Hidden under the stockpile of hype and publicity surrounding the Super Bowl XLVII this weekend, there’s another overshadowed NFL storyline that deserves special attention. And it has little to do with Sunday’s match-up. Gregg Williams, the former defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints, started interviewing for jobs. But potential employers beware — this is no average job seeker.
Williams’ résumé has the most glaring accolade of being the orchestrator of one of the most egregious scandals in NFL history, one that ousted him from coaching for the past year. Following the 2011-12 season, he was suspended indefinitely after an investigation into the Saints. This produced evidence that Williams ran a bounty program in which players were paid, no less bribed, by the coaching staff to intentionally injure opponents, with the prize money amounts based on the significance of the injury.
Soon after, several former colleagues confirmed he had instituted similar systems with his previous teams. An audio recording that surfaced of Williams targeting players and specific injuries with the Saints was his undoing, and he’s been out of the league since, serving the sentence handed down by commissioner Roger Goodell. And although the involved players’ suspensions were lifted, Williams has been forced into unemployment -- at least, it appears, until now.
Reports began circling earlier this week that Williams, who subsequently interviewed with the Tennessee Titans, was officially allowed to start looking for work. Furthermore, it is possible his suspension could come to an end before kickoff on Sunday. This, of course, is very conveniently timed before commissioner Goodell must be present for the big game in New Orleans. The community has not exactly been favorable toward him after he disciplined the Saints over the situation. With that, it seems likely the defensive guru will be back on the sideline.
But in my opinion, Williams should stay unemployed.
Hear me now, Mr. Goodell and the rest of the NFL: Not only should Williams not be reinstated now, but he deserves to be banned from coaching in the league for life.
This is a man who oversaw a system with the purpose to intentionally injure people, which constitutes assault in any other context. He maliciously and knowingly put other players’ health, safety and careers in jeopardy for his own benefit. He methodically placed bounties during certain games on specific players, notably veteran quarterbacks Brett Favre and Kurt Warner, and then a score of previously injured 49ers during the playoffs with the objective of re-injuring them.
In my eyes, Williams is scum. These painfully inhumane actions are nothing short of cowardly. But if the NFL allows him back into coaching, the league has sunk to his level, if not lower.
This is a sport that has become so inspired recently to find new ways to protect its players. With all the controversy surrounding the long-term effects of the sport, you’d think they’d at least target something in the short term — something they can control. The NFL has a much-needed opportunity to make a statement here. And not acting upon that opportunity is a tragedy in every way. In all honesty, it makes me sick to think Williams can get away with it.
Say what you will about Roger Goodell overstepping his bounds, taking his power as commissioner above its limits, but someone out there has to be the guy who brings down the hammer. That’s been his approach all along. Why stop now? One has to question the actual agenda here. I’ve at times been one to applaud Goodell for his strict overseeing of a league that has often appeared to be spiraling out of control.
But, now I can’t figure it out. Is this about money and ratings? Was the initial punishment about protecting the shield, as Goodell would say, or just the league’s image? Do the ringleaders in the NFL actually care about player safety, or were they just trying to tell the public what it wanted to hear? These are all questions the league should address sooner rather than later. But first thing's first: Gregg Williams has no business being in this league.
The way I see it, Williams doesn’t deserve to be given the privilege of coaching again. He belongs where he is — without a job, and left as an example of what rock bottom really means.