I remember back in 2007 when the NFL came down on the New England Patriots for the spygate issue. Yes, whether or not Patriot fans want to admit it, it was cheating. At the same time, whether or not fans of every other team wants to admit it, everyone else was doing it too.
The Patriots were made an example of by the entire NFL community. They used it as motivation to lay waste to the rest of the league on their way to the Super Bowl (which they did indeed lose).
Last year, the same was done to the New Orleans Saints.
Countless NFL veterans have come forward and talked about how there was some sort of “bounty” program everywhere they played throughout their career. It was a game within the game — a competition amongst teammates in the spirit of extra motivation. Quite simply, bounties are as old as football.
People don’t like to hear it and often forget it, but this game is about hitting people. Sure, you gotta score points to win games, but to do so, you have to knock a few people down, around and out of the way. Anyone who has ever actually played the game knows that the last thing you are concerned with while hitting people is the well-being of the person you are hitting.
Enter the 2013 New Orleans Saints. Fresh off a disappointing season where they started 0-4 and finished 7-9 without the architect of their recent success, head coach Sean Payton, the Saints head into 2013 as almost a forgotten team.
In all fairness, they are buried in one of the NFL’s most exciting divisions, the NFC South. You have the Falcons, who many have as a Super Bowl sleeper pick based off how they finished last season. You got the up and coming Buccaneers who are led by a young coach with an old-school mentality and the Panthers, who are quarterbacked by the guy many thought was on the brink of becoming the face of the league a year ago.
In 2012, the Saints had the No. 2 offense in the NFL. Unfortunately, they also had the worst defense in the league. Their defensives deficiencies, aided by the absence of Jonathan Vilma for a good chunk of the year due to the bounty scandal, proved to be too much for the New Orleans offense to overcome.
Now Sean Payton and Jonathan Vilma are back, and I got a feeling they have something to prove. To help their efforts, the Saints went out and got Rob Ryan, arguably the most aggressive defensive coordinator in the NFL, to the run the D. You combine that with the frustration and anger displayed by Drew Brees toward the NFL last season, it all spells bad news for anyone on New Orleans’ schedule.
The Saints remain one of the most dangerous offensive units in the NFL. Led by Brees, they return a respectable platoon of running backs led by the shifty and versatile Darren Sproles. They also suit up Marques Colston, one of the more dominant receivers in the league over the past few seasons and Jimmy Graham, who with the injuries to Rob Gronkowski and the absence of Aaron Herndandez should pull away from the pack as the consensus top tight end in the game.
On defense, Rob Ryan’s unit is going to be coming at the quarterback from all angles. He’ll be working with a young and talented front seven who all specialize at wreaking havoc in the backfield. They’ll be backed up by a veteran secondary who’ll get an added charge of youth and energy with the addition of hard-hitting rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro.
Quite simply, the Saints more than ever will be out for blood in 2013. They want nothing more than to have Roger Goodell hand them the Lombardi in February and I think they will pull out everything in their arsenal to make that happen. They won’t care what you think about running up the score or delivering cheap shots. It’s them against the world and if your team is on their schedule this season, I wouldn’t feel good about it.
BY J.P. SCOTT ON JUNE 26, 2013