With Payton and Peyton, NFL is still the place

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From Peyton to Payton — with Tim Tebow in the middle — this has been a remarkable news week for the NFL.

From the Denver Broncos signing Peyton Manning, the most decorated free agent in league history, to Commissioner Roger Goodell dropping the hammer on New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton in response to the bounty scandal and subsequent cover-up, the last few days have underscored the fact that even during a period that should be a lull in the action, the NFL is still king.

Almost lost in the flurry of headlines is that Baylor’s Robert Griffin III and Stanford’s Andrew Luck had their individual pro days this week, the last step before they are selected at the top of next month’s draft — Luck by Indianapolis, Griffin by Washington — the first time since 1999 quarterbacks will be picked in the Nos. 1 and 2 spots.

Some thoughts on this crazy week:

•Arrogance and hubris had to play a big role in Goodell’s lowering the boom in such dramatic fashion on the Saints. Can’t help but wonder if the punishment would have been nearly as severe had the Saints stopped their cash-for-cheap-shots payouts when they knew they were being investigated by the league. Instead, they lied about it, then picked right up where they left off when the NFL stopped sniffing around. They must have felt bulletproof.

•It’s curious why Payton was suspended for a full season, whereas General Manager Mickey Loomis received only half a season. The investigation report reads as if they were equally involved. If Loomis truly defied the instructions of Saints owner Tom Benson to stop the bounties, how did he keep his job? That’s security.

•According to the Associated Press, there are three strong candidates to replace Payton this season: defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr., and Aaron Kromer, who coaches the offensive line.

•Still trying to figure out why the New York Jets traded for Tebow after just extending Mark Sanchez. That’s an unstable team as it is, and those quarterbacks might as well be named Nitro and Glycerin because the stage is set for this thing to blow up. As soon as Sanchez has a couple of incompletions, fans are going to be calling for Tebow — and probably before that.

•Two NFL insiders, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic, said that Philadelphia Coach Andy Reid was ready to walk away from the Eagles if he didn’t get more personnel control, and now he has it. We’ve seen a flurry of decisive moves by the Eagles in recent weeks, including finally cutting a blockbuster deal with receiver DeSean Jackson; extending two good soldiers, defensive end Trent Cole and right tackle Todd Herremans, outbidding the Ravens to keep guard Evan Mathis; and trading for Pro Bowl linebacker DeMeco Ryans.

Something else about the Eagles: Reid wanted to jump in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes, despite the signing of Michael Vick to a six-year, $100-million contract last season. Talks never got too serious, the insiders say, because Manning didn’t like the idea of playing against his brother Eli, quarterback of the New York Giants, at least twice a season.

•The NFL schedule usually isn’t released until mid-April, but it’s at next week owners meetings that the league typically announces the first week of prime-time games. As defending Super Bowl champions, the Giants will play host to the kickoff opener. Green Bay is the most likely visitor in that game, but don’t rule out the possibility of a Steelers-Giants opener. There’s a good chance Denver will play host to the first Sunday night game. That was a strong possibility when Tebow was penciled in as the quarterback, and the signing of Manning has only made the Broncos more intriguing.