Jan 7, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams watches pregame warmups prior to the game against the Detroit Lions in the 2011 NFC Wild Card Playoff game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-US PRESSWIRE
What is most troubling about this Saints scandal is not the idea that players intentionally tried to cause grievous injury to others, or the way some Saints fans have rejected reality in much the same way the body rejects ipecac.
It's how dumb Gregg Williams is.
Time and time again, evidence surfaces that as the Saints defensive coordinator, Williams was the epitome of the hubris and arrogance we love to hate as Falcons fans. There's the evidence, oral and more concrete, that he ran other bounty programs in other cities.
Now there's the audio that Yahoo!'s Michael Silver got his ink-stained paws on, a speech before the 49ers game in the playoffs where a fired up Gregg Williams curses, rants and raves his way through a speech that apparently references cash hits, targeting players with concussions and "affecting the head." It is, in my estimation, the single most damning thing that has come out of this entire scandal.
It's astonishing that after being warned that the NFL was on to his program that Williams would deliver an overt speech like this in front of a filmmaker. That's right: Sean Pamphilon was in the building for a film about the NFL and specifically special teams ace Steve Gleason, and he got the whole thing on audio. It is mind-bogglingly stupid that Williams would allow himself to be recorded, thus providing all the evidence Roger Goodell needs to put one big ass nail in the portly coordinator's coffin.
The fact that he appears to be either a master of hyperbolic rhetoric or a gray-haired psychopath is also deeply unsettling. Knowing he's not alone in his attitude—Pamphilon references two Giants players who talked about knocking out Kyle Williams, the 49ers special teamer with concussion issues—actually makes me a bit less cynical about Roger Goodell's safety efforts here. Whether he's doing this for the right reasons (player safety) or the wrong reasons (to protect the shield), there's an ugly undercurrent to the sport that it's in the best interest of the commissioner, the owners, the players and the fans to erase. It's already a violent, hard-hitting sport, which is a big part of its appeal.
It doesn't need Williams and people like him urging players to end each other's careers, and it's rapidly becoming clear that Williams was one of the worst offenders the NFL had to offer. I would be amazed if he hasn't called for his last concussion in this league.
I think Sean Payton, Mickey Loomis and the Saints players will be able to appeal and potentially get their sentences reduced, because it will be harder to prove their involvement and the punishments were and will be heavy. The Saints will move on because they still have a good football team and a rabid fanbase that admirably supports them through rough times and not-so-admirably refusing to see what the team has done wrong. Within a year or two, it will be business as usual in New Orleans with a couple of changes, and that's as it should be.
I don't think there's any such hope for Gregg Williams.