NFL

NFL AM: Sean Payton Agrees To Five-Year Extension

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Sean Payton agrees to five-year extension with Saints:

As unlikely as it seemed at times over the last year, the New Orleans Saints have agreed to a five-year extension with head coach Sean Payton. The new contract isn’t surprising because of the Saints decline in play the last couple of years, but because of the speculation that Payton and the Saints were prepared to part ways that seemed to linger the entire season.

Despite the fact that Payton hadn’t reached the end of his current deal, there were many reports and suggestions that he might be ready for a change of pace, and that the team may be willing to part with their Super Bowl winning coach for a draft pick, or some kind of compensation to a team that would be desperate for Payton’s offensive ingenuity.

However, all the common sense and speculation can’t see inside a man’s heart, and according to Payton, while the rest of us were speculating about how he’d enjoy a change of scenery, the longtime Saints head coach was thinking about how he couldn’t imagine coaching anywhere else.

“There’s so much of you in there, that I don’t see myself working anywhere else,” Payton explained. “There’s been really good stability and consistency at ownership. We just had dinner with Mr. B. last night, Mickey, and I think that doesn’t guarantee anything, but it gives you a chance. It’s been very functional.

“That stability, obviously, I don’t take for granted.”

The stability is good for Payton, but it’s better for the Saints. Drew Brees wasn’t going anywhere with his enormous cap number, and there’s no question that starting over in an all new offense would not have been a positive thing for the veteran quarterback.

Brees is one of those guys who can mess around and win you a Super Bowl if you figure things out around him, but the chances of that happening with a new coach were very unlikely.

The Saints have a long way to go to be in the conversation to win their division, let alone another Super Bowl, but signing their head coach to stick around for another five years was the right move. Payton has done a good job in New Orleans, and continuing down a path with the coach and quarterback who not only brought the franchise its only Super Bowl title, but played a major role in energizing a city after major tragedy certainly seems like the right move.

NFL moves touchbacks to the 25-yard-line:

The NFL competition committee announced a couple more major rule changes Wednesday, including one that will fundamentally change the game.

Next season, in what seems like just the first step in an evolution to remove the kick off from the game, the league will change the line of scrimmage from the 20 to the 25-yard-line after a touchback. After the league saw a rise in injuries on the play last season, they decided to incentivize teams to accept the touchback.

Competition committee member and Green Bay Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy explained that concussions were a part of the rise in injuries on kick offs last year, and the league’s commitment to cutting down on head injuries made this move, and the subsequent moves to eliminate the play from the game almost inevitable.

“When we look at the film and we look at particularly the concussions that were sustained, the kickoff just stands out,” Murphy said. “It’s a very dangerous play. We’ve been successful, I think, with some of the changes increasing the number of the touchbacks, but moving it to the 25-yard line should help us have even fewer returns. You’re taking an exciting play out of the game, but from a safety standpoint, it’s really something that I think is a concern.”

As dangerous as the play is, the game wouldn’t seem the same without it. However, it’s pretty damn difficult to argue that keeping continuity and making us feel good as fans is more important than the health and safety of special teams’ players. Rich McKay understands that struggle, and the importance of finding the balance between player safety and history.

“We understand that it’s been a historical part of the game,” McKay said, “and nobody wants to mess with the history part of the game unless it need be. It’s one we continue to look at. We looked at all the injury data this year from it. We looked at all the plays. We still like the play. And I think we still need to keep working at it.”

This is the ultimate struggle for every football fan. We love football. We want as much of it as humanly possible, and we really don’t want it to change. We want the fast, violent game we’ve all grown to love, and we certainly don’t want the league eliminating what can be some of the most exciting plays from the game. However, we’re human beings. We’re human beings that don’t want to see guys’ brains turned into mush, or guys carted off the field after massive collisions.

The NFL is working hard to try to find the balance of keeping the league as safe and as exciting as possible, all along realizing they’ll be criticized whether they change the game or keep it the same. The assumption is either that the league is making the game too soft and don’t care about what their fans want to see, or they don’t care about the health and safety of their players if they don’t make changes to protect them. It’s a slippery slope, but it’s one that must be navigated, and how the NFL navigates these tricky waters will go a long way in determining exactly where this evolving game is headed.

NFL to eject players after two unsportsmanlike calls:

Another new rule that has been added for 2016 will make two unsportsmanlike penalties punishable by ejection. This rule change has elicited quite the response from people, including those who don’t seem to understand the difference between a personal foul and an unsportsmanlike call. They’re two different things.

Personal fouls include late hits, helmet to helmet hits and the horse-collar. However, none of those calls are unsportsmanlike. To draw an unsportsmanlike penalty, you have to be acting unsportsmanlike. You know, like Odell Beckham against the Carolina Panthers last season.

Whether it took it too far by enacting this new rule or not, the league wants to make sure there aren’t any more displays from young stars of the game like they saw from Beckham last season. Even if they do, they sure as hell don’t want them going on as long as that travesty did.

Let’s face it, getting a pair of unsportsmanlike penalty twice in a game is pretty difficult, and if you’re that out of control, you probably should face ejection. Players don’t see it that way. Richard Sherman spoke about the proposed rule before it had been approved earlier this week, and thinks it’s unfair for men who never played the game to levy this penalty without knowing what it’s really like to be out there on the field.

I think it’s foolish, but it sounds like something somebody who’s never played the game would say, something they would suggest, because he doesn’t understand, he’s just a face, he’s just a suit, Sherman said about Goodell when speaking to ESPN. “He’s never set foot on the field and understood how you can get a personal foul.”

Sherman went on to explain this disconnect is the same reason they can’t seem to figure out the catch rule.

“Because you’ve got a bunch of suits doing it,” Sherman answered. “You’ve got a bunch of guys who never played. They’ve probably touched a football to hold it out or to shake someone’s hand and take a picture but they’ve never played the game.”

While Sherman is one of the more intelligent players in the league, and often makes a lot of sense, the reality is he’s dead wrong on this. Look, if you don’t want to get tossed out of a game, grow up. Act like a damn professional.

It’s very difficult to get two unsportsmanlike calls in a game. It almost never happened in a pre-ejection rule world, and it should never happen now. If you get heated and draw an unsportsmanlike penalty, then you shut it down. You act like a damn adult, and you make sure you don’t draw another one. Sherman is far too intelligent to not understand this.

Roger Goodell was asked about Sherman’s comments and complaints about the rule during his press conference with the competition committee Wednesday, and he suggested players who don’t like it will have to get with the program.

“This is all in their control,” Goodell replied. “Sportsmanship is important to the membership. We all have standards. They have two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties before they’re ejected. The message from the membership and the clubs and from our coaches has said we’re going to be held to those high standards.”

There are times where the league is way off base and the players have every right to gripe. This isn’t one of them. At the end of the day, NFL players better not ask for any sympathy because their employers ask them to act like grownups. If an NFL player is so concerned that they can’t control their emotions on the football field and that they’ll be ejected from a game for acting like a jerk, that’s on them, not the NFL.


About Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan has covered the NFL for almost a decade and is a host and producer for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers radio flagship 620WDAE/95.3FM. Pat covers the NFC South and NFC East for Football Insiders. Follow him on Twitter, @PatDonovanNFL.