Bounty probe raises questions about NFL ..
Tuesday, March 6, 2012 3:20 pm
In no way do I condone so-called bounty systems, but I'm also opposed to rushing to judgment, and I can't stand hypocrisy. The NFL's investigation into the New Orleans Saints' bounty program — and the media/fan reaction to it — certainly raises questions.
Before the league starts going crazy in punishing Gregg Williams, New Orleans' Saints executives and players, it would be helpful to examine this question: what qualifies as dirty play? What actions would qualify as over the line of decency? Are we really to believe that it's evil for players to offer cash awards to each other for making successful football plays?
This is football, a gladiator sport. The game's inherent violence is among the top reasons for the sport's vast popularity in America. It's a game of collisions, hard hits and, yes, injuries. Defenses design game plans that give them the best chance of attacking the opposing quarterback. Teams pay big money to pass rushers. NFL Films and the networks will show you plenty of highlights of big hits and crashes. You can't sanitize this game. It is what it is. This is the football culture; fans love this stuff. If they didn't, football wouldn't be the most popular game we have.
That doesn't mean there should be bounty programs. But not all "bounties" are the same. If Gregg Williams or any coach specifically dangled money as a reward for taking out a player's knee or zeroing in on a QB's head, then that's beyond the pale. Severe punishment is warranted.
But it's also true that some of this "bounty" stuff is traditional and rather harmless. If you have been paying attention to this story from all angles, you've seen NFL players from multiple decades come forward to say that this has always been a part of the game. Players have mostly taken it upon themselves to motivate each other by setting up rewards for hard hits, interceptions, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, etc.
That's done at the college level, too. Except that the staff hands out helmet decals instead of cash rewards.
Understand that hard hits aren't necessarily dirty hits. There is a difference. Unless the NFL wants to switch to two-hand-touch rules, hard hits can never be legislated out of the game.
The league should continue to crack down on dirty hits. Absolutely. But if you're the kind of person that's surprised by the reality that NFL players like to deliver hard hits to opponents — and celebrate these smackdowns in the locker room or meeting rooms — then I suppose you would be startled to discover that McDonald's sells Big Macs and french fries.
Many players are testifying that these "bounties" for hits and turnovers are routine NFL business. This is what MLB London Fletcher, the former Ram, had to say on the NFL Network:
"I have heard about an incentive pool that they had amongst players, and that’s not uncommon around the National Football League. You hear that goes on all the time, where a guy may offer a guy 100 bucks if he goes and gets a tackle inside the 20, or a running back an incentive if he gets over 100 yards rushing, an incentive for a guy if he gets interceptions, things like that.
“That happens all the time around the National Football League, and it’s not unique to Gregg Williams, it’s not unique to the Washington Redskins, the Buffalo Bills, the New Orleans Saints. That happens throughout the league."
Fletcher, by the way, played for Williams in Buffalo and then Washington. What was his experience?
"He was my head coach in Buffalo, my defensive coordinator in Washington. I’ve known him for over 10 years," Fletcher told the NFL Network. "I was extremely shocked to hear his role in this whole bounty thing (in New Orleans), because never at any point in time through the course of my relationship with Gregg Williams — either as my head coach or my defensive coordinator in Washington — did he ever get in front of us as a group and say I’m gonna give you X amount of dollars to go out and injure a player. He never did that, nor has any other coach that I’ve ever played for ever done that."
I think the term "bounty" has become a catch-all cliche. I think part of the problem is verbiage. A "bounty" wouldn't describe the process of players slipping cash to each other for making INTs, causing fumbles, or making a key stop on third down.
That would be a small financial incentive, and if you think that there should be rules against that, fine. I would agree -- even it's petty and harmless stuff. But cash rewards for an important pickoff or sack ... how in any way would that fit the "bounty" description? It doesn't.
I have some questions:
* Where was the NFL early in 2010, when this passage appeared in Sports Illustrated in a story that discussed the aggressive nature of the Saints' defense under Gregg Williams?
From SI: "When he (Williams) met with rookie defenders in the spring for their first on-field session, his message was pointed and succinct: “Knock ‘em the f—- out.” He repeated himself when the veterans arrived and continued to repeat himself during the season."
Did NFL commissioner Roger Goodell send his security force to New Orleans to look into those claims? If not, then why not?
And where was the media outrage over the comments?
