What off-season? There are now story lines to pick to the bone even when the usual lull in the NFL's break from action happens after the completion of the draft.
Let's take the home town story first. I don't know how much I can add to the whole bounty scandal and the punishment that was handed out. I will say this- the whole deal has brought out the worst in fans though who have resorted to defending a cover up that would outrage anybody were it to happen in the political forum (which it did in a period of time elapsed from 1972-74.)
Anger is understandable, but it's pointed in the wrong direction. What shows up again is the fact that this exposes a flaw with fans. It happens all over- loyalty sometimes blinds perspective. What would the reaction of Saints fans be if this was the Atlanta Falcons under the microscope? What if Mike Smith was in Sean Payton's shoes?
The parties involved have accepted responsibility- it was too late to prevent a hard hitting punishment from Commissioner Roger Goodell, but it's better late than never I suppose. Still, there was no accountability originally in this matter. Keep it quiet and maybe it will all go away seemed to be the prevailing mentality. If your tooth hurts constantly for weeks, the pain won't magically go away if you ignore it. This cloud hanging over the Saints' head for three years never went away, and it wound up producing more of a downpour than what was received in Southeast Louisiana in the past couple of days.
It would be one thing if somebody has the opinion that Goodell is taking player safety too far. We've seen examples of that, and I wouldn't dismiss the validity of that argument. However, when lies and a cover up are involved, that avenue is erased. As Brian Allee-Walsh wrote, the suspensions were this large because of the amount of dishonesty that followed up until this bounty program was exposed. It's really as simple as that.
The biggest question is how this organization will move forward. It's a good thing there are guys who are ready made to step in right away. Pete Carmichael has been with the organization since the beginning of the Payton era, and just last season headed up a record-breaking offense. Steve Spagnuolo had a rough draw in St. Louis in his first whirl as an NFL head coach, but that doesn't diminish the defensive mind that he is.
Top priority is still getting Drew Brees locked in. As long as the Saints are able to get something done, then the pilots of this airplane are capable enough to step in and keep the Saints near the top of the list in the NFC in 2012 while Payton has many days and nights to think twice about lying to the big boss.
Then we head up to the greatest side show in the NFL. That would be the New York Jets. They proceeded to cast a shadow over New Orleans by trading for, balking at, then trading for Tim Tebow again.
It's clear to see that Denver doesn't have a Plan B. Peyton Manning is Plan A and the Broncos are prepared to live or die by that. So they shipped Tebow off to New York after a year where he took over a bad football team, and found ways to win games despite the numbers.
Whether you believe in Tebow's long term future as a quarterback or not is subjective, and not exactly relevant to this trade. Mark Sanchez is the Jets' guy, and he seems to have forgiven the organization enough to sign an extension after the locker room eroded at the end of 2011.
Quite simply, this is the worst move of the off-season, and it is at least speculated that Tebow himself had a hand in this decision. Does he really think he'll change that locker room? Look what wound up happening in Denver. Now that Manning is in the fold, Tebow is a distant memory. He didn't encourage peace and harmony by his words, no matter how eloquent and true they were. He did it through wins, and John Elway and the Broncos did a great job of pretending to like Tebow.
What will Tebow be in New York? He'll be second on the depth chart. Sanchez's extension includes over 20 million dollars guaranteed. There's no way that kind of money will be riding pine in Week 1 unless an injury happens between now and the start of next season. That said, Tebow will be reduced to nothing more than a gimmick Wildcat quarterback who will run a few plays to keep defenses honest.
The biggest reason the Jets got Tebow though is because of his ability to unite a locker room. The Jets could have used that last year. Only one problem though- everything will be fine until that first snag. When Tebow isn't out there leading New York to miraculous 4th quarter comeback victories, his words will carry no weight with his new set of teammates. As much as I would like to say Tebow won the Broncos locker room through his faith and inspiration, and as much as I would like that to have actually been the case, I would be a fool if I sat here and told you I believed that. He did it through winning games, beating Oakland, San Diego, Chicago, the New York Jets, and Pittsburgh in the playoffs.
Another big question is how long the leash really is on Sanchez. From a leadership perspective, I've been tough on Sanchez in his first years in the league. I have been on record saying that he needs to be a better leader in the huddle, and take more initiative. However, the criticism of this kid sometimes goes way over the top, and the city he's playing in is to blame.
Sanchez went from being a winner in high school to a productive quarterback at what was at the time one of the top college football programs in the nation. Then he was drafted by the Jets, and immediately played a role in back-to-back AFC championship appearances with a team that certainly didn't have the make-up of one of the top four teams in the league. Then as the locker room was falling apart in 2011, Sanchez was only having his best statistical season, all while being held back at times by sometimes overly conservative play calling.
Bottom line is that Sanchez has statistically improved, and he's now up against something that is out of his control- he'll have to share the same locker room with 52 other guys, some of whom went behind his back and threw him under the bus in a cowardly way after a rough season.
Back to Tebow for a second though- when it's on the back-up quarterback and a guy who will only see the field for a maximum of 5-10 plays a week to fix your locker room, that's when you have to look at the job the head coach is doing. Rex Ryan needs to be more controlling of his own team, and stop letting the inmates run the asylum. Because he'll be looking for work soon if this continues. Getting Tebow solved nothing with the biggest issue which the Jets possess. That's up to the big guy with the headset on, and Ryan needs to realize that.
By the way, did any Saints fans see the signing of Brodrick Bunkley yesterday? Oh yeah, that happened too. It's a good move for the Saints, getting a guy who is a versatile player and solid against the run. The Saints needed some more ability in the middle of that defense after the experiments with Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin did not work out as planned. Quietly, the Saints have taken a step in actually improving that defense in a move that could have easily been missed with the two other big stories which dominated headlines here and across the country.
And we all thought the NFL would be back to normal with a quiet off-season from May until late June? We just got an early April Fools joke.
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