As this story has unfolded, it’s sparked so much debate among NFL experts and fans alike. Like most anything else, there is a proverbial fence where some sit on one side and some sit on the other. The dividing line: player safety vs. "old-school" football.
Love him or hate him, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has ushered in a new era of professional football where player safety takes precedence above all else. Rules are being created and modified to protect players; most of all quarterbacks as they are viewed as the league’s premier players and are the driving force behind the league’s recent offense-comes-first mentality.
Though the NFL’s initial findings on the New Orleans Saints were quite disturbing and damning enough on its own, the recently released audio which was taken by documentary film-maker Sean Pamphilon adds even more fuel to the fire, only few hours before several members of the Saints franchise were set to appeal their suspensions, including head coach Sean Payton.
(After the "Jump", more on the recent developments of "Bounty-Gate" and a link to hear Gregg Williams inside the Saints’ locker room.)
Here is a clip of Gregg Williams’ speech to his players on January 13th, 2012, just before the Saints were due to take on the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC’s divisional round of the playoffs: Link (WARNING: Audio contains language which may be considered inappropriate for some viewers)
To say the least, Williams’ speech is shocking. Perhaps never before has this kind of "inside peek" behind the NFL been released for the public to see.
In his "speech", Williams emphasizes things like causing major bodily harm to certain members of the 49ers offense, even going so far as to instruct his players to target existing injuries or areas of the body where certain 49ers have had significant injuries in the past. One of Williams’ favorite phrases "Kill the head and the body will die", is not only disturbing, but repeated throughout his "speech" to his players as somewhat of a "central theme".
On 49ers start running back Frank Gore, Williams says:
"We’ve got to do everything in the world to make sure we kill Frank Gore’s head. We want him running sideways-we want his head sideways"
Williams goes on to say:
"We need to decide on how many times we can beat Frank Gore’s head"
On 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree, Williams says:
"We need to decide whether Crabtree wants to be a fake-ass primadonna, or he wants to be a tough-guy. We need to find it out. He becomes human when we f---ing take out that outside ACL.
Williams also instructs and encourages his players to play between the whistle and inflict and tally up as many shots to the 49ers’ heads as possible:
"Every single one of you, before you get off the pile, affect the head. Early, affect the head. Continue, touch and hit the head."
It’s hard to defend this type of behavior in a league that is supposed to provide and display "professional" football, but many contend that it’s part a of the "culture" and that it’s ingrained into the inner-societies of both football coaches and players at a young age. Whether or not that’s truly the case, the moment your foot steps inside the door of the NFL’s ranks, this behavior should simply just end.
The priority for a defensive player and/or coach should always be to limit their opponent’s offense to as few yards and points as possible; it’s as simple as that. It should never be the priority, or mentality, that if you injure specific players on the other team that you’ll have a greater chance at winning ball games. It’s the defensive coach’s and player’s job to stop an offenses play from unfolding and resulting in yards gained or points on the board. After all, that’s why these guys get paid hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, right? They aren’t getting paid to hurt people.
Some may also argue that since this could be a "culture" problem that reaches back into the past when many of these players and coaches were getting started in football, that surely the Saints aren’t the only team that have had a bounty-system or have encouraged inflicting serious bodily harm on others. While that may be true, the evidence is pointed squarely at the Saints at this particular time and no leniency should be had upon them simply because other teams might have had bounties or intended to injure. If at some point in the near future evidence is found that proves other teams around the NFL have engaged in similar activities, then, and only then, can we look back and decide whether or not the Saints’ punishment was just.
Quite simply, this type of behavior doesn’t belong in the NFL. It doesn’t matter whether or not it’s become a part of the "culture" over the years. For a league where players and coaches can take pride in themselves for being called "professionals" and reaching the pinnacle of professional American sports, these acts are low and shameful.
The Saints should have decided against an appeal and taken their punishments without incident. They should now move on in the hopes that they can restore their franchise’s image back to the team that once lifted an entire city out of the sea and put a reeling community back together after a terrible natural-disaster.
Side-note: Much of this post stemmed from a quick exchange I had with another Beatdown user: "Ravensfan89". Credit where credit is due. Much thanks.