Saints Embarrassed by Dallas 38-17 on Sunday Night Football

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Despite putting up some points late in the game during a feeble comeback attempt, the Saints were never in contention from the very start of this embarrassing 38-17 loss to Dallas on NBC Sunday Night Football.

NFLFanpoint: Sean Payton’s first loss on Sunday night. Saints 2nd in the Sean Payton era (First came in 2012 when the god of the NFL suspended Sean). Saints now 8-2 on Sunday nights in the Payton era.

Kenny Vaccaro Has Personal Vendetta Against Cowboys

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Saints safety and Texas native Kenny Vaccaro remembers how the Cowboys expressed some interest in drafting him last year and then later decided to pass on him. Vaccaro describes what happened during the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, “My agent was like, ‘Hey, the Saints about to take Kenny, y’all gonna make a move?’” To which Vaccaro said the Cowboys replied, “‘Nah, we don’t move up for safeties.’”

The Saints’ slow start as a team has been well-covered by the media.  They’re 1-2, and they’re third in the NFC South, which of course is heavily underperforming for a team with the kind of talent that the Saints have.  However, offensively, the Saints have actually come out of the gate very strong.  They’re currently 4th in the league in total offense, and 6th in rushing yards at 140.3 yards per game.  A big part of this strong start was the now-injured Mark Ingram, who was averaging 6 yards per carry before being sidelined by a broken hand.

With that being said, the Saints have a veritable stable of talented running backs.  Khiry Robinson and Pierre Thomas are both averaging over 4 yards per carry, and Thomas is still a strong cog in the Saints’ passing game.

Of course, being ranked 6th in the league should be taken with a grain of salt due to them only playing 3 games to this point.  However, the Saints are running the ball in a very convincing fashion that cannot be ignored, and them being 19 spots up from their 25th ranking in 2013 isn’t by accident.

Of course, the Saints’ transition to the Zone Blocking Scheme was covered extensively during the offseason, but this isn’t necessarily the sole cause for the Saints’ improvement.  It’s more Sean Payton’s ability to cater to the players that he has out on the field on any given play.

On this play, the Saints come out in a big formation.  Ingram is the back that is in on the play.  The Saints run the classic zone stretch play out of the Big “I.”  Atlanta has their basic 7 men in the box, and are in their base 3-4.  The free safety (#20) plays up by the line, while the corners line up outside with one safety over the top.

At the point that Ingram gets the ball, we can see that all of the Falcons that were in the box are either accounted for or taken out of the play due to being on the backside of it (the players in black are the ones accounted for whereas the ones in red are simply taken out of the play).  The whole offensive line pulls, which allows Ingram to easily get off tackle.  And if we look at the other angle:

Austin Johnson now has a clear path to block the corner on the outside.  This allows Ingram to get off tackle uncontested, and it sets up his blocks for when he actually gets there.

This is the risk that the zone scheme runs.  Teams can get so caught up moving East-West that by the time they get outside, there’s no room to bounce it out any further before hitting the sideline.  Luckily, however, Ingram sees a small seam in the convoluted mess that is the blocking of this play.

Running backs can’t be completely reliant on their blocking to be successful.  If that were the case, they’d never get any blame.  Something about the ZBS just makes Ingram seem to run so much angrier than he did in the one read offense.  He finds a small seam, in which he directly confronts Atlanta linebacker Paul Worrilow.  Ingram crashes into Worrilow head-on, barreling forward.

The circle is only here to show the important part of the play: Ingram takes Worrilow for 2 yards before breaking his tackle and being pushed out of bounds.  Ingram’s vision and toughness are what defines his niche as a ZBS running back.  He’s very patient and adamant about setting his blocks up.  However, more importantly is the fact that he’s willing to take (and give) a hit if he has to in order to push forward for a few more yards.  On this, a play in which he runs out of real estate completely, he is still able to create a 4 yard gain, and the ability to make something out of nothing is what makes this year’s Ingram different from the Ingram of years’ past.

When Thomas gets the carry, the schemes tend to vary.  Out of Ingram’s 24 carries, there is yet to be one in which the offensive line doesn’t pull as a unit.  However, Thomas is a bit more of a read and cut runner than Ingram, who likes to get outside and then follow his blocks from there.

