What The Hell Is Going on With Sean Payton Calling Jon Gruden to Brag About Not Paying COVID Fine?

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ESPN occasionally drops a huge story about Daniel Snyder on the dotcom early in the morning and everyone wakes up to even more sordid details about the way he ran the Washington Commanders. It's "ran" instead of "run" because he's now a former owner. Today's effort, a spectacular read from Don Van Natta and Seth Wickersham, explains in great detail and thrill how the leak of Jon Gruden's email led to Snyder's ouster. You're probably seeing snippets of it all over your timeline and you should obviously read the whole thing because there's plenty of juicy tidbits and threads to pull on contained in the paragraphs.

Like this one, which comes about 90 percent in and seems funny at first but quickly emerges as something worthy of more inspection. It's not crucial to the plot of an exhaustively reported piece yet it raises all sorts of questions.

Gruden burned with suspicion when Mark Davis was elbowed out of the three-team derby to relocate to Los Angeles in 2016 despite owning the most popular team in the market by far. Those feelings intensified in 2020 when Gruden was in his third year back as the Raiders' head coach. The league fined the Raiders $500,000, fined Gruden $150,000 and stripped the team of a sixth-round draft pick for COVID-19 violations -- and that was after the league had fined the team and Gruden a total of $350,000 for violations earlier in the season. (Davis offered to pay Gruden's $150,000 fine, but league officials insisted Gruden pay it personally, which he did.) Livid, Gruden appealed the fines but ended up writing the checks. After he did, his friend Sean Payton, then the Saints' coach and who also had been fined for COVID-19 violations, called him and laughed.

"I never paid the fine," Payton told Gruden, adding that other coaches also refused to pay. "You're the only dumbf--- that paid the fine."

It's entirely possible Payton was just blustering and busting the balls of his coaching colleague here. He may have paid the $100K he was dinged for failing to properly wear face coverings in the bench area during a 2020 Monday Night Football game.

Or he was telling the truth and just ... didn't pay it? Which would suggest a world where people fined relatively significantly by the NFL can just tell the league to kick rocks and refuse to cut a check. Throw aside the merits of punishing someone in the form of six figures for not wearing a gaiter over their mouth because it all seems a bit strange three years later. It seems like we can all agree that the collecting of the fine is as important, if not more so, than the announcement of the fine. Anyone can just announce a fine. It's getting the people who are fined to pony up that's truly essential.

Payton is now back in the NFL as head coach of the Denver Broncos and it certainly seems like he's opened himself up for some follow-ups on this. Perhaps one of those writers who like to investigate things should see what's going on here and what the fulfillment rate is on NFL fines. If Gruden is truly the only "dumbf---" to dip into his checking account, then hey, that's weird.