Why Is It Always Sean Payton?
On Sunday Night, playing against the Denver Broncos, the Minnesota Vikings didn’t make it more than two minutes into the game before a potential injury popped up. Josh Dobbs took a hard hit on a fumble and walked to the blue medical tent. Not surprisingly, the coach on the opposite sideline was Sean Payton.
Why Is It Always Sean Payton?
Minnesota fans have a well-deserved distaste for Sean Payton. His New Orleans Saints sought to end Brett Favre’s playing time during the 2012 NFC Championship game, and it wasn’t until well after that contest was over that the Bountygate information came to light. Payton’s Saints teams were often at the forefront of controversy, and he was suspended an entire season because of the transgressions.
Coming into Denver, Payton immediately made waves by throwing the former head coach under the bus. Calling Nathaniel Hackett out for the poor performance by the Broncos a season ago, only to then start the year with such poor results, was quite the set of circumstances for Payton. He has since righted the ship with his highly-paid quarterback, but his leadership style precedes himself.
During Sunday night’s game against the Vikings, Denver found an opportunity to lay a hit on quarterback Josh Dobbs. With the passer scrambling for a first down, the ball dislodged as Dobbs was taken to the ground. Rather than make a sensible tackle, repeat offender Kareem Jackson launched himself as a spear straight into the head and neck area of Dobbs. It was a dirty and malicious hit that somehow went uncalled as a penalty.
While the NFL didn’t hold its officials accountable, they retroactively punished Jackson by handing out a four-game suspension. Such a dirty hit, and by a repeat offender, eliciting a lengthy suspension should have been correctly called on the field. The ball carrier is the most logical point of focus on any given play, and the lack of a flag changed the game by way of a three-point swing. Denver wound up winning by just one.
Aside from the contest’s outcome and the incorrect no-call on that play, these situations follow Payton. It is fair to assess that he cannot control players between the lines, but as a coach and a leader, he can demand perfection or do something about it. As a repeat offender, Jackson remained in the game, and his coach turned the other way because there were no repercussions on the field.
We have already seen the league take a stance against Payton for what happened under his watch in New Orleans, and while that hasn’t manifested in Denver yet, the style continues to follow him. His brash and brazen demeanor also shows acceptance of the plays made on the field. While his defenses may not be injuring his own team currently, each body taken off the field is a potential free agent or someone he could be asked to coach in the future.
It’s unfortunate that the league continues to miss such glaringly dangerous, unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, all while bailing out passers for being breathed on. To suspend or fine an athlete after the fact is one course of action, but something should be instituted during the game to ensure these situations aren’t overlooked. Personal foul hits aren’t reviewable, but when every fan watching can see the problem, having an immediate check and balance from a referee system needs to get it right.
For the bulk of his career, controversy has followed Sean Payton. At this point, it’s worth wondering if he cares at all or simply invites it. No matter what, his leadership shows on a weekly basis through the results on the field, and continuing to watch his athletes hurt others is something that should disappoint all involved.
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Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.