The Payton Way

8 Mar

Rough day yesterday.

We talk about the business of football, and how players can’t stick around forever, and the Youth Movement, and some douchebags make annoying references to the mythological Patriot Way; the list of justifications are long, and mostly true. That doesn’t make it any easier when guys like Lance Moore and Darren Sproles are sent packing. That shit hurts, and some of us need a little time to process.

So last night, we flooded social media, we drank heavily, we made jokes. Everything’s going to be okay, we told ourselves. This regime knows how to rebuild, of course. The Great Roster Purge of 2014 is hard to watch, but this staff started with a lot less in February of 2006, and the Saints reached the NFC Championship Game that year. My faith in Loomis remains strong.

The players were undeniably gracious; Moore and Sproles both tweeted that they were thankful for their time and for the fans’ dedication. It was very nice and yet, under the influence of a bottle of 10-dollar wine (I’m up against the cap myself), that righteousness was even more the downer. What we really needed was a bit of news to take our minds off of the players that were gone. I almost wished someone would say something really fucking stupid to take the edge off.

Oh. Oh my. Well that’s fairly mockable.

The popular response is obvious. “But you’re the reason,” of course. It’s not true, the opinion reeks of a failure to understand what’s gone on in New Orleans for the last 5 or 6 offseasons, but no matter what stance you take here, the fact that the statement will produce backlash should be pretty fucking clear.

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that a kid who’s been playing football for something like 3 years, has already reached superstardom and is about to get paid mightily doesn’t yet have a grasp of public relations. He’s sad that his friends are leaving, or whatever, and he doesn’t understand the conclusions that will be drawn.

So let’s skip that for a moment and talk about Jimmy Graham’s contract demands. Are those demands forcing cuts? No, dipshit, they are not. Cap savings so far:

Harper, Smith, Greer: 17 million
Sproles: 3.5 million
Moore: 2.5 million

I don’t know what we save by letting Strief walk, or via the other releases and choose-not-to-pursues that are already rumored. That short list right there, consisting almost entirely of starters who won’t be back in 2014, totals to 23 million dollars.

Anyone going to argue that Jimmy Graham is demanding 23 more million dollars a year than he deserves? I didn’t think so. Even if you add your subjective idea of the overpaidness of Graham’s hypothetical new deal and Brees’s real one, it won’t come close to 23 million dollars. If it does, I’d love to see a breakdown of those numbers. The cap hell the Saints are currently in is the culmination of at least half a decade of kicking the can, pushing salary cap problems down the road via restructuring and cuts and bonuses and oddly-structured contracts, in an effort to keep The Window open. It was going to catch up sooner or later, and this happens to be the year. Don’t subscribe to melodramatic bullshit that puts the onus on one player to take less than he deserves so you can keep your tiny running back with the bad knees for one more year.

This is what happens to successful football teams in the salary cap era. They lose favored players. I know, it’s a new experience for me too.

But none of that is the point I came here to make. I just needed to get that out of the way. Because too many people fail to understand that Jimmy is not to blame for Black Yesterday, and if you buy into that stupid narrative, you’ll fail to understand the strangeness of what I’m going to point out next.

Something I’ve tried, and failed, to explain a time or two about this blog is that it isn’t what I thought it was going to be. I started writing this with every intention of “The Angry Who Dat” being a caricature of Wang’s Message Board Guy. See that shit? Third-person. That’s pretty dumb, and my hindsight is happy that it took no more than about 2 posts for the whole concept to fall apart and for me to start ranting on what I really believed.

Now, you can rest assured that I believe everything I write here. To include the hyperbole and the conspiracy theories and even the stuff that may still sound message board-y. That conspiracy theorist, that brickheaded message board guy is still alive deep down inside, and yesterday, when I saw this, he perked up.

Oh.

Uh, ok.

For the uninitiated, that is in fact Junior Galette; he’s quite prolific on Twitter, and he’s not a sane person. I love him. He’s one of the very few professional athletes that have anything interesting to say. On the spectrum of “do I want to follow this person” one can rate a player anywhere from Drew Brees to Junior Galette.

But this tweet was a bit outside what I’d expect from even him. If there’s an explanation for this that doesn’t involve Jimmy Graham, I’d love to hear it. But I can’t think of one. (The 20 or better bit refers to his sack goal for next year, and we wish him well in that pursuit.) And today, in an age where pretty much every player backs every other player who is looking for more money, seeing even one individual break that solidarity is surprising.

But it is Junior Galette, and he is insane, and it’s not like anyone else is talking shit.

OH.

Well, shit. Conspiracy theory guy is fully awake. What the hell is going on here? Two players breaking solidarity, bashing on a teammate that’s out for money? Blaming cuts on him? These guys have to know better, right? They understand the business. They know all these cuts add up to way more than one man’s blame.

Remember when Drew Brees was asked on the radio about Jimmy Graham’s position? He wasn’t misquoted; his words weren’t skewed. The host asked him if Jimmy was a wide receiver or a tight end, and Drew said: “He’s a tight end. He’s a tight end.”

Shit. It seems like everyone’s out to limit Jimmy. If I was Jimmy, I’d suspect a conspiracy. I’d be shocked and disappointed on everything that’s gone on this offseason.

