I have seen a ton of articles already about the National Football League reporting defensive guru Gregg Williams was using a “bounty system” while employed by the New Orleans Saints. He has been asked to visit league offices to discuss their security department findings on this subject.
Predictably, stories have appeared thereafter this was a recurring theme at other places Williams was employed previously.
Less predictable is each NFL fan’s reaction to all this. I guess it depends on your willingness to accept how football “works” in the real world…combined with your outlook for how it should “work.”
Many of us, including yours truly, took great exception to Commissioner Goodell’s recent attempts to police violence within the game of professional football. It wasn’t enough for him to regulate off-the field behavior. Within six months of assuming his mantle, a Personal Conduct Policy was already pushed into place and Goodell proceeded to play Judge, Jury and Executioner in all sorts of situations players and coaches found themselves in…outside the lines.
And while it seemed a little rushed…fine…fines and suspensions for these instances. The Commissioner should be looking out for the best interests of the game outside the lines. Publicity from multiple arrests, felony convictions…even spying on other teams…all things you would probably expect and hope the “big guy” would rule upon…iron fist as needed.
The irony is in the last couple of years, Roger let this power go to his head and he incorrectly decided to fix something that wasn’t wrong – the essence of the game – putting your opponent on the ground in any way possible.
A terrible, fatal mistake going inside the lines.
Violence is something the NFL and its fans have always “had both ways,” especially now that pro football is the biggest business/entertainment entity there is. Hits are a hit.
The league wishes its stars could be on the field all the time. The league’s broadcast partners would like to make that a reality. But that’s just…not…possible. Football is a sport where you know a player season (or career)…a team’s season (or future)…can end on one play. That’s always been the case and that always will be the case. No matter how you feel on this “bounty issue” rearing its ugly head this week, while it isn’t pretty to look at two facts can’t be disputed…one, there will always be players looking to take their opponent not only to the ground but off the field…two, there will always be players willing to wager among themselves who got the biggest hit…the most important hit.
Oh wait, there’s a third fact that can’t be disputed…as we find from hearing former disciples of Williams “check in” now…there have always been “bounty systems.” Here in Philadelphia, Buddy Ryan’s first name might as well have been “Bounty” when he coached here back in the day. The kind of activity being outlined is not “news,” no matter how much people want to sensationalize it. The league has tried to keep players and teams from condoning it. Yet, money is a great motivator. Lots of highly paid players have often said they helped “support” lesser-paid teammates by incentivizing their play, particularly on special teams.
However, Roger Goodell has a really, really big problem on his hands…of his own doing. Attaching a halo to his head before hitting the film room every Tuesday during the season, he has recently been deciding for all of us which hits have malicious and/or dangerous intent and which have not…in the process forcing coaches and players to read the tea leaves from his fluid rulings and try to re-learn their craft…their rules. He has actively been trying to cater and fulfill the unrealistic wishes of NFL broadcast partners to try to keep everyone in one piece all year long…like football players are stars of television series who always are guaranteed to appear in each episode…each season.
But “Righteous Roger” can’t push this bounty/violence thing too much. He’s going to hand down hefty fines and suspensions, wagging his finger in every camera’s direction and issuing multiple PR memos…but he’s first and foremost going to meet with all concerned and get them to sign away their rights to push back on his eventual rulings first.
He can’t let this get to a court room. Just can’t.
If he makes too big a deal of this and tries to take away too much money and the reasonable ability to earn a living from Williams…or any of the players involved for that matter…lawyers will be lined up around the block to work for free just for the free publicity that will come from all the resulting law suits.
Can you imagine the NFL trying to deny in a court of law they don’t use violence, or violent images, to actively promote their sport?
He also has to navigate the financial aspects of his security department’s “revelations.” Yes, these guys make a ton of money and the amounts talked about here are pocket change…but any income they gain from employment with the knowledge of their employer…outside of their contract…is apparently a big no-no.
In other words, getting compensated for breaking a knee cap is circumventing the league salary cap.
Oh, and there’s the matter of unreported taxable income, regardless of the amounts.
IRS on Line 1.
Football is a violent game with violent people playing it. Roger went inside the lines and tried to tinker with the essence of the sport. Like most folks who fail to take care and stay outside the lines when football is played, he just voluntarily took a big hit.
Many coaches, players and fans already are disenchanted with his meddling in the essence of football. This latest “news” wouldn’t be as big of a controversy if he hadn’t dabbled in fixing something not broken in the first place.
If he doesn’t navigate these rising, rough seas appropriately, he may very well have a mutiny…on the bounty.