Getting Thomas in space is one of Payton’s favorite pastimes, and one of the ways that he’ll do it is to come out in this Pistol formation.  The Pistol gives the Saints the ability to run play action, go over the top, or simply hand the ball off. Each player assignment is indicated by a bar on this play.  The primary gap for Thomas to get through is going to be the 2 gap, or the one between the Center and the right guard.  Minnesota has only 6 men in the box due to the Saints’ personnel.  This is why Jimmy Graham’s value goes so far beyond that of a traditional tight end.  This is technically a “big” set in which two tight ends are on the field, but Minnesota still has to consider him a massive receiving threat.

There is, apparently, one massive problem with the scheme, however.  One of the Minnesota linebackers is left unaccounted for, and he is, apparently, easily in position to make a play on the ball once it’s handed to Thomas.  However, if we go back to the original assignment diagram:

Note the blue, and the blue only.  This small amendment is very important.  It’s an indication that the RG’s real job is to engage and release the defensive tackle, before picking up the linebacker in the gap.  Which goes…

Swimmingly, in fact.  The RG bounces off of his man and engages the linebacker.  This allows Thomas into the second level of the defense, and gains the Saints 7 yards.  Payton loves using sets like this to give Thomas room, and it also keeps his line fresh & honest.  If they’re pulling on every play, it can be exhausting for the big guys up front.  This is why having backs with different fortes can be so important to a successful offense.  The Saints will never be a one feature back type of team, because they have a coach that prefers to utilize the best assets of a lot of individuals.

On this play, out of the same formation, the Saints give Thomas another opportunity to run out of the Pistol.  It’s both the same offensive and defensive formation.

Out of the exact same set in the exact same situation, we see the line pull right at the snap.  They’re moving to an area, rather than to a man, and Thomas is instantly going off-tackle.  Rather than engaging 92 at the snap, the RG and the Right Tackle pull, trying to get to the other side of the field.

The key difference between Ingram & Thomas is how quickly they make their cuts.  Thomas is a north south runner, who doesn’t like to let his blocks set for too long in case gaps close up.  On this play, he cuts upfield just as he gets outside of the tackle box.

Once again, the importance of having a physical back in the ZBS is apparent.  Once you’re past the line of scrimmage, there is very little help at the next level to block secondary players.  Thomas initiates contact, and takes 3Vikings for about a 5 yard ride, eventually carrying for an 11 yard gain.

The dichotomy between these plays highlights the importance of having a back like Thomas.  He keeps defenses honest.  The play could be a screen, a swing, a draw, a stretch, well it could be anything is what I’m saying.  An inability to pinpoint something as basic as a blocking scheme can be an invaluable asset for a coach to have.

The final piece to the running back puzzle is Khiry Robinson.  Robinson is a runner that thrives off his agility (namely his initial jump cut) and his explosive acceleration.  Robinson can run in both the ZBS and a Power Man scheme, but he’s at his best in the man scheme due to the quick, reactive nature necessary for a running back to succeed in such a scheme.

Of course, one 21 yard play is extrapolative by nature, but this play perfectly indicates everything that Robinson needs to be successful.  The RG pulls to the middle to create a gap, while the right defensive end is double teamed by the tight end and the RT.  Meanwhile, the left defensive end is double teamed by the left guard and the left tackle.

Number 52 for Atlanta (the LILB in the original picture) is drawn into the backfield by the misdirection.  Robinson reaches a huge hole that opens up when the Saints’ blockers engage.  The LG is now upfield, able to make a block for Robinson up ahead.

Oh, did I say “a” block?  I meant a block in which the LG blocks one Falcon into another.  Robinson sees this, he makes a jump cut back inside.  Colston, #12 on the outside, blocks the corner.

After this inside-out move, Robinson is able to cut back and rip off a 21 yard run to put the Saints in striking distance.

Robinson is effective in both schemes, but it’s clear by his style that he prefers the power man scheme.  This isn’t without good cause, as he is a very powerful runner with a style that isn’t impatient, but is very direct.

The Saints’ running game isn’t reliant on gimmicks or trick plays.  It’s reliant on the versatility of the talent that they have.  Payton is adaptive by nature, and he’s very careful to not run his players down.  By running the multiple schemes that he does, he keeps his offensive line fresh from play to play and he allows his backs to do what they do best.

