Saints Coach Sean Payton’s Book and the Bounty Scandal

CBS Sports' Mike Freeman takes a new look at New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton's bestseller Home Team in light of the bounty scandal that broke yesterday.

CBS Sports’ Mike Freeman takes a new look at New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton’s bestseller Home Team in light of the bounty scandal that broke yesterday.

Sean Payton, coach of the New Orleans Saints and now in the middle of one of the biggest scandals in NFL history, wrote a book several years ago called “Home Team.” Nothing special about it. Not all that good. It details Payton’s rise in the NFL and how the Saints won the Super Bowl. Now, in light of this scandal, the book has become extremely important.

Mainly because it does three things. One, it shows just how extensive a control freak Payton is. So any type of defense that he didn’t know simply won’t fly. Payton is one of the most detail-oriented coaches in the sport. Second, several passages of the book demonstrate Payton doesn’t really give a damn about NFL rules. Now, that’s not unusual for a head coach but again, with the bounty investigation, that notion takes on an entirely new meaning.

Third, and most important, it goes into extensive detail about Payton’s relationship with one of the central and most shadowy figures from this scandal and that’s felon Mike Ornstein who is a close friend of Payton’s and, according to NFL documents, himself contributed cash to the bounty pool.

One of the more relevant passages starts on page 231. It describes how Payton had Ornstein handle a lot of the Super Bowl preparation. It reads: “I had Mike Ornstein running special ops. Mike had no official title with the Saints. His name appeared nowhere on the team payroll or organizational chart. But he played an absolutely crucial role in the Saints’ Super Bowl victory, and hardly anybody knows what he did…More than anyone else I know, he understands how to get things done in the pro-sports world. He also has a taste for mischief…Now he was a close friend of mine and a great asset to the team, flying into Miami and softening up the off-field for us.”

Much more at the link.

These mini biographies, usually masquerading as leadership guides, are de rigueur for coaches who win championships or otherwise come to national prominence. It’s amazing how often they come back to bite their “authors” in the ass when a scandal breaks. Reading the platitudinous books of a Joe Paterno or Jim Tressel with the advantage of hindsight gives a whole new perspective on those pages.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    What’s an appropriate punishment? Perhaps fines in the high six-digits, four-game suspensions and loss of an entire year of draft picks?

  2. James Joyner says:

    @Gold Star for Robot Boy: Based on what I know now, I’d ban Gregg Williams from coaching in the NFL for five years, if not permanently. I’d hit Sean Payton with something like what Bill Belichick got for Spygate. The Saints have already traded away their 1st round pick (ironically, to the Patriots) so it’s going to be hard to hit them severely enough in draft picks. Maybe this year’s 2nd and next year’s 1st.

  3. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    Lifetime ban for Williams? No way; that’s a punishment reserved for gambling on the game and repeat drug offenders.

    Different sport, but look at Artest. He charged into a hostile crowd, sparking a near-riot and his suspension was for four-fifths of a season.

  4. Franklin says:

    Interesting …

  5. James Joyner says:

    @Gold Star for Robot Boy: Artest was a young player who overreacted to a real provocation. Williams is a middle aged coach–who’s been a head coach in the League–who has engaged in a years-long conspiracy to break the most basic rules of the game.

  6. Lit3Bolt says:

    @James Joyner:

    The coaches are white. The crime is white collar. Therefore the punishment will be with a light hand, just as it was with Belichick, who was fined a mere 500,000. That sounds like a lot but when you’re making nearly 8 million dollars a year…

  7. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    It’s one thing to ban a coordinator for this, but when money was on the line the players gladly (according to reports) took part.

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner: Based on what I know now, I’d ban Gregg Williams from coaching in the NFL for five years, if not permanently.

    There has been a lot of discussion in the print that he may have cooperated fully with the investigation. First there was his immediate and full apology and acceptance of his responsibility for his actions and non-actions regarding the whole affair. Second, the fact that he jumped ship so quickly at the end of the season.

    As there has been absolutely no action against him so far in St Louis I am beginning to suspect there was a “plea agreement” between Williams and the NFL long before he got there, and that he told Fisher about the whole mess during the interviews. I don’t really know Fisher all that well, but I here he is not one to suffer fools, and if Williams had lied by omission, I don’t think he would look kindly upon that. Pure speculation on my part of course, but the next few days should tell the tale.

    Payton could be in as much trouble as Williams and the GM should be toast as even after he was directed to end the practice by the owner he did nothing.