Vikings fans are outraged -- and more so than they have been, as a general rule, for the past 35 years or so without a Super Bowl appearance.
The revelation by the NFL and subsequent reports on Friday that Saints players had "bounties" out on specific players -- quite notably Brett Favre in the NFC title game following the 2009 season -- adds another layer to the angst of a fan base that already had a hard time telling which part is scab and which part is skin anymore.
This is like Drew Pearson admitting he pushed off. It's like finding out the ball Gary Anderson kicked was somehow tampered with in the post-1998 NFC title game (TIME TO CONFESS, ATLANTA!). Without a gimpy ankle suffered from one of the many cheap shots that game, is Favre a different quarterback on that final, fateful drive in regulation?
The players and coaches involved figure to be punished. The Saints organization, too, will likely be hit. But that means nothing to a Vikings fan who watched the latest best chance to reach the Super Bowl two years ago evaporate by the thinnest of margins -- a sliver perhaps influenced by those cheatin' Saints.
As such, we have determined any punishment levied by the league needs to look backward and not just forward. Anything short of one or more of the options listed below will simply not suffice:
• Forfeiture of the NFC crown and Super Bowl title by the Saints. We won't be so bold as to say the Vikings should be named the rightful winners of the NFC that season, but if the league wants to go that far, so be it. At the very least, take it away from the Saints. You can say "everyone is doing it" when it comes to these bounties. But the Saints were caught in a big way. And if that was a viable defense, there would still be a Final Four banner hanging in Williams Arena.
• Replay the entire NFC title game, reassembling the rosters of both teams exactly as they were for the game. Sure, this would mean bringing back players who have moved on from both sides. But it's the fairest way to solve this problem. And besides, it would give Favre a league-sanctioned reason to come back one more time.
• Jail time for the Saints players and coaches. Per a friend, the legal implications of these bounties were being debated quite heavily over the weekend by those with extensive knowledge of the law. Their conclusions did not rule out prosecution.
• For those who prefer an "eye for an eye," a predetermined number of unabated and certainly cheap hits on Drew Brees by Jared Allen. This won't solve the problem of the result from the game, nor is it particularly fair to Brees. But vengeance is vengeance.
• The disbandment and/or permanent relocation of the Saints franchise. You might have heard Los Angeles is looking for a team.