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What Are The Odds? Goodell Unlikely To Change Saints Bounty Gate Penalties

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (right) is likely to leave Saints suspended head coach Sean Payton (left) out in the cold when results of appeals are announced.NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (right) is likely to leave Saints suspended head coach Sean Payton (left) out in the cold when results of appeals are announced.

Updated at 4:20 p.m., April 2

NEW ORLEANS -- Upon further review, that's what Bounty Gate has become.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will go under the hood to review the fate of the New Orleans Saints, who have filed a mass appeal of the unprecedented sanctions leveled against their franchise by said commissioner in response to the now infamous pay-for-pain scheme.

When Goodell finally emerges with his decision -- a hearing is scheduled later this week with a decision likely coming after Easter, according to ESPN -- we will learn if he upholds his earlier ruling or has turned a sympathetic ear.

No doubt, Saints officials have reached for the moon, seeking to have Judge Roger reduce the season-long suspension of Coach Sean Payton, the eight-game suspension of General Manager Mickey Loomis, the six-game suspension of Assistant Head Coach Joe Vitt, a $500,000 fine levied against the team/owner Tom Benson and the loss of second-round draft picks this April and next.

Conventional wisdom says Goodell won't budge from his position of zero-tolerance. He wanted to send a message to the Saints and the rest of the league that this type of unsportsmanlike conduct will not be tolerated and he seems to have the backing of other owners.

I see a small glimmer of hope that Goodell might -- might -- reduce Payton's suspension by a few games, say 25-to-1 of that happening. Goodell might even consider pushing back the start of Payton's suspension until training camp and allow him to coach his team through its offseason program.

Then again, the head coach allegedly lied to Goodell and investigators and conspired to cover up the scheme.

Loomis' chances of winning a reduced sentence are 100-to-1. After all, he is Benson's highest-ranking official in the team's football operations, plus his suspension doesn't go into effect until the end of the preseason. He, too, was less than forthright with Goodell and investigators, according to the report.

Vitt's chances of winning a reduced sentence are 75-to-1. He allegedly was down in the trenches, a foot soldier slogging in the muck with former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams who apparently will not appeal his indefinite suspension. A colleague at SportsNOLA.com, Jude Young, speculates that Goodell might reduce Vitt's suspension to make him a more viable candidate as interim coach.

The $500,000 fine and loss of both picks will remain intact.

The question is what are the grounds for the Saints' appeal other than they are well within their rights to do so as an organization? Are they less guilty now than when Judge Roger handed down his verdict March 21? Will they present new evidence that proves their innocence or supports their actions?

The bottom line is the organization needs more time -- if I may borrow a phrase from Payton -- to get all its ducks in a row. There are big decisions to be made in a very short period of time.

For instance:

-- Is bringing in Bill Parcells the right course of action in Payton's absence? And, if so, the team must identify a minority candidate in the coaching ranks to satisfy the Rooney Rule unless Parcells comes on board merely as a "consultant.'' NFL spokesman Greg Aiello indicates new Saints receivers coach Henry Ellard could be interviewed to fit the minority requirement.

-- The draft is right around the corner so work remains to be done on that front, not to mention that free agency is ongoing and roster holes still need to be plugged.

Decisions, decisions, decisions, beginning with Goodell going under the hood Tuesday.

The clock is ticking.


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