St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams won himself a free trip to New York City today, as he was hand-selected by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell as part of the league’s new contest – “What the F*ck Were You Thinking?” Williams was selected, of course, after a closed NFL investigation that had determined that Williams’ former team, the New Orleans Saints, had not been running a bounty system between 2009 and 2011 was reopened to determine that they were, in fact, running a bounty pool and that Williams may have been a bad little fibber.
As you’re probably already well aware:
The NFL said payoffs were made by the Saints for inflicting game-ending injuries on targeted players, including quarterbacks Brett Favre and Kurt Warner. “Knockouts” were worth $1,500 and “cart-offs” $1,000, with payments doubled or tripled for the playoffs.
No punishments have been handed out, but they could include suspensions, fines and loss of draft picks. Several players around the league have said the Saints and Williams weren’t the only ones with such a system. (Via ABC News)
Whether or not the Saints were the only team with a bounty system is probably going to matter very little in Goodell’s “Make an Example” system, so the Saints are probably going to deal with all that stuff mentioned above. But the rest of the media is like, “Let’s hop in Rufus’ phone booth and do some retroactive punishing, too.” Williams’ former players have been more than happy to spill the beans, as long as they remind us that they still love their big, dumb coach.
First up, the Tennessee Oilers/Titans were apparently running a “bonus” system among themselves, but not a bounty system run by coaches. Haha, you can’t punish former players!
“It was a thing where veterans and guys on defense always put up money for things that might change the game — hard hits, interceptions, sacks,” [Josh] Evans said by phone Saturday. “I have never known Gregg to say, ‘Try to hurt somebody.’ Guys were rewarded for making a big play or a hard hit. He probably knew. I don’t think he went against it.
“It’s just different times now because back in the day this stuff was part of football and nobody ever went out to try to end a guy’s career, because we all had families. But I would be lying if I said you didn’t want to knock a guy’s butt off.” (Via NY Times)
Part of me thinks this is a great strategy for building solid character witnesses and deferring blame, while another part of me thinks: “Hey this is great, admit how you guys were all trying to kill each other for incentives and see how that affects the length of all those eventual concussion lawsuit trials.” How about just flat out denial?
“We never had any bounties when I played, I know that,” said retired safety Blaine Bishop, who played for the Oilers/Titans from 1993-2001. “Gregg never had any bounties. If we did, I never got paid. But the truth is we never had them. It didn’t happen with the Titans when I was there, so it didn’t happen when Gregg was there. He just wanted you to play hard.” (Via USA Today)
Maybe it’s just the culture of the NFL and it’s been around for a long time. Anyone agree with that?
“That stuff has been going on since Buddy Ryan, and long before that,” said former Oilers linebacker Al Smith, who played for Ryan (the Oilers’ defensive coordinator in 1993) and later for Williams. “Buddy used to put it simple: If you take the other team’s best player out, your chance of winning increases dramatically.
“Gregg felt the same way, but that’s the theme across the league. It was never ‘Go blow this guy’s knee out and you’ll get paid.’ It was just football. It was a defensive mentality thing.” (NFL.com)
Williams has coached plenty of other teams, though. Surely his players from the Washington Redskins and Buffalo Bills are sticking up for him, too, right?
“There was financial compensation,” [Coy] Wire said. (Via Buffalo News)
Yeesh. Well, maybe he’s just referring to players paying each other.
“There were rewards. There never was a point where cash was handed out in front of the team. But surely, you were going to be rewarded. When somebody made a big hit that hurt an opponent, it was commended and encouraged.”
Well that’s rather vague. He didn’t even name specific names in that. It’s not like guys are coming out and writing entire columns in major daily newspapers.
Price tags started low during the regular season — a couple hundred bucks for going after the quarterback hard or taking a running back out below the knees. Chop him down and give a quick smile when you got back to the huddle. You just got a bonus.
The pot was collected throughout the season through fines. Show up late? Ding. Blow an assignment during practice? Again. Walk on the field with your chinstrap unbuckled. Again. Break the rules, you gave to the bank.
The cash was kept stashed away at the team facility, in safe hands. After coaches reviewed Sunday’s film, we paid it back out. Our accountability, governed by our accounting.
That’s right. We got paid for big hits, clean hits by the rule book.
Money came in for more than watching a guy leave the field. We earned extra for interceptions, sacks and forced fumbles. If the till wasn’t paid out, we just rolled it over.
Money jumped in the playoffs. A bigger stage equaled more coin. Instead of a few hundred dollars, now you got a thousand, maybe more, depending on the player.
That’s the truth. I can’t sugarcoat this. It was a system we all bought into.
I ate it up.
It’s hard not to, not when you’re playing for a coach like Gregg Williams, my defensive coordinator while I was with the Washington Redskins. (Via the Chicago Tribune, authored by former Redskins player Matt Bowen)
Ah well, I see.
In other news, if you hear a gigantic slicing noise today, that’s just the NFL’s standard issue guillotine making a huge example out of Williams.