One of the more interesting stories in this magical year of the Saints was that head coach Sean Payton gave up part of his salary this season – a reported $250,000 -- to provide the cash necessary for the team to entice Gregg Williams to become their defensive coordinator and match a competing offer from the Packers. Then a report from Ed Werder of ESPN on Sunday disclosed that Payton was reimbursed by the Saints for the shell game he played during the middle part of the season, in Week 9.
The story reflects well on Payton, and knowing Sean, it’s no surprise that he would sacrifice for the team. However, the Saints’ acceptance of his gesture – and not paying him back until 10 months later – was a curious move and put them and their coach in an awkward position.
The decision to pay Williams, in my opinion, was an independent decision that should not have involved Payton. The Saints should have either found the resources to pay Williams through their own funds or decided against doing so; to tie it to another employee's wages puts them in a difficult position. What if Williams didn't work out? What if Payton regretted the decision and felt anger toward management for accepting his offer? What if the passion of the moment had long faded into a challenging season? There’s a slippery slope here.
Although a bit different since it involved players rather than coaches, when we were trying obtain Randy Moss from the Raiders, I heard many pleas from Brett Favre about Moss. Brett was so adamant that he offered to give up part of his salary to do so, although it would have been salary for the following season, which, as we know, was not a certainty.
While I absolutely appreciated the gesture and presented it to GM Ted Thompson (who paid no attention to it), I didn’t want Brett to make that offer. No player's compensation should be tied to another's. While it may sound benevolent and make a good story at the time, one never knows what could happen and how relationships may change in the weeks and months ahead. The Packers’ decision to acquire or not acquire Moss was, and should have been, independent of Brett's generous offer, even knowing how it frustrated him so that we demanded a second year of the contract (New England was willing to give Moss a one-year deal, the Packers were not).
Gregg Williams was a welcome and extremely productive addition to a coaching staff that has now won the biggest prize in the game. For the price of a fourth-round draft pick’s signing bonus ($250,000), the Saints should have not had to draw from Sean Payton to decide whether to pay him.
When the Saints enter into negotiations with Tom Condon on the Drew Brees contract, they will certainly cringe at the numbers Condon is likely going to propose (as the negotiation will probably follow a staggering deal for Peyton Manning). Perhaps Sean Payton, in a fit of emotion for his alpha dog player, offers up more money to help the cause with Brees. If he does, hopefully the Saints don’t accept.
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