Gregg Williams isn’t the first insane lunatic to be tasked with leading young men pumped with adrenaline. But knowing what we now know about Williams and his bounty program, he’s become a different breed of raving madman, the kind whose sheer arrogance and idiocy leads to a payment plan for injuring opponents that lasted for three years, despite repeated warnings from the NFL.
I have trouble comprehending how anyone is still able to defend Williams and the Saints. After watching the video below that surfaced late last night, that seems impossible.
The video was posted by Sean Pamphilon, who relayed it to Yahoo’s Michael Silver, and it’s an edited version of Williams’ speech to his defense the day before the Saints playoff loss to San Francisco, which was his final game as the defensive coordinator in New Orleans, and likely his final game as an NFL coach in any capacity. Pampilon, who directed the critically acclaimed documentary “Run Ricky Run” that was part of the ESPN 30 for 30 series, was working on a film about Steve Gleason, the former Saints safety who has ALS.
The audio he captured was so disturbing that he was compelled to feed it to the fiery teeth of the Interwebs. If you listen closely, you’ll think a rabid dog is speaking. But no, it’s just Williams.
Umm it’s a little NSFW. A little.
Pamphilon also told Silver that at one point Williams did the ol’ show me the money hand gesture when he was talking about opening a case of whoop ass on Alex Smith, the kind of case that comes with a complementary concussion. He was making it clear that there was a price tag dangling from Smith’s head, and that those who executed the instructions in his war speech would be paid handsomely.
Let’s pause for a moment of sober thought here, which has been a rare exercise as each new piece of damning evidence directed at both Williams and the Saints surfaces. There’s some initial shock while listening to Williams speak because of the passionate conviction that accompanies every syllable. But his tone and language, and his maniacal frothing while speaking is not unique. Don’t let that distract you, because it’s the content of his words that matters.
Those words are laced with orders that exceed acceptable physicality. The few who are still stubbornly defending the Saints’ bounty scheme are clinging to two main arguments:
1. Everyone’s doing it, and the Saints were just caught.
2. Football is an inherently violent game and injuries will happen, bounty or not.
Again, the first crooked line of reasoning is easily refuted by the Saints’ arrogance, and Williams’ willingness to keep his program going for three years. If there was any life in the second defense, Williams destroyed it with this speech.
Targeting and testing pre-existing injuries is commonplace, but plotting and paying to invent new ones on the field isn’t. When Williams repeated his favorite motivational theme and said “kill the head and the body will die,” it wasn’t a metaphor. He then followed that by telling his players that when Frank Gore is running, he’d like to see his head contorted into a position that requires a severe rotation.
“We want him running sideways,” he said. “We want his head sideways.”
Even Pamphilon thought the head reference was a metaphor, and a piece of linguistic fire inserted by a coach whose veins were flowing with some combination of adrenaline and nitro glycerin. But the references continued.
“Every single one of you, before you get off that pile, affect the head. Early, affect the head. Continue, touch and hit the head.”
He told his players to remind Kyle Williams of his concussion history, something the Giants also did a week later. The difference here is the multiple targets Williams placed, including the crosshairs specifically hovering on Michael Crabtree’s ACL.
“He becomes human when we take out that ACL,” he said.
Oh, and Gore again.
“We need to decide on how many times we can beat Gore’s head.”
It all adds up to a culture of both arrogance, and blatant ignorance towards the consequences of his insanity. Every week there are players whose careers are altered because of ACL tears, and ask Steve Young about concussions. The head is not a part of the body that operates well when it’s sideways. His speech further highlights the severity of Williams’ mindset and approach to inflicting harm, and his disregard for any consequences despite his full knowledge that there was a camera in the room filming a documentary.
There will always be a Helen Lovejoy aspect to this story, and my intention isn’t just to raise the volume of an alarm that’s already blaring. But more importantly, this shows the extremely passive approach of Sean Payton and Tom Benson if they either didn’t know about the bounties (as Benson claims), or they didn’t realize the depth of Williams’ scheme. Where was Payton as his defensive coordinator was instructing players to rip ACLs, and turn heads sideways?
Williams has taken the brunt of the public criticism because he’s the leader. Who’s worse, though: the lunatic, or the men above him who willfully ignore his lunacy?
Good luck with that appeal, Sean.