regular season, Rice rushed for 1,364 of the Raven’s 1,995 total rushing yards and had 15 of the 41 touchdowns (12 rushing/3 passing). His 1,364 rushing yards was 2nd in the league behind Jaguars’ RB Maurice Jones Drew who had 1,606. Rice has rushed for at least 1,200 yards and caught at least 60 passes in each of the past three seasons.

With the franchise tag, Rice would receive $7.7 million for one year. And of course, down here on earth, we all wonder what’s the problem with that? Your average Joe would be happy to sign any tag that would net $7.7 million for the year. We wouldn’t even squawk if they dropped the .7.   But consider this, the market rate for the services of a quality veteran running back in the NFL is far greater than $7.7 million. Arian Foster, running back for the Houston Texans, recently signed a five-year deal for $43.5 million with $20.75 million guaranteed. And at the start of the 2011 season, Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson was given an extension on his rookie contract. Price tag — $53 million with $30 million guaranteed covering him through the 2016 season. The going rate for a top tier running back has been set and Ray Rice is a top tier running back.

C’mon man, Pay the man!

Drew Brees Fans to Saints: Pay Da Man

Last month, the New Orleans Saints slapped the franchise tag on quarterback Drew Brees and right away it was clear that Brees was unhappy with not being signed to a long-term deal. Understandable — he led the league in just about every measurable QB category this past season: 5,476 passing yards, averaging 342 yards per game with 46 touchdowns/14 interceptions and had a completion percentage of 71.2.  His passer rating of 110.6 was 2nd behind Aaron Rodgers’ 122.5.  Brees’ 5,476 yards also broke Dan Marino’s record for most passing yards in a single season. Marino’s record of 5,084 had stood since 1984. Added to Brees’ record is a Super Bowl win in 2009 and two subsequent playoff runs in 2010 and 2011. Even though Saints owner Tom Benson said today that they are close to a deal with Brees, these phenomenal stats have most people wondering why the Saints haven’t already re-signed the free agent QB to a long-term deal.

To date, Drew Brees has not signed his franchise tender and with voluntary training and conditioning programs starting Monday, he would not be able to attend until he is under contract. Because of the recent Saints’ suspension for their bounty for hits policy, it is imperative to have some continuity in leadership for the team which Brees definitely brings.

Sign the man — Pay the man — C’mon man!

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Drew Brees image used under CC Lic 2.0 via wikipedia.com

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell denies appeal of New Orleans Saints’ Sean Payton, Mickey Loomis and Joe Vitt

Who Dat? Well, Roger Goodell, says Me!  No surprise here — Roger Goodell handed out the suspensions and Roger Goodell heard the appeal. While I agree that some punishment was necessary for the Saints’ bounty for hits policy, I think it’s also safe to say that the concept of democracy has not found its way to the hallowed halls of the NFL. Goodell did say he would consider reducing financial penalties: “If they embrace the opportunity and participate in a constructive way.”

Goodell also said that he would consider modifying the penalty to have the team forfeit their 2013 second-round draft pick. Head Coach Sean Payton’s suspension will begin Monday, April 16th, while GM Loomis’ and Asst HC  Vitts’ suspensions will begin after the preseason ends.

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Annual NFL Owners’ Meeting Begins today at the Breakers, Palm Beach

Annual NFL Owners' Meeting  Begins today at the Breakers, Palm Beach

The NFL Owners meeting begins today, March 25 and runs through Wednesday, March 28. In the backdrop of the luxury resort The Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida, the 32 owners gather at their annual meeting to discuss relevant issues. The schedule (from here) includes:

* Sunday: Owners and coaches arrive; committee meetings; and informal meetings with reporters

* Monday: League Meetings officially begin; Commissioner Roger Goodell press conference at noon

* Tuesday: AFC Coaches meet with media in a.m.; more league/committee meetings in p.m.

* Wednesday: NFC Coaches meet with media in a.m. where Sean Payton is expected to appear; Competition Committee will vote on rule changes; Roger Goodell holds final news conference

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