From Ingram’s stretch plays, to Thomas’s jack of all trades style, to Robinson’s power one cut game, the Saints’ running back corps has a lot of things that it can do.  For this reason, losing Ingram won’t be the end all be all of the Saints’ 6th ranked rushing attack, but regaining him will make a huge difference.  If Ingram gets back after the Week 6 Bye, as is expected, expect him to run as angry as ever.  Furthermore, anticipate that Payton will do everything that he can to make sure that his backs are doing what they do best.  After all, as stubborn as his play calling can be at times, no one ever accused Sean Payton of not knowing his talent.

(See rest of article - with full grphics - here: http://www.canalstreetchronicles.com/2014/9/26/6847913/saints-running-game-strong-through-week-3-not-letting-up

Saints' Running Game Strong Through Week 3, Not Letting Up

Jamie Sabau

Through three games, the Saints are 6th in the NFL in rushing. With the injury to starter Mark Ingram, can backups Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson pull their weight? I’m looking at the perks of having a versatile stable of running backs, along with the schemes and tactics used to spring those backs into space.

No feast yet....

(Photo: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports)

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During the off season the New Orleans Saints said the goal for 2014 on defense was more turnovers. So far we are still waiting for the great turnover drought to end. Kristian Garic, WWL 870 AM Saints sideline reporter, tweeted before the Minnesota Vikings game “Saints are 3-6, including playoffs, since Dec 2, 2013 with a -10 in turnover margin in those games.”

In that time they have created only three turnovers on defense. We know it’s dreadful but it got me to thinking, “How many turnovers and what kind of turnover margin does a team need to win a Super Bowl?” So I looked at the last five Super Bowl Champions to see how many turnovers they created and what their turnover margins were.

The worst turnover margin for a Super Bowl winner in the last five years was the 2011 New York Giants at +8. The fewest turnovers created by a Super Bowl winning defense was 25 by the 2012 Baltimore Ravens. Every other title winner the last five years created at least 31 turnovers. The 2009 Saints and 2013 Seahawks created the most at 39 each.

Granted five years isn’t a huge sample size but the Saints have created more than 25 turnovers once since 2009 (26 in 2012) and their best turnover margin is +4 (2013).

The Saints need to get busy getting takeaways. The frustrating part is they aren’t forcing fumbles or even dropping interceptions. Remember the days when we used to joke the Saints defense couldn’t catch pneumonia in a rainstorm? At this point I’d take a dropped interception as a great sign our turnover nightmare might be coming to an end. Advanced statistics tell us a fumble recovery is entirely luck but creating a fumble is most definitely a skill. The Saints brought in Jairus Byrd to be the big play safety. He needs to get to it. Junior Galette and Cam Jordan should also feel free to start forcing quarterback fumbles via the sack.

Rob Ryan’s Big Chart of Fun: I chart how the Saints defense does under Rob Ryan in certain situations. For a full explanation of how it works read this. Rob Ryan’s Big Chart of Fun will be on the Internet all year if you want to view.

Didn’t get to do the full chart this week. Blame an eye infection and general laziness. I did chart the Saints in 2nd and 3rd and long situations. They are still nowhere near 2013 levels. If I’d have told you in August Brian Dixon would be really important to the 2014 season what would you have said? The Saints need him to be average to help the pass defense.

Who Dat Nation Versus SI Poll on Roger Goodell Keeping His Job

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Sports Illustrated conducted a poll of some 500 fans about violence in the NFL and whether Roger Goodell should keep his job. I’ll publish a link to SI’s poll and place our own at the end for our reactions.

SI Poll: NFL fans disapprove of Goodell

According to their poll, 37.8% of fans think Roger Goodell should lose his job because of his handling of the recent issues.

33.6% are uncertain whether he should stay or lose his job.

28.5% think Roger Goodell should keep his job. This doesn’t necessarily mean they like or approve of his handling of the Ray Rice situation, just that he should be allowed to continue.

That adds up to 99.9% with my math, but it’s their poll so I’ll just list it as they have.

In all fairness, other than the handling of the Ray rice incident, or perhaps because of the backlash, the NFL has been quick to respond to Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy, Jonathan Dwyer, and Ray McDonald.

