Suspended New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Friday, December 21, 2012 5:30 PM
Of all the seven plagues of ancient Egypt that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has pestered Saints’ fans with this year, this latest is perhaps equal to the boils and open sores portion of the show.
What’s next? The swarm of frogs coming up the bend of the Mississippi River? Actually, with just a little tweaking, that one might make another pretty good reality TV show for Louisiana.
But we digress.
The latest cruelty from Park Avenue, cleverly disguised as the “schedule,” finds the Saints squarely in a position to seriously derail the playoff hopes of the Dallas Cowboys in Sunday’s next to last weekend of the regular season.
Coincidence? Not if you’ve been paying attention this far.
It all fits the pattern of abuse and degradation for this frustrating Saints’ season.
It comes right on the heels of last week when former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue (who saved the Saints after Katrina) ruled that the Bountygate suspensions enacted by Goodell were too harsh on the players and threw them out the window.
So without that distraction, it seems obvious, this allowed the Saints to further tease the fan base with a 41-0 demonstration of exactly how the whole season surely would have gone without Goodell’s input.
They even learned how to play defense.
It would have come in handy early in the year when the Saints were playing themselves out of playoff contention.
It will be a key element Sunday when the Saints line up in the Cowboys’ palatial estate with a chance to mortally wound the Cowboys’ own playoff chances.
And therein lies the dilemma.
Ordinarily, of course, such an opportunity would be great family fun, especially here in our precinct where many Saints’ fans still remember the long-ago dark days on the local Fox affiliate when the Cowboys regularly pre-empted the Aints’ often feeble (but oh-so-lovable) attempts at honest football.
It would be the next best thing to the Saints making the playoffs themselves, which is still mathematically possible but too ridiculous to even ponder at the moment.
But, seriously, Saints fans, do you really want to beat the Cowboys?
OK, let me re-phrase that.
Do you really, at this stage, want the Cowboys to lose a game?
Stupid question, I know. Do you really want to be responsible for Dallas missing the playoffs?
OK, a even sillier question. Let’s try again.
Do you really want to see owner Jerry Jones squirming in that luxury suite and gritting his teeth?
Yeah, I know, that does sound like delicious fun. But one more time. And listen carefully.
Do you really want to all but force Jones to fire his head coach, Jason Garrett?
Well, I know, it’s a dog-eat-dog world in the NFL, nice guys get canned. But you say you could really care less?
OK, let’s be blunt. Do you really want the Cowboys to have a job opening right now?
Let me make this clearer.
Do you really want Jones mad (embarrassed) enough to knee-jerk can Garrett?
Cut to the chase.
Do you really want Jones’ checkbook locked and loaded with Sean Payton running around as a free agent coach?
Not to suggest the Saints should dog it, or even mail it in.
And they won’t.
But it does show the quandary for Saints’ fans. If the going gets rough, this might not be the week to bring in Marie Laveau and play the voodoo ace in the hole.
Saints owner Tom Benson has just as deep of pockets as Jones does, but Jones may have the longer arms.
It’s no secret that Payton and Jones get along fine and Payton sure seems to like the Dallas area.
It was just another well-timed water-drip in the Saints’ fans season-long torture when Goodell, having already suspended Payton for the season, voided the Saints’ contract with Payton over some minor wording issues.
It seemed minor, at least, and for now the Saints are the only team that can negotiate with Payton.
Drew Brees, for one, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that “I’d be shocked if he weren’t back here next year.”
But if it was that minor, and if Payton had every intention of being back (which he owes the franchise), you’d think it would be a simple matter to tear up the contract, write one without the offending clause, sign it and wait for the day after the Super Bowl when he can get back to work in New Orleans again.
Meanwhile, the Saints work out in their Metairie training facility under that over-sized poster of Payton’s mug that implores them to “Do Your Job!”
Why? So Payton’s job options open up?
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU sports. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org