PALM BEACH, FLA. - Sean Payton has faced the music for his bounty-scandal culpability like a judge on The Voice.
Yeah, with his back to it.
Since NFL commissioner Roger Goodell slapped the New Orleans Saints head coach last Wednesday with a one-year suspension, Payton could not have gone further out of his way to avoid taking his lashes in public.
The punishment is for allowing a bounty program to exist on his defence in which Saints players were offered cash bonuses for injuring other teams' players and for subsequently denying it to the league.
Payton has handled the suspension announcement like this:
Last week he hid behind a statement in which he admitted his guilt and said he was sorry. No news conference in New Orleans even though the locals are so thoroughly in his corner they've bought up every torch and pitchfork in the bayou.
He decided to represent the Saints here at the league's annual meeting which, because he's still New Orleans' head coach until Sunday, he should have done. But he was a no-show this past Sunday when virtually every other league official arrived. And he was a no-show again Monday, the day when "Bountygate" discussion raged, and the day Goodell first spoke publicly about it.
A few reporters were tipped late Monday that Payton would arrive here at The Breakers resort early Tuesday morning. Do you think it was a coincidence he arrived at the same time the rest of the press was sequestered in a conference room, interviewing AFC coaches for an hour? Neither do I.
Payton held court for 18 minutes with the alerted reporters and they duly grilled him. But at the joint meeting later Tuesday morning of NFL owners, GMs and coaches, he passed on the opportunity to stand up and apologize to his peers. His GM Mickey Loomis, however, did do that which we first reported early Tuesday afternoon. According to other reports, many in the NFL were surprised and disappointed that Payton declined to address the group.
Payton then promptly took off out of town with Loomis to discuss with Bill Parcells the possibility of being Payton's one-year temp replacement. Reports differed as to whether Parcells would accept the offer.
After that, Payton did not return to The Breakers and reportedly had no plans to return Wednesday for either the final half-day of meetings, or for the NFC head coaches' breakfast with the press at the start of the day. All AFC head coaches attended Tuesday's breakfast and all others from the NFC are expected Wednesday.
It's not just the press he snubbed, then. It was the rest of the NFL, all gathered in one big conference room.
All in all, pretty cowardly. If that assessment is piling on, fine. If that's a cheap shot, fine.
Harsh but fair.
A network that carries NFL games might hire Sean Payton to be a talking head before or during NFL games this fall. Goodell said Monday he has no jurisdiction to prevent that. Fox Sports was rumoured to be most interested.
I'm hoping Payton keeps hiding until after next year's Super Bowl when his suspension lifts.
If you're going to hide, stay hidden.
WHAT DO YOU SAY, PAYTON?
Here are some of the things Payton said Tuesday morning in the lobby of The Breakers resort hotel, according to various reports.
On whether he felt he was punished for transgressions that are common in the NFL:
"No, I accept this. I've heard that argument. I think trying to really look closely at how we, and how I can improve, is probably a better way for me to handle this than to kind of vent or to look outwardly at other programs, and I've tried to take that approach."
On being suspended for a year:
"You're disappointed. You're disappointed in yourself that it got to this point ... I find myself reflecting on it, and you go through a lot of emotions."
On his culpability, even though he looked after the offence while his then-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, now suspended indefinitely, oversaw the bounty program:
"Anything that happens in the framework of your team and your program you're responsible for, and that's a lesson I've learned."
As well, Payton said he had not yet decided whether to appeal the suspension (he has until Monday to do so), but was leaning against it.