* Where was the media outrage when Williams popped off before the Saints' Super Bowl clash with the Indianapolis Colts to end the 2009 seasons?
In a radio interview less than two weeks before the game, Williams emphasized the need to go after Colts QB Peyton Manning. "When we do get to him," Williams said, "we’re going to have to make sure he gets a couple ‘remember me’ shots. When you put too much of that type of worry on a warrior’s mind, he doesn’t play all out.”
No. 1, isn't that the basic idea of a pass rush, to rattle the QB and disrupt his comfort and timing? Isn't a defense supposed to batter a QB (within the rules) and gradually weaken him as the game goes along? My gosh, when Kurt Warner ran the Greatest Show on Turf in STL, that was pretty much the defensive game plan for every game — hit him early, hit him often.
Later, when Williams was asked about the Manning comments, he responded: "I don’t know what I should’ve said. Maybe I should have blown him kisses or sent him a Hallmark Valentine’s Day card, but that would not have sent the right message to our defense."
The Saints' ability to pressure Manning certainly played a role in the Saints' win.
No. 2, but if others believed Williams' comments were out of line, and indicative of outlaw behavior, then I repeat: where was the football media, and where was the league office? Williams' comments got a lot of attention during Super Bowl week. I thought he was guilty of having a big mouth, and guilty of being a poser. But pardon me for believing that it was actually a good idea for Williams to get his guys cranked up to hit Manning. You know ... this kind of helps stop a passing game.
* If Williams' defenses were so dirty, then why isn't that reflected in the NFL fines levied against those defenses? With a hat tip to the web site www.justfines.com here's a look at the penalties slapped on Williams' defenses in recent stops:
• During Williams' time as head coach at Buffalo from 2001-2004, the Bills' defense incurred no fines for dirty hits. None. Granted, this was an earlier time, and back then the NFL didn't make a big deal out of dirty hits. The game has changed since then. But still: no fines. A few of those old Bills have said there was a bounty system in place, set up by Williams. That may have been true, but the NFL didn't see any activity that warranted a fine.
• Williams was Washington's defensive coordinator between 2004-2007. In those four seasons, the Redskins were fined six times, total. Six times in 64 regular-season games? Geez, someone call the FBI. What a crime spree.
• In his only season (2008) as the DC in Jacksonville, the Jaguars were fined one time by the NFL.
• Next stop, New Orleans. In 2009 the Saints were fined one time during the regular season. One. Time. Now, there was undeniably some rough stuff in the NFC Championship Game; the Saints clearly crossed the line in some of their hits on Minnesota QB Brett Favre. The NFL fined four Saints players for their hits in that game; three involved Favre.
• In 2010, the Saints were fined three times. The three "illegal" hits were made on quarterbacks. Only nine teams of the league's 32 teams were fined fewer times than the Saints.
• As I wrote this, no league-wide figures were available for the 2011 season. But in my quick research, the most I could find were four fines against members of the New Orleans defense. And two were levied against the same player (safety Roman Harper) in one game.
I suppose I'm confused. Here you had this outlaw, renegade, out of control coach setting up bounties and sharpening a goon squad to wipe out helpless QBs with dirty hits ... and where was the NFL? Did the NFL miss all of the dirty deeds? Wouldn't you expect more fines than this? Did the folks in the NFL office miss all of these tawdry, disgusting "kill shots" on QBs? Makes no sense. There seems to be an obvious disconnect between the Williams' reputation and the reality.
Williams will likely be suspended for a very long time. He will be suspended for being part of a so-called bounty system (which was wrong of him) and because the NFL needs to make an example of a high-profile coach. Who knows, the Rams may even engage in hypocrisy and phoniness by firing him. (Again: the Rams certainly were aware of Williams' rep before they hired him; he is exactly who they thought he was. And to pretend otherwise would be the epitome of weasel behavior on the Rams' part.)
But this is what the league and the NFL media won't tell you:
Gregg Williams is the NFL.
Re: Bounty probe raises questions about NFL ..
Quite evident: Mr. Miklasz reads ClanRam! ;)
Re: Bounty probe raises questions about NFL ..
Don't often say this about Bernie but......great Article.
Fletcher's words should count for something somewhere.
Someone will likely suggest he's just trying to avoid criminal charges however:|
Re: Bounty probe raises questions about NFL ..
Is the word BOUNTY accurate? Or should it be REWARD?