Tuesday, March 06, 2012

I'll pay you $1000 to shove the airhorn up Coach's arse.

If there's a sports story that's more simultaneously surprising and no surprise at all than the current "bounty" scandal that's enveloping the New Orleans Saints, I haven't seen it. Apparently former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams offered players financial incentives to hit guys hard enough to knock them out of games. The NFL has been investigating this for two years, and Williams has pretty much openly admitted it.

I'll make no secret that I never liked Williams. He was head coach of the Buffalo Bills from 2001 to 2003, and putting it plainly...he was an ass. He showed up at that first training camp, barking how he was going to change things around here and walking around camp with an air horn that he liked to blast in players' faces. Change the culture? Now, the Bills had just undergone a salary-cap driven roster purge that was going to send them to a 3-13 record, but this was still a team just two years removed from its most recent playoff spot (which is still, to this day, the team's most recent playoff spot). Nothing about Gregg Williams's public persona in Buffalo ever indicated anything other than "douche", so on that score, I'm not surprised that he's involved.

Likewise, this does shed a bit of light on just why Williams has never received another shot at a head coaching job. Most guys who fail at their first coaching jobs eventually get another shot, especially if their failed shot is with a team like the Bills, who have come to be seen as a mismanaged organization from the top. And Williams has still been highly touted as a defensive coordinator, winning a Super Bowl with the Saints. And yet, he's never yet received his second shot at a head job. Why? I'm willing to say that part of it is because he's done this kind of stuff for years, and that most of the NFL is aware of his dirty laundry and the nasty habit dirty laundry has of eventually coming out.

I've heard some disturbing rhetoric about all this, to the point that it's not that big a deal. This bothers me a great deal. No one disputes that football is a violent game, and if players get together before games and on the 'down low' offer each other cash to hit opposing players hard, well, all you can do is make that illegal and deal with it if you catch them doing it. But for coaches to be involved puts an official stamp on it. Something that's under-the-table becomes organizational policy, whether it's on the books or not. And that, I think, crosses a line. There's a very real difference between "I hit other guys because I play hard and that's my way of playing" and "I hit other guys because there's money in it for me".

Football is a game where players get hit, and where players get hurt. So are a lot of games. But the object should never be to hurt the other guy, and that's what bounties do. That's why they're bad. Put it this way: if you think that this is no big deal, and that it's normal in football and that the Saints just got caught (one commenter on Facebook the other day referred to it as a 'manufactured controversy', an odd sentiment given that it hasn't been fueled by the media but is rather the result of a two year NFL investigation), then you can't think that this guy is a dirty bastard:

ADDENDUM: I'm seeing a lot of comparison of this business to SpyGate. There's no question in my mind that this is far, far worse than SpyGate. But if there's one meme about SpyGate that I'd like to see put to bed, it's the notion that Roger Goodell came down super-hard on the Patriots for that. There was a big fine, but still an amount that for an NFL organization is the equivalent of a parking ticket. And yes, he stripped them of a 1st round draft pick -- in a year when the Patriots already had two. So even after going 18-1 and being found guilty of breaking NFL rules, the Pats still got to pick in the top ten of the Draft. No, they did not get hit hard in that punishment. Goodell handed down a punishment that was designed to look tough, but really wasn't. I suspect he'll have to come down harder on the Saints, but he can't strip them of a 1st rounder this year, because the Saints traded it away last year to move up. And here's a conspiracy thought: this has been a two year investigation, which means that it was ongoing a year ago, so the Saints knew that the chickens were going to come home to roost sooner or later. Maybe that played a role in their wishing to trade this year's pick away last year; they knew that if they wanted to use it, that might be the only way. Hmmmmm.

1 comment:

Roger Owen Green said...

Oh, I think Goddell can nix their highest pick THIS year AND their #1 next year.