Hindsight is 20/20.
News of the punishment that was dealt to some of the high-profile names associated with the New Orleans Saints Bountygate has taken the league by storm.
The NFL conducted an extensive investigation and has concluded that the Saints had a bounty program from 2009 through last season.
The program reportedly offered cash rewards to defenders who were able to successfully force opposing players out of a contest through injury.
Greg Williams, the Saints former defensive coordinator who currently holds the same position with the St. Louis Rams, has been suspended indefinitely. Head coach Sean Payton has been suspended for the entire 2012 season. Also, General Manager Mickey Loomis has been suspended for the first six regular season games of 2012.
In addition to the suspensions, the Saints have been fined and stripped of draft picks.
If the severity or significance of the Saints’ program –- one that incented injuries to the opponent –- were in any doubt, today’s announced chastisement is confirmation.
This is one of the league’s most severe rulings, joining the indefinite suspensions of Plaxico Buress (2009) and Michael Vick (2007) as well as the one-year suspensions of San Francisco 49ers owner Edward Debartolo (1999), Paul Hornung and Alex Karras (1963).
Here is where the hindsight comes in.
Roughly four months ago, on the heels of Ndamukong Suh’s suspension, the Lions became vilified and labeled with such tags as ‘undisciplined’ and ‘reckless’ after being heavily penalized in a nationally televised contest against the Saints.
The Lions were penalized 11 times for 107 yards. Even worse, they had over 100 offensive yards nullified as a result of penalties caused by offensive players -- or, potentially -- players that might have been targeted by the Saints' bounty system.
Of the 11 penalties, three of them stood out amongst the rest.
- Rookie Titus Young was flagged in the third quarter for a personal foul when he shoved Malcolm Jenkins’ helmet after the whistle.
- Stefan Logan was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after he flipped the ball towards one of the Saints in the fourth quarter – the two players appeared to be exchanging words prior to the penalty.
- Lastly, Brandon Pettigrew was flagged for a personal foul in the fourth quarter after he made contact with an official who was attempting to separate Pettigrew from Roman Harper.
Discipline is an important characteristic in the NFL and the Lions left much to be desired on that Sunday night in December. With that said, in light of the recent developments with the Saints, the Lions may have been the subject of provocation –- and more so than the typical occurrences in a competitive game.
Should the Lions have maintained composure? Yes.
Ultimately, only the players who decide to retaliate can be held responsible for their actions.
Still, after having their integrity, maturity and leadership questioned, the Lions are owed some level of redemption.
When looking back at the Week 13 matchup between the Lions and Saints, which team now appears to be the villain?