Yesterday a meeting between the NFL and 11 former players had the following recommendations. With accusations of violence, such as we have seen with the above players, the recommendation seems to be to inactivate the players with pay, until the legal process has run its course. While this might sound like paying players for acting badly, we do have a innocent until proven guilty legal system in this nation. With the sue happy times, it is well conceivable that false accusations could lead to arrest, and players should not lose their livelihoods if they are in fact innocent. I see the NFL’s Commissioners’ Exempt list becoming more prevalent in the near future. A question I have is do these exempt players count against the teams cap. They are still being paid.

So far this has not been an issue with the Saints, but it could happen in the future. You never know when a player such as Darren Sharper, will be charged for something.

NFLFanpoint: He’s got to go.

No long game, but...


John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

From Mike Triplett at ESPN.com: “The New Orleans Saints are well aware that they haven’t hit on many deep passes this season. No one appreciates the value of a “shot play” more than quarterback Drew Brees and coach Sean Payton. At the same time, neither is too concerned about it because the Saints have done such an effective job of taking what the defense gives them. In fact, the Saints have had the most efficient offense in the NFL this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information”

Latest draft

2014 Draft Class

 1 20 Brandin Cooks, Wide Receiver

2 58 Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Cornerback

4 126 Khairi Fortt, Linebacker

5 167 Vinnie Sunseri, Safety

5 169 Ronald Powell, Linebacker

6 202 Tavon Rooks, Offensive Tackle

Analysis: With their first pick in the 2014 draft, New Orleans picked up where it left off in 2013: Brandin Cooks is going to fit beautifully in Payton’s offense and is likely to be a starter from day one, alongside Marques Colston and Kenny Stills. Cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste is likely going to be a backup for most of the season, barring any injuries in the secondary. If history repeats itself - and Saints fans hope it doesn’t - one or two of the draftees will not play in a single game this season. My money would be on linebacker Ronald Powell, who has a history of knee injuries and was a bit of a gamble in this draft.

The Gem: The explosive, multitalented Brandin Cooks will quickly make Saints fans forget about the lethargic offense of 2013.

Ugh: With the great success they’ve had with Mark Ingram and Roman Harper, the Saints decided they needed another Bama player in Vinnie Sunseri. All joking aside, this was a baffling pick: safety wasn’t a position of need for New Orleans. The Saints can only hope to have somehow gotten a steal.

Grade:The jury is obviously still out, but this group of draftees has its work cut out for it if they’re going to match the early production of the 2013 class.

Looking at Cowboys

Ronald Martinez

"We’ve got a hell of a challenge on our hands next week," Orlando Scandrick said. "Guys have got to dig down deep and remember that feeling walking out of the Superdome last year. They embarrassed us. The team embarrassed us. They beat us in every phase of the game. Kicking, offense, defense, coaching, they beat us. They embarrassed us. We’ve got to figure out a way to come out and prepare and be ready to win.” For those that may not remember, the Saints won easily 49-17 and set a new NFL record with 40 first downs in the game. The Cowboys had just nine first downs and 193 yards total offense.

Saints vs. Vikings: The Weekly Saints Seven

Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Seven cool facts from the Saints 20-9 win against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

The Weekly Saints Seven (TWSS) is a new feature that takes a quick look at seven interesting facts related to the last Saints game. It could be a key takeaway from the game, or a stat you may not have known about. It’s a quirky game recap tailor-made for both the football nerds and those who don’t care so much about crazy numbers.

***

1 - Opening with a Touchdown.

For the first time in 2014, the New Orleans Saints scored a touchdown on their first possession. The Saints took the opening kickoff from their 20-yard line after a touchback and marched 80 yards for the score in 11 plays that ate 5:24 minutes on the clock.

In case you were wondering, New Orleans took their opening possession of the first game against Atlanta and scored a field goal after driving 67 yards to the Falcons' 13-yard line. Against Cleveland, the Saints punted on their first four possessions.

***

2 - Cam’s First.

Saints defensive end Cam Jordan came into the game against Minnesota without having recorded a single sack. Jordan changed that when he dropped Vikings quarterbackTeddy Bridgewater for a seven yards loss in the fourth quarter. Jordan finished last year with 12.5 sacks to lead New Orleans and is widely considered one of the best young pass rushers in the National Football League. Let’s hope that this sack is the first of many for Cam Jordan this season.

