It’s now clear that former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was woefully under-punished.
This being the NFL, I’m sure there are a myriad of legal reasons why Williams is merely serving an indefinite suspension with a one-year minimum for his role as the impresario of the Saints’ pay-for-pain bounty system.
I also understand that the difference between an indefinite suspension and a lifetime ban is, in large measure, semantic.
I’ll even accept the idea that bounties and the intentional infliction of harm have long been part of NFL game plans. Gregg Williams, it’s argued, is just a symptom of the football culture.
OK … so?
Any way you look at it, the time has come for that culture to die. Or, in Williams’ parlance, “kill the [expletive] head.”
Roger Goodell should do to Williams’ career what Williams tried to do to others. End it.
Make a permanent example of Gregg Williams. Make the symbolism substantive. Ban him for life.
It’s worth noting the context to his recently released remarks. Filmmaker Sean Pamphilon had been granted access to the Saints’ inner-workings as part of a documentary on Steve Gleason, a former special teams player suffering from ALS. The existence and details of the tape were reported late Wednesday by Yahoo! Sports’ Mike Silver, who said, to the best of his knowledge, Roger Goodell and his investigators didn’t know of it during their investigation.
This is a crucial point, as the tape was made January 13, the night before the Saints played the 49ers in the playoffs. Earlier in the month, the NFL notified owner Tom Benson that the league’s bounty investigation had been re-opened. Benson instructed general manager Mickey Loomis to make sure there was no bounty system, and if there was, to have it cease immediately.
Loomis responded with what the NFL called “cursory inquiries” of both Williams and head coach Sean Payton. Payton’s handling of the matter was purely perfunctory, taking “no action to ensure that any bounty program was discontinued.” In other words, the head coach has no business appealing his one-season suspension. He, too, deserves more time.
A coach under his watch instructed players to maim other players, to aim for their already damaged parts, orthopedic and neurological. Worse still, that coach was effectively given impunity.
Football is a paternalistic game. Accountability is supposed to be a given, authority unchallenged. Dissent is tantamount to rebellion.
This isn’t like baseball or basketball. Even the most veteran players lack irony. They believe — literally — in their coaches’ metaphors. If a madman like Gregg Williams tells them that football is war, then it must be so.
Football, remember, is the sport that transforms coaches into generals and inspirational speakers. The pregame speech is part of American lore. Perhaps Williams — who delivered his infamous address at a hotel outside San Francisco — considered himself part of that grand tradition, going back to Knute Rockne. In truth, he’s a demonic preacher.
“A mind troubled by doubt cannot focus on victory,” he said.
In other words, a conscience is a liability. Players are better off as sociopaths.
“We’ve got to do everything in the world to make sure we kill Frank Gore’s head,” he said of the San Francisco running back. “ … We want his head sideways.”
Kill the head. What a phrase for a league desperately trying to extricate itself from long-standing concussion problem.
“Little 32,” said Williams, referring to Gore’s backup, “we want to knock the [expletive] out of him.” Even if he was already out of bounds. “We’ve got to turn that [expletive] over… Go and get that [expletive] on the sidelines.”
As for quarterback Alex Smith, whom the Saints had already targeted in a pre-season game, Williams called for his trademark “remember me” hits. According to Pamphilon, he punctuated this part of the sermon with a cash money gesture, rubbing his thumb against the tips of his forefingers.
Williams told his players to “clip” Vernon Davis’s previously injured ankles and target Michael Crabtree’s knee.
“Take out that outside ACL,” he said.
Of the already-concussed return specialist, Kyle Williams, the coordinator said: “We need to find out … about his concussion. We need to put a lick on him.”
Sure. NFL players accept the risk, right? What’s another guy with post-concussion syndrome?
For the record, 49ers safety Donte Whitner told FOXSports.com’s Alex Marvez that the league’s punishment seemed insufficient. “Something should be done about it to a higher extreme,” he said.
The highest extreme is in order now.
Proclamations of contrition are not to be trusted. After all, that was the whole point of Williams’ speech, to endorse life as a gridiron sociopath. “Never apologize for the way we compete,” said Williams. “If you’re in this room, you understand that. We don’t apologize.”
I have no doubt football is Williams’ life.
So now it’s up to the commissioner. Take it from him.