When asked for an explanation why the Super Bowl was chosen as the end date for Payton's suspension instead of the Saints' final game, league spokesman Greg Aiello responded simply, "That was the decision that was made - for the 2012 NFL season."Triplett is right, of course. Whether you believe the punishment the league meted out on the Saints and their fans was just, certainly we can all agree that their sentence shouldn't bleed over into a second season.
And when asked if the league is considering an earlier reinstatement, Aiello said, "We are focused on the playoffs right now. We are not going to comment on Sean Payton's status. It will be addressed at the appropriate time."
Well, the appropriate time should be today.
Every decision the Saints make now will directly affect their ability to compete in 2013. And some of those decisions are bigger than others.
Should they consider replacing defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo after their defensive struggles this year? Or should they consider something even more drastic, like a switch to a 3-4 alignment that might suit their personnel better, especially if they plan to part ways with veteran end Will Smith in the offseason?
This morning, as if to drive the point home, we find this in regard to the Spagnuolo question.
One Saints player, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said a "resounding" yes when asked if he thought Spagnuolo should be fired after just one season in New Orleans as the Saints broke the single-season record for most yards allowed.
"Trust me all the guys were being politically correct this season when answering questions," the player said. "It's bad."
The player added: "To give up what we gave up can't be all talent. Look at where his units (have) been ranked before. I think one top 10?"
The Saints finished last in the NFL in total defense, last in run defense, 31st in pass defense, 31st in points allowed and tied for 29th in sacks.
"Players have no say in anything," the player said. "It was (a) complete opposite from before where it was a simple D that players had lot of control and say. We couldn't suggest (expletive)...Nothing ever changed. It was his way only.
"Don't even get me started on lack (of) ability to adjust during games. Bad, bad, bad."
So that certainly doesn't sound good, good, good. Before today, most observers would have said Spagnuolo should be back. As historically bad as the defense's statistics ended up being, the performance did appear to improve steadily as the year went on. This was also a team who won two games by virtue of goal line stands and recorded a shutout. It can't be all bad, right? Maybe "bad, bad, bad," but not bad, bad, bad, bad... or something like that anyway.
Still if this anonymous player's comments are accurate, and if they reflect a consensus view of the players, then I would lean toward letting Spags go. In pro football players, especially veterans, are more partners than they are subordinates. If Spagnuolo doesn't treat them as such, they're not going to respond well to him. But until Sean Payton puts down the axe and picks up the clipboard, nobody who can make a decision one way or the other is around to do that. This thing could linger and fester for another month or it could be fixed in a couple of days. Unfortunately, once again, that's left up to Roger Goodell.
Update: Hastily forgot to put this in. The anonymous player's comments have been corroborated to some degree already by former Saints fullback Mike Karney. Karney also played under Spagnuolo when he was head coach of the Rams.
@karney44 Do you think Spags is a poor coach, or poor at relating to his players? Or both?
— Reid G. (@ReidG75) January 2, 2013
@reidg75 both.. The article is dead on..— Mike Karney (@Karney44) January 2, 2013