***

3 - Did You Say Decline?

On Sunday against Minnesota, Saints quarterback Drew Brees completed 27 of 35 passes for 293 yards. In doing so, Brees saw his NFL record of 10 consecutive home games with at least 300 passing yards snapped. Brees was magnificent on Sunday, completing 77.1% of his passes for a QB rating of 120.3.

***

4 - Tightening Up.

In their first game, the Saints defense was shredded by the Atlanta Falcons for 568 total yards. They followed that pitiful effort by giving up 324 yards to Brian Hoyer and theBrowns. Against Minnesota, New Orleans gave up only 247 yards, a grand total of nine points and no touchdowns. Yes, it was the Adrian Peterson-less Vikings and from the second quarter on, they were led by rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. But playing defense in the NFL is not just physical, it is also mental. This performance should make the defense feel much better ahead of facing Tony Romo and the Cowboys offense next Sunday night.

***

5 - Red Miss.

Saints place kicker Shayne Graham missed his first extra point of the season when it was blocked by Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen. Graham had been nine for nine on extra points until the miss. Before you start panicking however, it seems there was a slight issue with the hold of backup quarterback Luke McCown who didn’t turn the laces out, leading to the wobbly and eventually blocked kick. If that’s any reassurance, Graham has yet to miss a field goal this year (three for three).

***

6 - Insult and Injury.

You certainly remember the last time the Saints defense battered a Vikings quarterback in the Mercedes Benz Superdome. It was on January 24 2010, when New Orleans bruisedBrett Favre on their way to defeating Minnesota 31-28 and earning the team’s first trip to the Super Bowl. On Sunday, Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel was tackled by Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton early in the second quarter, leading to Cassel’s exit from the game with a broken ankle. Vikings fans are sure to cry foul, since they were so despondent after New Orleans’ win in the 2009 NFC Championship game in which they thought the Saints deliberately tried to injure Brett Favre.

***

7 - Master of the Dome.

With their 20-9 win against Minnesota on Sunday, the New Orleans Saints have now won 18 straight home games with Saints Payton at the helm (this is not counting Payton’s absence for all of 2012). New Orleans last home loss with Payton on the sidelines was on January 2, 2011, a 13-23 defeat to the Tampa Buccaneers in the 2010 season finale. Since 2010 (not counting 2012) the Saints are 22-3 at home. In other words, New Orleans needs at least one home playoff game if it has serious designs on going deep in the postseason this year. I can hear you from here: one game at a time.

Something to monitor

Chris Graythen

From Mike Triplett: “At some point during the first quarter Sunday in Cleveland, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees will almost certainly pass John Elway for fourth place on the NFL’s all-time passing list. Brees has 51,414 career passing yards. He needs 62 yards to pass Elway. He’ll need another 10,000 to crack the top 3 of Brett Favre (71,838), Peyton Manning (65,233) and Dan Marino (61,361). Brees is already fourth in NFL history in career touchdown passes with 364 — also trailing Favre (508), Manning (494) and Marino (420).”

Perspective

Dilip Vishwanat

Wait…. you’re crapping over THAT game? Why?

The Patriots called. They wished they coulda lost by a FG in overtime instead of getting their ass kicked 33-20 by the Dolphins. New England OWNS the AFC East even more than the Saints own the Falcons and they got stomped.

S*** happens.

And that’s all the game between the Saints and Falcons yesterday was to me. Yeah, some folks (a LOT of them actually) wanna read more into it. The sky-is-falling crowd is having an orgy of poop right now.

Look, it’s just this simple. A broken clock is right twice a day. The sun sometimes shines on the back of a baboon’s ass. And the Falcons were eventually gonna get another win. The Saints were 13-3 during the Payton/Brees era against the Falcons NOT 16-0. Which means that they will lose a game here and there.

So what?

That’s the Falcons. They get themselves so fired up to play the Saints and they bring everything including the kitchen sink to every single game. On the other hand, Sean Payton and his team, no matter what they say publicly, aren’t really all that concerned about the Falcons because they beat them so much. Yeah, sure, they know they’ll get a tough game, but they EXPECT to win. Just like the 49ers of the 80’s and 90’s did against Jim Mora’s Saints.

