Back in January of 2009 Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy was working to replace defensive coordinator Bob Sanders, who McCarthy fired after the 2008 season. Reports at the time had McCarthy first offering the job to Mike Nolan, who had worked with McCarthy in San Francisco. Nolan turned down McCarthy to go work for Josh McDaniels in Denver. Next McCarthy reportedly offered to hand the reigns of his defense over to Gregg Williams, who ended up choosing the New Orleans Saints instead.
Talk about your close calls.
As everyone knows now, McCarthy ended up hiring long-time defensive guru Dom Capers to turn his defense around and the two have a Super Bowl ring to show for their partnership. Williams of course has his own Super Bowl ring, having helped the Saints win a championship of their own the year before the Packers did.
Williams is also staring down the barrel of what could possibly be a lifetime suspension from the NFL.
After the NFL dropped its bombshell on Friday afternoon regarding its investigation into Williams’ defense in New Orleans and its participation in what is known as a “bounty” system, where players were, among other things, paid a nominal cash bonus for taking certain players out of a game due to injury, reports have started to surface about the other stops along Williams’ coaching career.
Williams was administering a bounty system in New Orleans.
Williams was administering a bounty system in Washington.
Williams was administering a bounty system in Buffalo.
Williams was administering a bounty system in Tennessee.
And yes, you can bet that had he taken McCarthy’s offer, he would have been administering a bounty system in Green Bay.
The thing that makes the situation in New Orleans so grotesque is the knowledge that both the head coach and general manager had of what was going on and how nothing was done about it. Nothing. Would Mike McCarthy or Ted Thompson have turned the same blind eye? My gut says no, but that’s providing that they would have known about it. My hunch is that Williams did little to keep the bounty system under wraps from Payton because this particular head coach had the type of disposition where he didn’t seem to have a problem with it. In earlier stops, such as with the Redskins under Joe Gibbs, the head coach was reportedly kept in the dark - most likely because Williams knew Gibbs would object to the practice.
With nothing but my impression of McCarthy to work from, I get the sense that McCarthy would not have been told.
Now, lets be clear about what we’re talking about here, for the crowd that likes to parrot some version of the line “This has been around forever. Every team has a sort of self-contained pay-for-performance aspect to it.” Yes, but there is a big difference between the Packers’ receivers buying each other Best Buy gift cards and their coordinator offering his own money to his players for them to injure key opposing players and take them out of the game.
As one of Williams’ former players told the Washington Post:
He called it a ‘kill shot,’ meaning you got good money for taking another player out of the game who meant something to that team. I never got money myself, but I know folks who did. Sean Taylor made more money than all of us, I can tell you that.
Now, there are Packers fans out there that probably wouldn’t mind a little more nastiness out of their teams’ defense, to see a ‘kill shot’ or two administered on their opponents, to which I say – not like this. The intent is to stop the offense and in the process make them remember who did so. The intent should never be to intentionally hurt someone. Will injuries happen? Of course, its a brutal game. But participating in brutality doesn’t mean automatically reducing the men on the field into monsters. Football is a violent game, but there is a right way and a wrong way to play it, and I happen to think Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy have done a good job making sure their team plays the game the right way.
Both of them dodged a major bullet when Gregg Williams decided to coach in New Orleans rather than in Green Bay. The NFL is reportedly mulling over severe punishments not only for Williams but for Payton, general manager Mickey Loomis and fines and draft pick losses for the Saints organization – not to mention the fact that the Saints could be held liable in court.
The Packers got lucky.