Somewhat surprising in the punishments levied against the New Orleans Saints in the bounty scandal was the lack of concrete information about how much the team's coaches who were not sanctioned by commissioner Roger Goodell knew about the illegal pay-for-pain program administered by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
And how few questions there were about the roles of those half-dozen men.
The answer: Most of the defensive assistants who served on Sean Payton's staff in the three "bounty" seasons, 2009-2011, possessed varying degrees of awareness about the program. But they avoided sanctions because they did not administer the program or contribute to player's financial rewards.
That's the skinny from a high-ranking NFL official who is very familiar with the league's investigation into the bounties, and who spoke to The Sports Xchange not for attribution about the penalties implemented against Payton, Williams, assistant head coach Joe Vitt and general manager Mickey Loomis.
In all or part of the three seasons in which the bounties were deemed by the NFL to have existed, six coaches besides the ones who were sanctioned served as New Orleans defensive aides: secondary coach Dennis Allen (2009-2010), defensive line coach Bill Johnson (2009-2011), assistant defensive line coach Travis Jones (2009-2011), assistant secondary coach Mike Mallory (2011), secondary coach Tony Oden (2009-2011), and defensive assistant Adam Zimmer (2009). The list does not include quality control coaches, and Mallory was an assistant special teams coach 2009-2010.
Head coaches from other clubs surveyed at the NFL's annual meetings in Palm Beach, Fla., agreed that it would have been inconceivable for such a bounty program to exist without the knowledge of all the defensive aides. Said one veteran AFC coach: "Everybody knows everything. It would have been just about impossible for everyone not to know."
In fact, the full league report on the bounty program stated that it was orchestrated "with the knowledge of other defensive coaches."
And apparently, according to the league official cited earlier, everyone, or just about everyone, had some knowledge of the bounty system. There were, however, varying degrees of culpability, and most of the Saints' assistants were not responsible for administering the program and thereby avoided sanctions. In essence, the level of participation of some of the assistant coaches did not warrant discipline.
Johnson, Jones and Mallory are still on the New Orleans staff.
A 33-year NFL veteran assistant, Vitt was suspended for six games because of his role in the cover-up of the bounty system. And because he was essentially assigned by Payton to monitor Williams' activities, since the head coach appeared to have little confidence or trust that his coordinator would abide by league rules. All of the sanctions against Saints' coaches or team officials have been made public, the NFL official emphasized, and there have been no undisclosed fines and/or suspensions brought against the remaining six defensive assistants.
"Their involvement," said the league official, "was of a lesser nature."
Notable, too, is that Allen is now the Oakland Raiders' head coach. For the most part, Allen has declined to discuss the bounty program and his role in it. Allen said during one recent radio interview that he "feel(s) badly" for the people involved and termed it "an unfortunate situation."
But the league source emphasized that Allen never contributed one cent to the bounty program and that he had been thoroughly vetted by the Raiders before being named head coach. That vetting included a telephone call from new Oakland owner Mark Davis to Goodell to ensure that Allen would not be subject to any league-imposed sanctions.
Sources: Other Saints coaches aware of bounty
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