Hey, wake me when the Falcons do something other than get a split from Payton’s Saints every once in a blue moon. They are 4-13 against Drew Brees and 3-12 against Sean Payton. And that’s soon to be 4-14 and 3-13 when they come to The Dome. And wake me again when they can do something other than win one playoff game during the last six seasons of Mike Smith and Matt Ryan. But, their fans sure do love to brag about them being a perennial playoff team with five straight winning seasons before last year’s debacle. Yeah, okay. That and a bus token will get you a ride thru downtown Atlanta.

It’s who they are, folks. And one game doesn’t change a thing.

Anyway, for those of you that may have lost your "cockiness and swagger" (read that in a thread last night, geesh!) because of this loss, well, that’s on you. Maybe you just weren’t that confident in the first place? There is a BIG difference between confident and cocky, ya know.

As for me, (and Tommy V, awesome Saints fan), not a damn thing has changed. The only thing that loss did was deny me the usual helping of LULZ that I get every time the Falcons lose to the Saints. From their players, coaches, owner, and fans. It’s quite fun, ya know. But, it did give me another variety of lulz. A very smug form of satisfaction from knowing that Falcons fans have become even more invested in their communal delusion about their team. Only to be smacked back into reality later.

Now, THAT s*** is hilarious.

Okay, I’m done. What? Were you expecting another sermon to get you all fired up again? Why? Oh, please. It was only the Falcons.

Shook Ones: "But, Dawg! You aren’t being generous or gracious in defeat!"

Um, what part of "Oh, please. It was only the Falcons" DIDN’T you understand?

Jeff Gross

From Mike Triplett: “Coach Sean Payton addressed the issue with players this offseason and broke down relevant statistics. He also made some tweaks in practice, pumping in crowd noise as early as summer organized team activities for the first time in his head-coaching tenure. And Payton and Brees have stressed the importance of communication. More importantly, Payton and the Saints’ staff have tried to emphasize the specific areas where they fell short in those road losses last season.”

It ain't over till....

Listen, I get it. You’re disappointed and feeling gut punched right now. But, it really isn’t over yet. So, here’s a little something to wrap your heads and spirits around. Since the beginning of the 21st century only two #1 seeds have won the Super Bowl. The 2003Patriots and and YOUR 2009 Saints. Six of the past thirteen Super Bowl champions have been a 4th seed or lower. Including the last 3 consecutive Super Bowl winners

 The 2010 Packers, 2011 Giants, and 2012 Ravens were no better than the 2013 Saints during the regular season. Don’t let yourselves get caught up in some false idea of what a championship caliber team looks like. Instead, try a little good old fashioned "I believe"like our very own vjdancer.

Until all the games are played and the Saints aren’t Super Bowl champs - I will believe it’s possible.

You never know. You might get surprised. Just like the fans of some of the teams above.

Glad somone is asking questions....

Former FBI director Robert Mueller had barely been named to head the NFL’s independent investigation into its handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence case and the move was being widely criticized.

The president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), which has called for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to resign, questioned whether the investigation would be independent because the league has hired Mueller who works for a law firm that has represented the NFL. In addition, the investigation is being overseen by two owners.

WilmerHale has worked with the the league on variety of matters, such as the NFL Sunday Ticket broadcast package. In addition, Dick Cass — team president for the Ravens, who cut Rice on Monday — worked for WilmerHale before moving to his current role.

USATODAY

Robert Mueller: From al-Qaeda to the NFL

"That sounds like an insider investigation,” O’Neill told USA TODAY Sports Thursday. "There needs to be a truly independent, top-to-bottom review by individuals who have full authority to gather all the facts and to suggest solutions.”

Attorney Peter Ginsberg, who represented then-New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma during an investigation into allegations that members of the Saints earned bonuses for inflicting injuries on opposing players, expressed skepticism about the league’s plan. He pointed out that the NFL appointed an independent investigator, former U.S. attorney Mary Jo White, and her “Bountygate” investigation “failed significantly.”

Goodell named former commissioner Paul Tagliabue to hear appeals from defensive players Vilma, Scott Fujita, Will Smith and Anthony Hargrove. Tagliabue affirmed Goodell’s factual findings that the Saints operated a bounty program from 2009-11. But his decision to vacate all penalties wiped Goodell’s suspensions and fines off the board, signifying Tagliabue felt Goodell overreached in issuing his sanctions.

