I refuse to call it "Bounty Gate." I don't care if putting the phrase in my article title nets me 5 billion page views. I refuse. I refuse! I REFUSE!!!
A better title is, perhaps, "Hubris Gate," or, my personal favorite, The-Ass*le-New-Orleans-Coach-Finally-Got-Caught... Gate.
If you missed all the craziness Friday when the New Orleans Saints bounty story broke, you can watch yours truly recap the details at SB Nation's new YouTube channel. Yes, that's me to the right, beard and big hair. Dan Rubenstein is to your viewer left, former SI writer who SB Nation brought over to help dribbling idiots like me appear semi-intelligent on camera.
Anyway, SB Nation's YouTube channel launched last week (hey, you should subscribe!), and it has a wide variety of programming, including segments like this one where the network's "NFL Expert" (a.k.a., the douche with the beard) talks about all the goings-on in the world of pro football.
One thing we briefly touched on in the video segment, which I will expound upon here, is how the bounty system that former-Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams used in New Orleans, as well as in earlier coaching stints in places like Washington and Buffalo, directly effected the Colts and is, in many ways, partly responsible for the the team's 2-14 2011 season.
Oh, and make no mistake, the NFL is going to take a giant dump on Gregg Williams for this huge embarrassment. He was summoned to New York today to, effectively, beg Commissioner Roger Goodell not to ban him for life, which Goodell might very well do.
What Williams did
The NFL conducted a two-year investigation into Williams' activities during his stint as defensive coordinator in New Orleans. The league determined that Williams had organized and implemented a "bounty system" whereby he would personally pay players extra money outside of their contracts to intentionally injure opposing team's players. This information is critical because, sadly, it places a very big * next to New Orleans Super Bowl victory in 2010. Part of the reason the Saints played in that game was because they injured quarterback Kurt Warner in the divisional playoff round (concussion) and Brett Favre in the NFC Championship (ankle).
In fact, Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma was implicated in the system, reportedly placing $10,000 on a table prior to the NFC Championship and saying the money was for the player who "knocked out" Favre.
Obviously, any type of "bounty system" violates league rules. Not only does it involve player safety issues, but paying players money outside their contracts is a very severe violation of the salary cap.
It's important to point out that the league's investigation was limited solely to Williams' actions in New Orleans. Since that report was made public Friday, new reports have surfaced from other sources that Williams ran this type of program in Washington (where he was DC) and Buffalo (where he was a head coach), and Tennessee (DC again). Williams reportedly did not reveal to the league he was organizing "bounty systems" at those franchises while the league was investigating him.
Yeah, Williams is toast, and the Saints are seriously screwed.
How it all involves the Colts
Aside from the fact that New Orleans defeated Indianapolis in Super Bowl XLVI, the Williams "bounty system" stems back to his days in Washington. Now, this is critical because former-Colts head coach Tony Dungy stated last year that, in his opinion, the neck issues that have plagued Peyton Manning in recent years started when he took a vicious hit from Washington defensive end Phillip Daniels during a 2006 regular season game. Daniels nearly ripped Manning's head off on a play that, if it happened today, Daniels would have been flagged, kicked out of the game, and likely suspended.
In 2006, he was only fined $5,000. There wasn't even a flag on the play.
"The guy wouldn't let go of my head," Manning said after the game of Daniels, who was fined $5,000 by the NFL for the hit. "I looked at my helmet to see if my head was in it."
Again, Washington defensive players head-hunting in 2006, a year where we now know Williams had an active "bounty system" in place. If I have to spell it out any further for you, stop reading and re-watch the video.
By the way, Daniels has been one of Williams strongest defenders the last three days since the bounty story broke. He also confirmed that there was a "bounty system" in DC, and that he received compensation for bounties via Williams.
What happens now?
The NFL is currently discussing what sort of punishment they will place on the Saints and Williams. Adding to this drama is the revelation that both Saints head coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis knew of the "bounty system," and they did nothing to stop it.
In fact, not only did they not stop it, they brazenly ignored an order from owner Tom Benson who, after learning that the bounty activities were taking place, told Loomis and Payton to cease them. The bounties continued despite Benson's orders. Now, the Saints are likely looking at a penalty that will make "Spygate" look tame.
Seriously, how do Loomis and Payton still have jobs?
- The owner issues an order to stop an activity that so violates league rules it borders on comical.
- They ignore it.
- They get caught, and are now likely looking at lengthy suspension next year.
I'm not one to scream, "RAWWWWWR! SAINTS MUST FORFEIT THEIR SUPER BOWL! THE COLTS REALLY WON THAT GAME RAAAWWWWWWRRRRR!" However, this does taint their win. It taints their franchise. The great story that was "Aints No More," the lovable losers finally winning a championship, has now been revealed as a fraud. A sham. A crock.
If Tom Benson had even an ounce of dignity, he'd fire both Loomis and Payton. The longer they remain in that organization, the more the Saints revert back to the "Aints." Oh, and look for the Rams to fire Williams, who they hired as their defensive coordinator this offseason. They absolutely have to. The man is toxic waste, and everything he does from this point forward will be under a big microscope. That is, if he is even allowed to coach in this league anymore.
The positives in all this are that the Colts did not hire Jeff Fisher as their head coach this offseason, even though Jim Irsay reportedly tried to do so even though Jim Caldwell had yet to be fired at that time. Had Fisher been hired, he likely would have brought Williams with him, and this kind of embarrassment is not something the Colts need right now. They're too busy trying to part ways with their old, injured quarterback... a quarterback who likely got that injury from Gregg Williams and his bounty hunters.
It's also important to note that while I am sure bounties are somewhat common between players, what is uncommon is a coach actively organizing such systems, and then getting caught. Several coaches, like Dungy and Greg Blache, despise such systems. Even some of Williams former players found the activities disgusting, like former-defensive back Cory Wire, who played for Williams in Buffalo:
"What Williams did was wrong, and I know that now," Wire said. "My sense of normalcy was warped. I thought what I was doing was right."
Wire ended the career of Detroit Lions running back James Stewart with a clean hit in a 2003 preseason game. Wire had trouble justifying the idea of waylaying a man's livelihood against the rousing praise heaped upon him by teammates and coaches.
"Now, it's unthinkable that was my reality," Wire said. "I shattered James Stewart's shoulder, and he never played again. I was showered with praise for that. It's a shame that's how it was. Now I see how wrong that was."
Yes, football is a very violent game, and there are all sorts of hypocrisies involving the league and the players union trying to make an inherently violent game "safe" for the players. However, "bounties" take it too far. The league seems to recognize this, which is why they went after Williams. Hopefully, they will make an example of him and the Saints.
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