|Michael Lombardi on D&C: ‘There’s a sense of arrogance on the part of the Saints’||03.06.12 at 12:22 pm ET|
NFL Network analyst Michael Lombardi made an appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Tuesday morning to discuss the Saints defense bounty scandal that is rocking the NFL as well as the possible punishments and repercussions that could result from it. In a story on NFL.com Sunday, Lombardi likened the bounty scandal to that of the Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon and the White House in the early 1970s. Lombardi elaborated on that idea on air, saying the source of the money for the bounty pools could extend farther than originally thought.
“The bigger issue here is the Bounty-gate stuff, really, it shouldn’t be in place, but the reality is, it’s a cap circumvention as well,” Lombardi said. “Where’s the money coming from? You’ve got Mike Ornstein who is in the building, who’s really not an employee. He’s part of a marketing branch. Are they helping give money to put into the pool? I think it is like Watergate in the sense that if you follow the money, I think you’re going to lead to a trail that’s really not what the commissioner thought initially when he investigated it.”
One of the sticking points of the scandal is that although the team was warned about the practice, it did not stop it. Once Saints owner Tom Benson was reportedly made aware of the bounties, he allegedly told general manager Mickey Loomis to put an end to it, but the team continued to run the bounty system against the wishes of its owner and the league. In the wake of the allegations, many have wondered whether Loomis will be able to remain the general manager job in New Orleans. Lombardi said he doubts Loomis will remain employed by the Saints.
“I was told reliably by somebody intimate in the league office is the only way he keeps his job is if Benson fights for him,” Lombardi said. “And it seems to be, yesterday there was a report coming out of New Orleans that Benson was going to support both Loomis and [coach Sean] Payton.
“I find that hard to believe because if Benson is going to support Loomis, then basically, he’s supporting insubordination. Now he’s saying to everybody in the organization, ‘Don’t listen to what I say. Just do whatever the heck you want to do, because I’m going to keep Loomis in place.’ So I think it’s going to be hard for Mickey to keep his job. I know it’s going to be difficult for him to be able to weather this storm.”
Lombardi also noted that the controversy could be an example for players of how the NFL will punish management wrong-doings in addition to punishing players. The punishments meted out in this scandal will be all the more pertinent because of the recent labor dispute between the players and management that almost led to a lockout this past season.
“This is one of the situations where every player in the league is looking at [Roger] Goodell to see exactly what standard he’s going to utilize in terms of he’s been tough on the players,” Lombardi said. “Let’s see if he’ll be tough on management of the teams. And most players take the attitude of, ‘Well, the owner and the commissioner are in bed together. Therefore they won’t go as hard.’ I think that’s the one thing that’s going to hurt the Saints in this case. Goodell is going to be above and beyond that.”
Following are more highlights of the conversation. To listen to the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page. On why punishment for Bounty-gate will be severe: “I think there’s really a sense of arrogance on the part of the Saints in terms of they were told to stop and they didn’t. And I think that’s really got to make the commissioner feel like his power was being neglected. So I think he’s going to come down really hard. I know that there’s been talk that a year’s suspension is going to be in play here, and I think this is going to be a message to everybody that this has got to stop. This isn’t good for the game. The game is violent enough. We don’t need to have money put on bounties for players. It’s just, to me, it’s really ridiculous. It’s not what the game is about.”
On whether bounties are widespread in the league: “I don’t think it’s as prevalent as in the old days. First of all, it’s a cap evasion. And I don’t care where the money comes from. You know players as well as I know players. To get them to spend $20 for anything is hard to do. Look, to get them to go buy movie tickets is hard.
“The reality of it is, is where is the money coming from? And if the money is coming from the team or some derivative of the team, that’s a cap evasion, and I don’t think people really want to go down that road for something as ridiculous as a cheap hit. Plus, let’s face it. The fines outweigh the demand. It’s a little bit like the penalties in situations where, if I fine you, if I hit you illegally and I get a thousand from my bounty but I’m going to pay $50,000 from Goodell for illegal hits, is it really worth it? To me, it just doesn’t make any sense. I don’t even know how the program continued once these fines continued as high as they’ve been.”
On how high fines might be: “I think it’ll be over a million dollars. Because look, they were told, the league office, told Benson, the owner of the Saints, to stop and then it continued for another year. So to me that’s really a slap in the league’s face, like you don’t even believe what we’re telling you to do? And I think once money starts getting put on the table, that’s when people start losing their jobs. It becomes, ‘Do I pay a million, or do I fire somebody?’ And typically, money usually talks.”
On Gregg Williams’ punishment and the state of the Saints defense: “I’m thinking one year is the number. I really am. I think the Rams ought to be preparing to get themselves another defensive coordinator and I think New Orleans is going to get some severe sanctions. They don’t have a first round pick obviously. The Patriots have it this year. So I think Steve Spagnuolo, the new defensive coordinator, walks into a situation in New Orleans that may not be as good as everybody initially thought. Drew Brees is unhappy, they can’t resign Carl Nicks perhaps. Now you’ve got this bounty hanging over their heads. I don’t think this is going to be a comfortable environment.”
On Peyton Manning’s situation with the Colts: “If Peyton is throwing better, which I’m hearing he is throwing the ball better and he does have better feeling in his arm, then now all of the sudden it becomes a different issue. Now all of the sudden, does he want to be the Indianapolis Colts?
“I think now, with a new regime in place, I do believe they’re going to try to keep him there if they can. They have to protect their asset. They can’t let Peyton walk out of there and cut him and get nothing for him. I mean to me, here’s the situation. If they release him, it costs $16 million on their cap. If they keep him, it costs $17 million on their cap. So basically, it’s a one million difference. The biggest difference, and this is huge for everyone to understand, is it would cost [Jim] Irsay $28 million to make that difference. So for lack of $28 million, he’s still going to count on the cap. So it’s a cash issue, not a cap issue.”
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