The Hall of Fame Game in Canton returns today after being taken off the schedule in 2011 due to the lockout.
It features the New Orleans Saints taking on the Arizona Cardinals, but it is more than just a regular NFL preseason game.
First Game for Saints Since Bounty Scandal
It is the first game for the Saints following the bounty scandal, which means it is the beginning of not having Sean Payton on the sideline for the entire season.
Jonathan Vilma is also out for the year, while Will Smith will miss the first four games of the year. Coach Joe Vitt will miss six games and GM Mickey Loomis will miss eight. Vitt is the interim head coach for the season following his suspension.
Total disaster was avoided when Drew Brees agreed to his new contract, which will pay him a measly $40 million this year. That’s $2.5 million per game for one player. With that salary he better have another record-breaking year if he would like to avoid criticism.
While the players suspended in the scandal are in the process of appealing their suspensions, Payton will definitely be out for the entire year.
His absence will be something to take note of as the Saints’ season progresses. If they struggle and even miss the playoffs, it will be clear that his absence had a major impact. However, if the Saints do not skip a beat and easily make the playoffs, can we question what a head coach really means?
Certainly having a veteran QB like Drew Brees will help, as will the continuity of most of the offensive players having been in the same system for a number of years. The Saints are clearly an upper-echelon NFL team in terms of talent, especially on offense, but not having the regular head coach could easily affect any team in the NFL.
This situation is entirely different from getting a new head coach, as there was no new coach around to prepare in the offseason. The interim coach is out for six games, so there will be several transitions for the players during the year.
The importance of NFL head coaches is often questioned, due to the abundance of assistants, so the Saints’ performance this year will be indicative of the effectiveness of head coaches. Guys like Belichick and Lombardi are exceptions to this.
Could the salaries of NFL coaches moving forward be affected depending on the performance of New Orleans this season? It’s something to keep in mind as we watch this unprecedented Saints season unfold.
The game itself takes place tonight at 8 PM ET on NFL Network.