By Brian Hanley-
(CBS) Sean Payton, meet mirror.
Most accomplished coaches demand accountability.
Too bad Payton passed on the opportunity to show some Tuesday.
Payton’s managed media session at the NFL owners meeting in Florida was an opportune time to own up to his share of responsibility in the so-called Bountygate (and now 40 years since Watergate can we come up with another term for scandals.)
Making his first public comments since the NFL announced his one-year suspension in connection with the bounty scandal, Payton said Tuesday he is disappointed with himself, is mulling an appeal of the penalty and has been speaking with Bill Parcells but not necessarily to persuade him to coach the team this season.
Yet, asked directly if he had lied to league officials in an attempt to cover up the money-for-hits incentive program, Payton came up as lame as Earl Bennett after being drilled by the Saints’ Roland Harper last season.
“I haven’t seen specifically the report,” Payton said. “As I mentioned, it’s hard for me to go through each item line by line.”
Hey Sean, you don’t need to see a report to know if you lied.
At least Payton didn’t pull the “I have no recollection,” line of BS which has become standard lexicon when politicians are grilled under oath.
The league said that Payton, the 2006 NFL Coach of the Year, encouraged false denials by instructing assistants to “make sure our ducks are in a row.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that when first informed about the investigation, the Saints lied by denying the existence of the bounty program, then continued the payouts.
“It is a serious violation of our policy,” Goodell said. “It is something that has zero tolerance in the NFL. It is not acceptable to hide the issues, continue to violate NFL policy and put our players at risk. That is going to be dealt with very harshly.”
Payton, who will lose about $7.5 million in salary as a result of the suspension, said he has gone through “a range of emotions” since being informed of the penalty.
“You’re disappointed, you’re disappointed in yourself that it got to this point, and I think we’re trained as coaches to begin preparation right away,” he said. “I find myself reflecting on it, and you go through a lot of emotions.”
As the Los Angeles Times Sam Farmer pointed out, league officials have privately pointed to the fact that Payton is known to be a stickler for detail, something that he emphasized time and again in his book, so therefore he could not in good faith say he didn’t know what was happening on his own team, even if his specialty is offense.
Payton said he did his best to answer questions honestly when quizzed by NFL officials.
Did your best? Either your answers are honest, or they are not.
But good luck on that appeal.
Try starting with two words: I’m sorry.
Payton has until Monday to ask Goodell to reconsider the punishment for running a bounty system which the league uncovered after a three-year investigation. The NFL determined defensive players and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams maintained a pool of cash and paid rewards to players for injuring opponents, including $1,000 for a “cart-off” and $1,500 for a knockout.
Asked if he believes any opponents were injured as a result of the bounties, Payton said no but conceded: “Anything that happens in the framework of your team and your program, you’re responsible for and that’s a lesson I’ve learned. It’s … easy to get carried away with a certain side of the ball, more involved offensively or defensively, and that’s something I regret.”
That’s the lesson just learned?
Having covered sports for 28 years, I have yet meet a football coach who did not have complete knowledge of all things concerning his team.
Payton said he has yet to decide whether to appeal his suspension.
“There’s kind of a checklist, there’s a lot to do here in a short period of time with the draft coming up, our specific coaching staff,” Payton said. “We’re trying to get through all of that very quickly. I think by the end of this month we’ll make a decision on an appeal.”
Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis will be suspended for the first eight games of this season in connection with the scandal, and linebackers coach Joe Vitt for the first six games. Williams has been suspended indefinitely.
The Saints also will lose second-round picks in the next two NFL drafts, and have been fined $500,000.
Simple question for Payton: If a player lied to you even once, what would you do?
Goodell, your figurative coach, did the same thing.
Accountability doesn’t stop in the locker room.
Take It Or Leave It
That was the message the Bears have delivered to Matt Forte and now have shared with fans.
Team president Ted Phillips all but said Monday that contract talks are done between the team and Forte.
As the Tribune’s Dan Pompei wrote: Phillips made it clear the team intends to keep Forte and make him play under the terms of the franchise tag, which would pay him $7.742 million in 2012.
He said the Bears have “no intention” of Forte playing anywhere other than Chicago in 2012.
Phillips said general manager Phil Emery and team negotiator Cliff Stein have had contract discussions with Forte agent Adisa Bakari and there is a long-term contract on the table. Phillips said Forte has been given a “very strong offer,” which is reflective of Forte’s value as one of the NFL’s top running backs.
Phillips said the Bears and Forte have different opinions of Forte’s perceived value. Forte has recently complained of feeling disrespected.
“At that position, especially last year where a lot of running backs signed long-term deals and didn’t stay healthy, it makes it difficult,” Phillips said.
As for Forte being saddled with the franchise tag, Phillips said, “If he has to play under the tag, that’s not the worst thing in the world. He’s been a big part of our offense and he’s a great kid. Ultimately, if we can’t get a long-term deal done, he’ll come to grips with the tag. It’s a substantial increase. It pays him well.
“Matt is going to be a Bear. Our goal with Matt is to keep him a Bear as long as possible. We have made offers on long-term deals that we think reward him at a high level, the level he deserves. We haven’t been able to reach common ground. The door is open to keep talking. If we get a deal done, we’ll be happy. If we don’t, then the deal we have is the franchise tag and we’ll see what happens after this year.”
Let’s see how “disrespected” Forte feels. Enough to hold out of training camp and/or games?
If so, would the Bears be interested in changing course and trading him even if a third-round pick is about all the team would get in return?
Dawning Of A New Day
Strap it down Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. Because, as with Forte, it sure sounds as if the team’s no longer interested in paying for past performance.
Phillips said the Bears also are saving some cash for potential contract extensions. Three candidates are quarterback Jay Cutler, whose deal runs through 2013, defensive tackle Henry Melton, whose contract is up after 2012, and Urlacher, who is in the last year of his deal.
“Obviously (Cutler is) our franchise quarterback,” Phillips said. “We’ll deal with him in due time.”
And on Cutler’s terms. The QB will cash big.
Urlacher’s contract situation is something else. He is now 33, and unlike others believe, no longer an elite middle linebackers. Very good? No doubt. Franchise money type player? No.
Pompei wrote extending Urlacher’s contract before the end of the season would avoid a potentially combustible situation like the Bears experienced with Olin Kreutz.
It would also be the wrong thing to do unless Urlacher is ready to take a pay cut.
Phillips said there have been no discussions about extending Urlacher’s contract.
“Brian has been an amazing player,” Phillips said. “Love Brian Urlacher. Love how he has grown as a leader and the face of the team. He still is playing at a high level at his age. We’ll see how this season goes and deal with it in due time.”
Briggs already made a play for more money and was shot down by then GM Jerry Angelo. He is signed through 2013, but before the season Briggs asked for his contract to be sweetened. Last summer he indicated if he does not get more money, he may seek to be traded.
He had no leverage.
“Lance is under contract,” Phillips said. “As we said last year, we expect him to fulfill his contract.
“Any time you sign a player and provide the signing bonus up front and after a few years they look at just a piecemeal part of the contract, it makes it difficult,” Phillips said. “But we’re happy with what Lance has brought to the table and he’s going to be a big part of our team this year.”
Brian Hanley is the co-host of The Mully and Hanley Show heard Monday-Friday from 5am-9am on 670 The Score and 670TheScore.com