SI.com reached out to Jeff Diamond, the former VP/GM of the Minnesota Vikings, former president of the Tennessee Titans and current SI.com contributor, for his reaction to the penalties doled out by the NFL to the New Orleans Saints for the bounty program they ran from 2009 to 2011.
Are you surprised by the severity of the penalties?
I'm not surprised by the loss of draft picks, but I am surprised by the extent of the individual sanctions. I expected them to be less. But everybody knew the commissioner was going to come down hard on this case because of all the repercussions of the bounty program that the Saints operated. I think this will be the last time we will ever see any bounty program institutionalized to the degree that it was in New Orleans. In fact, after these sanctions, I'm not sure we'll continue to see dollars handed out in meeting rooms for individual achievements either.
How will Saints owner Tom Benson deal with the sanctions?
Tom has already said he stands behind head coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis. I'm sure he's going to stick by those guys. I would expect that the team will have to have an interim coach for whatever period the suspension is. Whether that's someone like new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who has been a head coach before, remains to be seen.
What does St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher do now that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is suspended indefinitely?
I expect Gregg to be back as the Rams defensive coordinator in 2013, when I think he'll be reinstated by the NFL. I think Jeff has some interim options on the current staff with Dave McGinnis and Chuck Cecil, who both have been defensive coordinators before. I'm sure it will be difficult for Jeff because he and Gregg are so close, and that was the guy he wanted to immediately hire.
How big a blow is the loss of Loomis for eight games?
That will depend on what he's allowed to do in terms of his duties. A lot of the free agency stuff has already taken place, so now it's draft and prep for training camps and the season. They will miss him because he's an excellent GM. I'm sure he has assistants who can step in. But he'll be missed during that period.
What kind of season do you expect the Saints to have?
It remains to be seen what happens with the players implicated in this bounty program. I expect that to be more of a financial hit. If so, I think the team will still be strong because they have the nucleus in place. I think they will be a playoff team. This will be one of those deals where they rally around the cause. They were a 13-3 team last year, and I would certainly expect them to win 10 games or so.