When news broke Friday that the suspensions of four New Orleans Saints players accused of participating in the team's bounty program had been overturned, the next logical question centered on the fate of Saints head coach Sean Payton.
Players Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Scott Fujita, and Anthony Hargrove are now expected to be cleared to start the season, according to ESPN.
Meanwhile, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had previously suspended Payton for the entire current season, a move that led many football analysts to question whether the powerhouse Saints would even make the playoffs. The three-man arbitration panel that voided the players' suspensions made rulings on neither Payton nor embattled assistant coaches Gregg Williams and Joe Vitt.
"With Saints winning appeal, suspensions are voided as Roger Goodell doesn't have jurisdiction and Stephen Burbank does," ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted Friday.
Burbank is one of the arbitrators who made the decision.
Deadspin reported the reason the players' suspensions were overturned while the coaches' suspensions were not could be that Payton, Williams, Vitt, and Saints general manager Mickey Loomis didn't initially challenge the penalties. Goodell's jurisdiction in the matter was questioned when he handed out the suspensions because the NFL Players Association claimed he didn't have the authority to dole out that kind of punishment.
This news is already a big win for the NFLPA, but its magnitude is amplified by the fact that it's only been a year since the union took on Goodell during the lockout.
The commissioner had suspended Vilma for the entire season, Hargrove for eight games, Smith for four, and Fujita for three. Only Smith and Vilma still play for the Saints.
While Payton's fate is far from being determined, the coach has been killing time by helping out with his son's football team. Payton, who is considered one of the most inventive coaches in the game, is running the offense of a sixth-grade football team, according to the Times-Picayune of New Orleans. In Payton's first game on the sideline, the team won by a 30-0 score.
Popular opinion has been against Goodell since the suspensions were handed out, a trend that continued Friday as countless fans took to Twitter to support the players, voice the opinion that Payton should be reinstated, and tell the NFL commissioner to "let it go."