What if there’s bad blood between Graham and the front office? Would that be surprising? What if Jimmy isn’t well liked in the locker room and this is Joe and Junior’s chance to take their shots publicly? Is that idea hard for you to believe?

If so, fuck you. You are Message Board Guy. You don’t know these people. It’s fun to think the best of all of them, isn’t it? This is a winning team, there can’t be bad blood in the locker room. There can’t be players who hate the front office, the coaches love everyone and Drew Brees wants everyone to get rich. THAT’S THE PAYTON WAY.

The problem with all of this, with these 1200 words so far, with every moment we spend speculating what’s going on in the locker room or in the mind of a player lashing out on twitter, or in the head of a general manager who cut everyone whose jersey you own in one fucking day, is – say it with me – you. don’t. know. these. people.

Still think I’m full of shit? Don’t make me search twitter for Sharper+nice+guy. Or write a summary of the entire fucking locker room in the Haslett Era. Football players can only let us down if we forget they’re not human, with personalities and disagreements and selfish motivations. A good coach, contrary to popular belief, can’t make bad people into good people or vice versa, no matter how good they are at football. As a fan, we don’t know who the good people and the bad people are, and we’re mentally more healthy if we just sit back and enjoy the games.

But it’s fun to speculate, right? We don’t have anything better to do, it’s the offseason. This isn’t the time, nor has this ever been the place, for healthy. So drop your preconceptions of a harmonious locker room and come up with your own explanation. If we’re going to pretend to know shit we don’t know, let’s at least make the story work. You can tie all this together into a lighthearted tale where everyone loves everyone and happy endings result for all, but the glaring discontinuities will require a suspension of disbelief that I’m not ready to subscribe to.

So sit down, friend, and let me tell you a story:

Jimmy Graham is an asshole. A major league, cocky, barely out of his teens, been playing football for less years than most of his teammates played high school ball asshole. He’s really good at football, but nobody likes him. In all fairness, he doesn’t mean to be that way; he really just loves football, and he wants to fit in. That’s how people acted in the locker room when he played basketball. He’s very misunderstood. (Slow zoom on Sad Face Jimmy)

Nonetheless, the other guys want him gone. Now. The front office knows this, but they can’t let him go for nothing. And everyone knows Jimmy’s a fan favorite. Cap troubles mean a few favorites will be gone soon anyway. This must be handled delicately, with timing and precision.

So they tag him, knowing he’d be designated by the league as a tight end. Drew Brees, who would like nothing more than to punch that little loudmouth right in the dick, tactfully makes a ton of headlines by stating that he’s a tight end, reinforcing the notion and all but guaranteeing public opinion would come down against a wide receiver tag.

Nobody knows better than the Saints that the league office, who determines the position of a tagged player, loves playing with public opinion. They either get on the side that’s right, or they play the media to drive opinion their way. Drew beat them to the punch, and they have to react.

Jimmy Graham gets the tight end designation, meaning that teams can feasibly offer him money without breaking the bank. Especially if they have some extra picks to throw around. Mickey Loomis loves him some picks anyway. But Jimmy’s playing nice and not contesting the tag like everyone’s anonymous sources* said he would. While Mickey’s taking offers from the Jacksonvilles and the Clevelands, he goes ahead and handles this years-long salary cap thing that’s come to a head by dropping every fan favorite on the roster right in the middle of negotiations. Nuclear option, baby.

*Loomis

Jimmy’s not stupid. He understands what is happening. He’s shocked and disappointed on everything that’s gone on so far.

Junior Galette signed a shitty deal the year before breaking out, and he’s tired as fuck of hearing I’m Jimmy Graham run around the locker room bragging on all the millions he’s due in 2014. Loomis knows this. But Loomis knows that some money will come free very soon, and he knows Galette will perform for years to come, so he offers a little deal. Scratch Mickey’s back, Jimmy, and Mickey will scratch yours. And Junior comes through. Because Junior Galette don’t give a fuck.

Joe Morgan jumps in to pile on – an unforeseen development – because if Jimmy’s gone that’s more targets for him (the selfish bastard). The mastermind doesn’t usually like unforeseen developments; they can have unforeseen consequences. Still, this one seems fairly benign. Somewhere far away, in a dark room, bathed in the soft light of a great wall of monitors streaming looped gamefilm of first-round wide receiver prospects, Mickey Loomis makes a note about the Morgan kid, polishes off a bottle of scotch, and begins to laugh.

Fade to black.

Yeah, pretty much none of that is probably true, but it could be. Yes, it could be, motherfucker, because you don’t know these people. They aren’t all nice guys. So just enjoy it. Offseasons suck, even the good ones; that we are provided this kind of entertainment to get us through one of the bad ones is something we shouldn’t take for granted.

After all, something’s definitely going on here, because players don’t often say the things they did yesterday. Unless you think they all got together just to troll their own fanbase.

 

 

2 Responses to “The Payton Way”

  1. evanlp78@ymail.com March 10, 2014 at 6:34 am #

    youre an idiot. Jimmy is an asshole and everyone hates him ?? lol. stupid ass

    • The Angry Who Dat March 12, 2014 at 10:32 am #

      you read good!

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