Sports Illustrated- Former New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma told SI’s Pro Football Now that St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, a former Saints assistant coach, deserves his “dirty” reputation.
Williams served as the defensive coordinator for the Saints from 2009 to 2011, and played a role in the bounty scandal that allegedly paid Saints players bonuses for targeting opponents and knocking them out of games. Vilma played under Williams for those three seasons.
“I do think he deserves the reputation and I’m speaking objectively because I played for him for three years,” Vilma said. “And frankly, he’s been in the league for over 20 years. The things that he practices, he coaches and preaches is an old-school mentality.”
I resent Jonathan Vilma's comment not because it is untrue. I resent it because it will allow the uninformed to make assumptions in regards to 'BountyGate', the scandal that shook the very foundation of the New Orleans Saints franchise. Just because Gregg Williams is, in fact, a coach that preaches the physical aspects of the game, possibly to an extreme, doesn't mean the punishments for 'BountyGate' were justified. I have never argued over the existence of a pay for performance system in the Saints locker room under Gregg Williams. I would even go as far as saying that I am absolutely positive there was one. What I have argued is that similar systems have been commonplace in the NFL for decades. That doesn't make it right, and I understand the NFL cracking down on it, but the Saints paid an egregious price for something nearly every team in the league was doing. You can say that they were the only ones to get caught, but comparable investigations would have likely turned up consistent findings throughout NFL locker rooms.
I have always approached BountyGate through a factual frame of mind. The facts are that the Saints were still in the middle of the pack in terms of personal foul penalties the year in question. They weren't some dirty team that was out there trying to end careers. They simply had more motivation to make plays. Players that make seven figure salaries aren't going to risk their livelihood for some $5,000 pot behind closed doors. That would be like running into oncoming traffic to pick up a nickel. It just doesn't make much sense, and the stats from that season back that up. If you listen to the recordings of Gregg Williams you would probably think he more deserving of being in a prison cell than on an NFL sideline. The "kill the head, and the body will die" comment will stick in everyone's mind because it truly sounds goddamn barbaric. However, I think you would be very surprised to hear what other defensive coordinators say behind closed doors. After all, they are men that are paid to instill an attitude in the most aggressive athletes in the world. Athletes whose job it is to hit other athletes as hard as humanly possibly. An incentive based pool doesn't change the fact that football is a very dangerous game.
Gregg Williams style of coaching is fairly antiquated given the fragile state of the NFL and it's increased focus on not getting sued (AKA head injuries), but that doesn't validate the penalties incurred for things that happened in his locker room. Vilma's quote reeks of spite. A spite resulting from Williams throwing Vilma under the bus while in the process of throwing himself at the mercy of the court in order to save his career. I don't blame Vilma for holding that grudge, but you shouldn't let it change how you view one of the most over-the-top suspensions in NFL history.