New Orleans is paying a nasty price after being found guilty of a bounty system that spanned three seasons, but the Saints have sent a message that they won't be surrendering the 2012 season, despite the sanctions that most notably include Payton's season-long ban.
But Monday's developments, in which Payton has reportedly approached Bill Parcells to take over the team on an interim basis, show the Saints will handle this situation aggressively. Parcells has been one of the most successful, boisterous and polarizing head coaches in NFL history, and his presence will keep the Saints from taking the year off with a built-in excuse at the ready.
There's obviously a key wrinkle to this. The validity of the reports, which both came from very credible outlets, has been hit by Parcells himself. The Big Tuna canned the idea of getting back into coaching, lending similar comments to The Associated Press, Newsday, the New York Post and Sports Illustrated that he wasn't exactly looking to coach again.
But even if the Saints don't hire Parcells, they're sending a strong message to their players. Sure, they could slip back to mediocrity after three terrific seasons, and no one would bat an eye. But if Payton is willing to exhaust his resources by contacting his mentor, who happens to be a future Hall of Famer who built a legacy on reviving dormant situations, then it shows Payton wants his players to do the same when they get back to business.
If Parcells was bluffing with Monday's comments and actually does want to take a one-year victory lap with the Saints, there is reason to like the move from New Orleans' standpoint. The roster is still built to contend, even with a shortage of draft picks, and Parcells isn't going to forget how to coach and motivate that group.
The one concern, as always, with Parcells is his shock value, but he played an integral role in Payton's coaching development. Therefore, the Saints should know what they're getting themselves into with Parcells, who might not work as well in this dynamic if he were taking over for a player-friendly coach. Basically, there's less of a risk of the players tuning him out in New Orleans because they're so used to the regiment.
The Parcells storyline could fade away as quickly as it showed up Monday, but in that case, it will be as much about the man as the message. Payton's suspension kicks in Sunday, and he is using this last week to show his players that he hasn't given up on them, so they shouldn't do the same to one another.
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