"It’s also important to remember the last time the commissioner appointed a supposedly independent investigator that person was co-opted by the NFL and failed significantly in her responsibilities truly to investigate,” Ginsberg told USA TODAY Sports, referencing White. "So the idea that commissioner Goodell is the person appointing an independent investigator is troubling.”

But attorney John M. Dowd, who conducted an investigation into the Pete Rose gambling scandal for Major League Baseball in 1989, said the criticism is unwarranted — in part because the NFL picked Mueller to lead the investigation.

USATODAY

Armour: NFL can’t spin its way out of Ray Rice mess

"I don’t think it’s fair criticism,” Dowd told USA TODAY Sports. "I think you’ve got to wait until he’s done and see his work product and then make any judgments you want to make.

"Bobby Mueller is an outstanding lawyer, an honest man, and has a reputation to protect,” Dowd said. I think he’ll just do a straight job.”

Dowd said also he had no qualms about New York Giants owner John Mara and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney overseeing the investigation.

"I reported to the commissioner and the deputy commissioner of baseball,” Dowd said. "You’ve got to report to somebody.

"The real key to all these investigations, inside the government or outside the government, is that they be done with integrity.”

Mara and Rooney issued a joint statement Thursday and said they had been in contact with Mueller. The owners said the investigation will be independent and the final report will be made public.

"Our role is not to conduct or direct the investigation but to support Mr. Mueller and assist him in gaining whatever access or resources he needs,” the statement reads. "At the conclusion of Mr. Mueller’s investigation, we will receive his findings on behalf of the league’s owners.

"Our sole motive here is to get the truth and then share Mr. Mueller’s findings with the public."

Mueller is preparing to begin the investigation, according to the statement.

"No timeline was established and we stressed that he should take as much time as necessary to complete a thorough investigation,” the statement read. "We agreed that the scope of the investigation should be aimed at getting answers to specific questions, including what efforts were made by league staff to obtain the video of what took place inside the elevator and to determine whether, in fact, the video was ever delivered to someone at the league office, and if so, what happened to the video after it was delivered.”

O’Neill also criticized the NFL for focusing only on the Rice controversy.

The questions largely surround the surfacing of a second video recording that shows Rice striking his then-fiancee unconscious in an elevator in a hotel casino in Atlantic City, N.J. The NFL has said it did not see the video until it was released by TMZ on Monday, but a law enforcement official told The Associated Press in a story published Wednesday that he sent the video to an NFL executive five months ago.

"To bring in an insider or a quasi-insider and to call it an independent investigation and then to narrow the scope only to look at the Ray Rice incident is continuing on in this mode of minimizing, diminishing, throwing under the rug (the problem of domestic violence)…" she said, adding that she thinks the NFL is simply hoping "the media wanders away and the fans will forget.

"The fans are not going to forget this, and they’re not going to forget because Mr. Goodell is once again handling the issue completely wrong.”

O’Neill did say Goodell recently took positive steps by reaching out to the National Network To End Domestic Violence and strengthening the league’s policy against domestic violence.

"So I do see some movement,” she said. "But the overarching picture you get is of an individual who only wants do as little as he can possibly get away with, so he can go back to the business of making money in the same old way without making any changes in his organization.”

Interesting read

Peter Ginsberg walked down this same path two years ago with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s appointment of a “supposedly independent” investigator.

The attorney for then-New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma told USA TODAY Sports on Thursday that Goodell’s appointment of an outside investigator to look into the mismanaged Ray Rice fiasco is “troubling.”

Ginsberg added he hopes league owners “make the right decision” on Goodell, observing the NFL Players Association, “Ought to have a say in who that independent investigator is.”

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According to a person familiar with the union’s thinking, the NFLPA was not consulted by the league as part of the process of appointing former FBI Director Robert Mueller III for the internal investigation of the Rice domestic violence incident. The person requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. The union cannot comment until receipt of a disciplinary letter from the league on Rice’s indefinite suspension, the person said.

Can Goodell survive the second crisis of his credibility within two years given how the NFL is a $10 billion a year public trust?

