By now, if you're a relative fan of the sport of football at all, you've heard all about the Saints "Bounty" system that has been uncovered by the NFL. There's the cover up at the top level that is going to be an interesting mess for the league to sift through. There's the involvement of Mike Ornstein the convicted felon in contributing money to the pot but no one knows why. There's the whole "bounty trail" that stretches through Gregg Williams career.
Yet, the thing that gets people going is the actual act itself. The idea of a "bounty" being placed. Cash being given for injuring, cart offs and such. The rhetoric behind "kill shots" and being rewarded for injuring the opposition.
After an entire weekend of hearing it debated, reading plenty of what folks were saying and mulling it over there is a pretty clear disconnect between myself, a handful of other writers, a lot of other defensive ball players and the rest of the writers and fans out there.
I've found that to be the biggest road block in having this discussion with other people. Just the absolutely "different side of the tracks" view of the situation. People hear "bounty" and they run off the deep end. The word itself is a bit of a misnomer for what's actually going on. Williams' reference of a pay for performance is far more accurate. A reward is probably the best way to describe it.
Before we I get further into explaining why I'm not anywhere near the Gregg Williams banned for life train we do need to be clear; punishment is coming and rightfully so. You lie to Goodell and you get banged on. You break the rules you pay for it. Pretty simple, straight up and down so there's no reason to say they shouldn't be punished or that they might escape the hammer. It's coming and because they lied the chances they can escape are the proverbial snowballs chance in hell.
So back to Gregg Williams, this monster, this despicable human being who has somehow eroded the fabric of what sport is supposed to be.
Stop. Stop it people. Seriously.
A friend said it best in an email, the Saints and the Redskins and the Bills and anyone else who used a "bounty system" were rewarding players with cash for things that they wanted the guys to do anyways.
It is less about adding things to the mix of defensive football, it is more akin to paying guys a reward for the stuff you've been coaching them to do from the beginning. Hell, it is rewarding guys for things that they have been coached to do for most of their lives as defensive players.
If you get a shot on the quarterback, you take it. Play in the gray. If you can hit a quarterback who has thrown the ball by just taking a step or so then do it. Hit to the echo of the whistle. Hit them until their feet hit the white. If they're standing by the pile and the whistle hasn't blown knock their dick in the dirt.
Chris Mortensen said it very well yesterday:
Said on SC that Gregg Williams didn't invent bounties. Helmet stickers in HS & college 4 big hits. Culture change, ok, but be real here— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) March 5, 2012
That's what you're programmed to do as a defensive player. If the running back has coming back from an ankle injury then you get on that ankle in the pile. If the quarterback wants to "be a man" and stand in the pocket then you do what you can to knock him out. Let's see what number two looks like. Hell, every defensive lineman's dream, outside of the scoop and score or pick-6, is to knockout a quarterback.
So I think the large part of the disconnect sits in looking at the "bounty system" as a reward versus an incentive. Sure it functions as both a reward and an incentive but the root of this system is not that it gives guys an incentive to do things they wouldn't normally do, rather the root is that the players are getting kicked money to do things the coaches have wanted them to do anyways.
This is cashed out helmet stickers. This is a cashed out spot on the Monday morning team meeting highlight tape. This is what defensive guys are taught to do. Once the ball's kicked and the whistles blown they're doing what they're coached, not running around thinking "man, I can make $5,000."
Sure, it does sound brutal because wrapping one's mind around the idea of getting rewarded more for having someone carted off is not an easy thing. But the issue is the assumption that this guy is only injured or carted off because of the "bounty system" and that's just wholly untrue. With or without a "bounty system" guys are still going to take advantage of these type of kill shots on opponents.
To be honest, if a guy is not going to take the shot on a quarterback standing in the pocket or a wide receiver crossing the middle I'm not really sure that I'd be all that gungho about playing with him. For a defensive player that sort of opportunity, to borrow a phrase from my old coach "that shit should make your dick hard, son."
With player safety being pushed to the forefront there are obviously conflicting ideals at the cultural level as the new penalties and fines have tried to stop guys from taking advantage of these opportunities. Guys that play ball are wired differently. Offensive players' goal? Score touchdowns and not get knocked out. Defensive players' goal? Stop team from scoring and knock them out.
If you want to argue about the culture being wrong and try to start some sort of grassroots culture changing move because of this new revelation that's definitely an argument to have. As Mortensen said the culture starts early. Sit in any defensive meeting room at the high school or college level and watch the players and coaches react to a linebacker knocking out the oppositions best player. The praise, the back slapping, the "Oh SHIT!" moments, the "attaboy" from the coach will be there. Gregg Williams took it to the next level and put some money with all of those things.
So no I don't think Gregg Williams is some despicable monster. But oh, he will likely have hell to pay when he meets with Roger Goodell. The league gets a chance to look tough on safety, they can easily pin every part of this down on Gregg Williams and the Saints and the outrage over the "bounty system" and the coming punishment will steer the story; not the Mike Ornstein situation which is a huge deal and not the actual issue of changing the culture of the league where this isn't a rarity.
Nope the system punishes the guy and team that got caught, allows the culture to keep existing as long as people button up their upper lip and keep raking in cash, hand over fist.