By JP Bogardus aka KD35Russ0

Even when the NFL isn’t in season it seems to dominate the headlines. Peyton Manning’s contract situation almost overshadowed the Super Bowl in Indianapolis and now this New Orleans Saints defensive bounty story is dominating the A-block on Sports Center day in and day out. I don’t want to get into a “he said – she said” type piece of writing here, where we are analyzing every word said about the subject and making a decision about an issue in which we don’t know all of the facts. Instead I’d like to bring up a point that I haven’t heard or read anywhere yet. Given what we know about this bounty system, that being players were awarded for hard hits and making positive defensive plays (interceptions, forced fumbles, etc.), and assuming that illegal hits were not encouraged, I don’t see how this system is much different from a player receiving an incentive based contract[1].

Let’s start with the assumption that illegal hits were not encouraged. Obviously there is going to be no way to definitively prove that illegal hits were or were not encouraged, but we can look to some numbers to get an idea of what is going on. Courtesy of JustFines.com, in 2009, when the bounty system is rumored to begin, the Saints were only fined one time for on-field incidents. During this system, the average number of fined incidents per team in the NFL was 2.5. In 2010, the Saints’ number of fines increased from 1 to 3, but the overall league average also increased to 4.1 fines per team. In the 2009 and 2010 seasons combined, New Orleans Saints’ players were only fined 4 times for a total of 50,000 dollars. Compared with the rest of the NFL, the 4 fines ranked tied for ninth as least number of fines, and was considerably less than the average number of 6.53 fines per team. As far as what those fines amounted to in terms of dollars, the Saints ranked 11th best in the league as far as lowest number of dollars fined goes and the league average over this time period was 100,000 dollars.

Essentially, we are talking about a team that, to my knowledge, was never referenced to in the media as being dirty, that was in the bottom third of the league as far as on-field fines go, and didn’t have players suspended because of on-field conduct. With this information, all I can see is a group of men rallying around a little incentive to try to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. Remember, the winning team of the pro-bowl makes an extra 20,000 dollars, and that isn’t even close to enough to motivating those players, so how would a few thousand dollars being passed around through this bounty system get guys to play that much differently? It’s not so much about the money in this case, but the pride earned amongst teammates for being “the guy” that made “the play”. To me, with the facts that we have at this point in time, I don’t see this being any different than giving a player an incentive laden contract. Isn’t this bounty system simply doing a similar thing as giving a player a contract with incentive to become defensive player of the year? In both cases, you are using money to motivate a player to do his best, deliver big hits, and make big plays.

As far as I’m concerned, other than possible salary cap/contract violations, I don’t think that the Saints have done that much wrong here. Everyone will be monitoring Gregg Williams closely over the next few years, and with his arrival in St. Louis, the Rams(one of the least fined teams; 0 fines in 2010, 3 in 2009) will be part of that scrutiny. But, maybe we are putting the wrong guy under the microscope. Maybe we need to reanalyze the whole situation. Because it is actually the new head coach in St. Louis, Jeff Fisher, who’s ex-team lead the league in fines in both 2009 and 2010, for a total of 20 fines for a staggering 497,500 dollars over that time period. Just something to think about… 

[1] Incentive based contracts are something that fans always rave about because they feel they give players more of a reason to play hard and not coast as they may do on an guaranteed contract