"Thus far, the owners have allowed Goodell to exercise poor judgment on countless occasions and they have permitted him to keep his job,” Ginsberg told USA TODAY Sports. "So I’m hoping that at some point, there’s a real honest review of his tenure. And that the owners make the right decision — whatever that is.”

Goodell also appointed New York Giants co-owner John Mara and Pittsburgh Steelers president/owner Art Rooney II to provide oversight of Mueller’s investigation. The announcement of that investigation came hours after the Associated Press published a Wednesday report citing an unnamed law enforcement official had claimed to send a video DVD to the league office five months ago of the former Rice knocking out then-fiancé (now wife) Janay Palmer inside a New Jersey casino elevator Feb. 15.

The league said in a statement the final report will be made public, noting Goodell has pledged the full cooperation of NFL personnel and access to all league records.

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Bell: New twist in Ray Rice saga puts heat on Roger Goodell like never before

Nonetheless, Ginsberg said confidence in Goodell’s leadership has been seriously eroded based on a second mishandled disciplinary matter within a two-year span.

"Commissioner Goodell’s judgment once again has to be called into question either by his actions of omission or commission,” Ginsberg told USA TODAY Sports.

Ginsberg was there front and center two years ago in the middle of Goodell’s initial firestorm that undermined player confidence in his disciplinary powers when former Commissioner Paul Taglibue issued a strong rebuke of Goodell, vacating his harsh suspensions of four players including Vilma over the Saints’ alleged bounty program.

Ginsberg noted the last time an independent investigator was appointed, former U.S. attorney Mary Jo White, her “Bountygate” investigation “failed significantly.”

Goodell appointed Tagliabue to hear appeals from former Saints defensive players, Vilma, Scott Fujita, Will Smith and Anthony Hargrove. Tagliabue affirmed Goodell’s factual findings that the Saints operated a bounty program from 2009-2001. But his decision to vacate all penalties wiped Goodell’s suspensions and fines off the board, signifying Tagliabue felt Goodell overreached in issuing his sanctions.

Now the heat on Goodell continues to rise after 12 Democrats from the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Goodell on Wednesdsay demanding more transparency in how the league conducted its investigation into the Rice domestic violence incident.

USATODAY

Congress probes NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Ray Rice case

"It’s also important to remember the last time the Commissioner appointed a supposedly independent investigator that person was co-opted by the NFL and failed significantly in her responsibilities truly to investigate,” Ginsberg said, referencing White. "So the idea that commissioner Goodell is the person appointing an independent investigator is troubling.”

Ginsberg continued his criticism wondering about Goodell’s power, those influencing his decision making and the fallout that will come from the investigation.

"No one can lose sight of the fact that these underlying events are horrific. But how Goodell and the NFL are handling this I think reflects another instance of Commissioner Goodell not warranting the discretion and the authority that he has grabbed and to some extent the union has allowed him to take,” Ginsberg said. "The people who are responsible for investigating the Rice incident are the same people who let down the NFL and the NFL players in StarCaps and in BountyGate and even in being overly aggressive for offenses like marijuana usage. Those people need to be held accountable."

Should Tagliabue have been asked to play a significant role in the league’s independent investigation this time as well?

"I think commissioner Tagliabue is an honorable and decent person. But his loyalty is still to the NFL shield,” Ginsberg said. "I think a truly independent person should be appointed.”

So then Mueller isn’t the right choice given his ties to the league?

"I’d rather not comment on that right now,” Ginsberg said. "But I think the union ought to have a say in who that independent investigator is.”

Graham Negotiations...

Jimmy Graham’s Agent Flies To New Orleans To Negotiate With Saints

By David “Satch” Kelly on Jun 17 2014, 2:44p 14

Jonathan Ferrey

Graham’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, flew to New Orleans from Memphis on Tuesday to negotiate with the Saints’ front office face to face, according to NOLA.com. Graham’s hearing is also being held in Metairie, according to the NFL Network, so that may be the more likely reason he flew in. There’s conflicting reports as to why exactly, so we shouldn’t get our hopes up that a deal is imminent. Arbitrator Stephen Burbank will hear arguments from the NFL Players Association and the NFL Management Council to determine if Graham should be officially labeled as a tight end or a wide receiver for franchise-tag purposes. The proceedings will be held privately and it’s unclear how long it will take Burbank to issue a ruling, though one week is a fair guess based on past arbitration hearings.

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