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Was The Saints' Bounty For Injuring Opponents Effective?

Phil Loadholt of the Minnesota Vikings checks on teammate Brett Favre after he was hit by Remi Ayodele of the New Orleans Saints during the NFC Championship Game  January 24, 2010. i i

Phil Loadholt of the Minnesota Vikings checks on teammate Brett Favre after he was hit by Remi Ayodele of the New Orleans Saints during the NFC Championship Game January 24, 2010. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Phil Loadholt of the Minnesota Vikings checks on teammate Brett Favre after he was hit by Remi Ayodele of the New Orleans Saints during the NFC Championship Game  January 24, 2010.

Phil Loadholt of the Minnesota Vikings checks on teammate Brett Favre after he was hit by Remi Ayodele of the New Orleans Saints during the NFC Championship Game January 24, 2010.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The NFL has suspended New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and his former defensive coordinator over the team's bounty scandal. Saints' players were allegedly paid bonuses for injuring opponents — the more serious the injury, the bigger the bounty.

As NPR sports correspondent Mike Pesca explained to us on last week's podcast, players received $1,000 for delivering a hit to an opponent that got them carted off the field and $1,500 if the opponent was knocked out of the game and could not return.

The suspensions show the NFL has decided this behavior was clearly wrong.

But there's a separate question that's worth asking here, if only for the sake of discussion: Did the bounties work? Were they an effective incentive?

Maybe not, according to Pesca.

"It worked in that the Saints did make the Super Bowl, and the fact they put a licking on Brett Favre factored into that," Pesca told us.

But, Pesca said, most football minds would agree that the Saints' defense was generally too aggressive. And the bounties may have contributed to that. They may have created an incentive for Saints defenders to take too many risks in pursuit of the big hit.

"Last year the Saints blitzed way too often and tried to be way too fast, aggressive and nasty," Pesca said. "It burned them."

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