Saints’ Bounty Program Warrants Harsh Punishment, But Comparison to Spygate Is Apples to Oranges


March 6, 2012

Saints' Bounty Program Warrants Harsh Punishment, But Comparison to Spygate Is Apples to OrangesSpygate has been thrust back into the limelight following the recent revelations regarding the New Orleans Saints' bounty program. But why?

Aside from both instances breaking NFL rules, is there really a comparison to be made between the two?

The Patriots' Spygate situation involved videotaping defensive coaches' signals, whereas the Saints' bounty program — spearheaded by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams — involved rewarding players for inflicting game-ending injuries on opponents.

Call me crazy, but I'm not seeing a whole lot of similarities between the two occurrences, unless of course we're simply pointing out recent football controversies. And that, well, doesn't make a lot of sense.

It's like saying "Oh, Player B got thrown out of the game. Remember when Player A got thrown out of the game?" Only in this instance, Player A got thrown out for unnecessary roughness, while Player B got thrown out for punching the ref in the face.

Spygate and "Bountygate" — as it's being dubbed by many — are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum no matter what your stance is on each particular scandal. So to then say this is worse than that, or that happens more than this, or you can prove this but not that, is all arbitrary because the two incidents are simply incomparable.

In fact, the most prevalent link between the two is the widespread insistence, "Everyone does it. They just got caught."

We heard that in the wake of Spygate, and we're hearing it now that Williams' human version of NFL Blitz has been uncovered. It doesn't take a genius to realize the latter part of the statement is true -? yes, they did get caught -? but to say everyone does it is making a massive assumption, even if it is quite possibly true. And it doesn't mean the offense is any less severe nor is any less worthy of punishment.

Many players have begun to speak out about the Saints' bounty program, stating that football's a physical game and that they harbor no ill will toward those who participated in the incentive program. It's interesting considering those players were the actual targets in this scandal, but it doesn't make it any less necessary for commissioner Roger Goodell to come down hard on the Saints.

As mentioned, both Spygate and Bountygate are two separate entities. However, given the magnitude of the message sent by the league in its punishment for Spygate, it's safe to assume that Goodell will lay the hammer down when it comes to Bountygate.

The videotaping that the Patriots did was an unfamiliar beast; it came seemingly out of nowhere. And while the memo regarding the taping process could have understandably been overlooked at the time, Spygate compromised the integrity of the game — although to what extent is debatable.

When it comes to Bountygate, it's arguable how exactly the game's integrity was compromised, as there really wasn't much of a competitive edge to what the Saints were doing. However, with the recent crackdown on concussions, the bounty program hits at the heart of one of the biggest emphases of Goodell's tenure: player safety.

The bounty program goes directly against Goodell's recent efforts, even if the commish has often been criticized for softening the game. With that said, we could see penalties stiffer than what the Patriots received for Spygate ?- Bill Belichick was fined the maximum $500,000, and the Pats were fined $250,000 and a first-round draft pick.

But if and when the Saints do get blasted by the league, it shouldn't be because the transgression was "worse than" Spygate. It should be because, in a vacuum, it was a knockout blow in a league trying to eliminate knockout blows.

You may feel differently about the whole situation. Your friend may feel differently about the situation. And even Goodell could ultimately feel different about the situation. But please, please, please don't compare the Saints' bounty program to Spygate. It's apples to oranges.

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