And just when the NFL was making strides toward a safer league…
When word started to spread that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (Currently with the Rams, previously with the Saints, Jaguars, Redskins, and Bills, among others) had been the ring leader for a bounty program in New Orleans, the topic quickly became the most talked about story in sports. The latest scandal to hit professional football makes the last big scandal, Bill Belichick’s “Spygate” of 2007, seem like child’s play.
Commissioner Roger Goodell has earned a reputation for being heavy-handed when it comes to doling out punishment, and I can’t imagine he will change his ways for Williams or the Saints, or anyone else found to be involved. When the crime is as serious as paying players thousands of dollars to injure members of opposing teams, you would have to believe the punishment will be more than a slap on the wrist or a stern talking-to.
Five or ten years ago, this story might not have been quite as big of an issue, but in today’s NFL, it’s huge. The NFL of 2012 is a league that discourages any kind of unnecessary contact, and is doing everything possible to protect players, especially quarterbacks. It is no secret that Goodell does everything in his power to keep his high-profile quarterbacks upright, so that fact that most of the bounty targets have been quarterbacks doesn’t bode well for the guilty parties.
There is speculation that Saints players may have had extra motivation to knock former Cardinals QB Kurt Warner out of the game in their 2010 playoff matchup (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
So what do you think about this situation? Do you think a player would put a little extra into a tackle or a sack if he knew he had the potential to earn some quick cash? Could a linebacker’s motivation for giving 110% really be an extra thousand bucks?
For the last few days, I’ve been listening to both sides of the argument on various sports talk programs. I’ve heard the opinions of former players and coaches, NFL analysts, and guys who have no idea what’s going on. In my personal opinion, I don’t think the idea of receiving a (relatively) small amount of cash would change the way a player performs. I don’t think a player would go into a game thinking, “OK, I’m gonna go in there and knock this guy out, because an extra grand sounds pretty sweet.” I’m guessing most of the defensive players in the NFL go into each game with the goal of knocking out opposing players for fun…for pride…for football reasons.
Now…while I don’t think these bounties would have a huge effect on most players, I could see them at least having a small impact. Let’s say a linebacker is coming around the end on a blitz. The quarterback is just about to release the ball, and the linebacker has a decision to make…he can either pull up and avoid him (And potentially a penalty and fine, and a suspension if it’s James Harrison), or continue at full speed, driving into the QB. I think it would be somewhat ignorant to think that the idea of extra money wouldn’t at least run through a player’s head in the split second it takes to make the decision. My point is that the idea of receiving a little extra ‘cash money’ (As Wilmer Valderrama would say) can’t be ruled out in a situation like that.
"You see that crap, Joe? He walked off under his own power. What are we doing out there?" (Photo by US Presswire)
As many analysts have pointed out, these kinds of operations have been happening in the NFL for years. Whether it’s based on creating injuries, forcing turnovers, or scoring touchdowns, receiving money for performance isn’t anything new. The major problem with this particular bounty program is the mentality it encourages. If one player wants to give another player some kind of bonus for delivering a crushing blow, so what? But when coaches are preaching this to their players…it’s completely different. Football is a violent sport by nature, and players don’t need extra incentive for taking out the competition. Whether or not the bounties meant anything to the defensive players is irrelevant…it’s the concept that is concerning.
In an age where player safety is the most important issue in the NFL, Gregg Williams picked a bad time to preach violence.
Ah well…Saint Gregg doesn’t have a good ring to it, anyway.