It’s been a while since I’ve written a Drive – By and to be honest I was going to wait to do one later because there is so much to cover whether it’s the Superbowl, free agency, the draft and numerous on the field issues the Saints are facing. But the recent drama involving the Patriots and the Saints kind of left me with no choice to add my two cents.
Boy oh boy, where do I start?
We might as well start with the Patriots alleged football tampering scandal. To me it’s a non issue that has been blown up bigger than Roger Goodell’s ego filled head. First off nothing has been proven – yet, but if you took a poll of the football loving public I’m willing to bet that 90% believe that the Patriots are guilty as charged without seeing any shred of evidence that the organization ordered that 2 psi be removed from their game day footballs.
When this story first broke and I saw how it spread like wild-fire, and it brought back memories of the spring of 2012. Yes, deflate gate and bounty gate are immensely different on many levels but some similarities are eerily the same. The Saints were charged with paying players to intentionally injure opposing players, and the Patriots are accused of letting two pounds of air out of footballs. The problem I see is this whole fiasco is being played out in the court of public opinion without due process running it’s course.
Thinking back to 2012 I remember being overwhelmed at all the headlines and commentary condemning the Saints on every level with the media hand feeding the public enough so-called information that they were whipped into a feeding frenzy.
I even began to have doubts myself at the time thinking this is bad…this is really bad.
It wasn’t until I had a conversation with the editor of this site (a couple of months before it was launched), KTDL, that I backed off my worst fear about the Saints organization. She told me that she has not seen any evidence…none and that she was going to go the hearings to hear the facts firsthand. I could hear it in her voice that she was angry and outraged this was being tried in the media and manipulated by the league. I learned a lesson that day because I, too, had fallen into that trap and was being unwittingly coerced into how I should think.
Which brings us back to the Patriots.
So what happens if the NFL’s lead investigator Ted Wells comes back with damming evidence that the Patriots did in fact order the deflation of the footballs? Not circumstantial evidence but concrete beyond a reasonable doubt evidence. The problem with this is that the league just needs a “more likely than not” conclusion to pounce. So what should their punishment be? I’ve seen a lot of Saints fans saying they should get just what the Saints got…the death penalty. I don’t buy into that argument because it was wrong then, and it would be wrong now. It would be hypocritical of myself that the very same iron fist punishment that was completely unjust and had my blood boiling back in 2012 that I would turn a blind eye and wish that on another organization and fan base.
The Saints got hammered for an alleged pay to injure program and paid dearly for it. If the Patriots are found guilty then the punishment should fit the crime, and, yes, I am taking spy gate into account. The team should be fined and maybe a draft pick be taken away and that’s it. I’m just not sure if they will be found guilty of anything no matter of how suspicious it looks.
I am not a Robert Kraft fan by any means. Heck, I think Roger Goodell and Kraft sleep in the same sleazy bed but when I watched his press conference right after the Patriots arrived in Arizona it drove home a point about Tom Benson that’s been a thorn in my side. While Benson sat on his hands and said nothing after bounty gate, Kraft went on the offensive and basically called out the NFL and their goon squad of investigators–Benson should have done the same. I don’t care what the underlying motivation was–the fans of this team who have suffered over the years and stuck by them at least deserved an owner who would go to bat for them and his organization.
The NFL and their linchpin Roger Goodell have tried to change the rules as this season imploded all around them (see Ray Rice) but it doesn’t do any good. On opening weekend this year TMZ dropped the bomb on the NFL with the Ray Rice video and it culminated this week in what was supposed to be the leagues best week–Superbowl Week–which has turned into a circus and I’m sure it has Goodell squirming in his seat. This year has been pure hell for the front office of the NFL and I don’t think there is an end in sight as long as Goodell is in office…he deserves every bit of it.
Speaking of Benson, it’s time to take a drive-by in our own backyard and check in with the New Orleans Saints. What’s happening with Tom and Gale Benson is just sad in my opinion. The power struggle with the three R’s (Rita, Ryan and Renee) is already nasty and is about to get nastier. Make no mistake, this battle has been in the making for some time with both sides knowing what was coming. From Tom Benson’s documenting and in some cases filming his doctor visits to the lightning quick law suit filed by Hurricane Rita and Co. Trust me, they didn’t come up with that law suit overnight in response to being cut off from Benson. They had it sitting there waiting when old Tom made his move.
It comes down to Benson’s mental health and a matter of trust (fund). Is he mentally competent to make these sweeping changes that he has just made? I think so and the three R’s are going to have a tough time in court proving their case otherwise. The other and more important part of the suit is the matter of the trust fund. Can Benson change it and cut them off or can the three R’s get their hands on it when he dies? A trust is a way millionaires avoid a hefty tax on their assets when they pass on, and the people in the trust gain the assets without paying a hefty 40% tax. Benson wants to change his trust removing the Saints and Pelicans and replace it with a promissory note that is supposed to be equal in value.
See where this is going? it’s going to be a long drawn out process. I will say this, the three R’s aired out old Tom’s dirty laundry for everyone to see, and they better hope that their laundry is spotless because trust me Gale is champing at the bi to air Hurricane Rita’s dirty laundry. If what’s coming out about her is true then pull up a chair and grab a bag of popcorn because the fireworks are just beginning.
Moving on to the Saints recent front office moves – In what started as an off-season trickle really ramped up during Senior bowl week. At first a couple minor moves were made, an assistant DB coach here a tight end (and WR) coach there culminated with the firing of director of college scouting Rick Reiprish at of all places the Senior Bowl. The hiring of his replacement former Miami GM Jeff Ireland was a smart move in my opinion. From what I can gather Ireland is really not much of a people person and it’s probably why he was ill suited for a general managers job but is much more of a back room talent evaluator.
Both Sean Payton and Jeff Ireland fall under the Bill Parcells tree. It was Parcells who hired Ireland in Miami for the GM job after working with him in Dallas where Ireland worked his way up to become in charge of scouting for the Cowboys. In Ireland’s final season in Dallas (2007) the Cowboys went 13-3 and wrapped up the NFC east.
I have nothing but respect for Rick Reiprish. Heck, he helped bring in the talent that gave New Orleans their first championship but sometime things run their course and change is needed. I think the last few draft classes sealed Reiprish’s fate. Payton knows his time (and Brees) in New Orleans are limited, and he had to make this move now to kick this organization in the butt and get it moving in the right direction. I also think Ryan Pace’s decision to take the reigns of the Chicago Bears was the final straw to push Payton to make that phone call to his old buddy Jeff Ireland.
A lot of people have been calling for Joe Vitt to be canned. Slow your roll because Sean Payton isn’t going to fire Joe Vitt…ever, especially with what the two of them went through together back in 2012. But Sean Payton could do the next best thing–replace himself with Vitt at his press conferences. At least those would be there to entertain us while we watch another year of sub par linebacker play.
Whelp that’s a wrap for this week’s observations. If the off-season continues like it has the last couple of weeks I’m sure I won’t have any problem finding material for the drive-by. The NFL season ends this Sunday with the winner of the two best teams stamping their rightful place in NFL history. The Saints have done that once in their history and I remember standing along the route for their Superbowl parade surrounded by thousands of fellow Who Dat’s thinking it doesn’t get better than this. Now is the time for the Saints to start working towards that goal, and I think whatever was wrong in that locker room can and will be fixed…it has to, there is no other choice.