The draft is two and a half weeks off, the first offseason practices are a week away, and the Gregg Williams scandal is threatening to end life on earth, as we know it. The players involved in Bountygate have yet to be punished, so this affair will drag on for awhile.
It’s a tough story to cover without a soap box, because the subject matter is serious and there are no heroes, and Roger Goodell is certainly on the unhero list. Williams is more buffoon than villain and Goodell is mostly a Machiavellian hypocrite. These two are big ego types that don’t arouse much empathy and will get none here.
There is collateral damage, though. Williams has a wife, a daughter, and two sons — the oldest one is still a Saints’ coach. The head of their household has gone from a highly respected figure to a national laughingstock at best, a foul-mouthed beast at worst. Long after the scandal has come and gone, these people will carry the burden.
Kyle Williams got no favors from this deal, either. The entire league now knows about his concussion history and his head will be a target for the rest of his career.
The Youtube video that put a fork in Williams was yet another reminder to count my blessings that my youth occurred before the internet/cell phone age. There’s a few less than sterling scenes in my life where the video footage remains very much alive in my own head, and no doubt a select few others, but is not engraved on the stone tablets of the world wide web, complete with a sound track, laugh track, and hundreds of nasty comments.
At least the 49ers had more than one player deemed worthy of targeting. A few years ago, teams just went after Frank Gore and laughed off the rest of the squad. In fact, Gore didn’t even get a mention on Williams’ hit list.
It’s hard not to compare the severity of the punishment leveled against the Saints versus the pattycake treatment of the Patriots a few years back. Bill Belichick violated league rules and cheated and his actions directly affected the integrity of the game and three Super Bowls. To this day, he has not owned up to his crimes, which may have been going on for most of his coaching career. There was no massive fact finding inquiry by the NFL. Belichick didn’t miss one game or one paycheck.
Gregg Williams did not cheat. He just violated a league directive, a rule forbidding bounties. Conveniently so, given the pending class action lawsuit against the league about failing to properly inform players of the serious health risks of playing the game. Or something like that. Concussions are the meat and potatoes of the lawsuits. Without this legal action, would the NFL have done anything much more than suspend Williams for a game or two, just to get the message across?
The difference between the two scandals is distinct: the NFL wants you to know about the Saints’ crimes and the NFL’s serious prosecution of these crimes; the league does not want you to know just how serious Belichick’s cheating was or how superficial the investigation of his crimes was. We’re going to see players caught in the Bouny scandal punished worse than Belichick was.