By Ch2 Sports Director Ed Kilgore
Oh, the outrage! The only national story taking up almost as much media space as Rush Limbaugh's apology to Sandra Fluke is the NFL Bounty theme focused mainly on former Bills head coach Gregg Williams. Former Bills player Coy Wire has publicly confirmed reports that Williams did, indeed, have a "bounty" system in play when he was in Buffalo from 2001-2003; a system where players were encouraged to hurt and injure opposing players by monetary rewards.
Make no mistake, Williams will pay dearly for this when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell finally lays down the punishment despite Williams' apologies. "We knew it was wrong", just rings hollow to me, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.
Now, many people are speculating players who were injured anytime Williams was on the other sideline will be lining up to file civil lawsuits, and some even think state and even federal criminal charges may be in play.
I'll be totally shocked if anybody ever collects a dime, even though lawyers will be reaping small fortunes both suing and defending the league.
If you break it down, it isn't about Williams wanting his players to go out and hurt people. I don't believe that. We should also point out while Williams is the memorial statue for "bounty hunting", he is not at all the only NFL coach to pay players for putting other players out of the game. Several former players have started coming out with stories about former coaches who gave them financial incentives to knock a quarterback or other player out of a game, and I'm sure we'll be hearing more of these stories in the coming weeks.
If it's not about hurting people Ed, then what is it about?
What wins games in any sport, and especially high impact sports like the NFL and NHL?
It's talent, obviously, and coaching, and schemes and strategies. But it's more basic than that, which brings us back to my point about why I don't think anybody will be collecting big bucks in court over the "bounty" bru ha ha.
Basically, championship teams are the teams that excel in the "tions", as I see it, motivation and intimidation. Coaches have all kinds of ways to motivate. Screaming pre game pep talks, which are usually overrated by the way, or threats of less playing time, etc. But we're talking about professional athletes here, so it's only logical to assume coaches can also motivate financially.
The negative way to do that is to fine a player for breaking a team rule, and many teams have "kangaroo courts" that encourage players to throw money in a pot for mistakes during games, like penalties or fumbles, etc.
What Gregg Williams was doing, was basically using a motivational tool to produce the results virtually every other NFL coach wants. Hard, vicious hits that can force turnovers and by extension intimidate. Knocking a key player out of a game with an injury is the goal of just about every defensive player who's ever played, whether they'll admit it or not.
It's what they do.
Williams yells and screams at his players like many coaches do, but in his mind, giving them some financial incentive was another way to get them to play with an "edge". It also accomplished something else coaches like, and that's, as sick as this sounds, team unity and a shared team focus.
What Williams was seeking, was hard physical play that would help his defense force turnovers and intimidate. If a wide receiver hesitates for a moment going over the middle or a running back doesn't hit the hole quite as hard, then Williams motivational ploy has worked.
Don't worry, I'm not saying this is the way to motivate. It's way over the line, and Goodell must deal with it for public relations reasons. But they are pr reasons only, make no mistake.
The NFL will not change one tiny bit, and it is virtually impossible to prove a player was hitting as part of the game or to injure the opponent to pick up some extra cash. That's why I think subsequent lawsuits will be unsuccessful, even though by rights some of the victims should be compensated.
The NFL is the greatest, most popular sport in the world because it is fast, hard-hitting and violent. Players injuries are a part of the game, and every player knows that going in.
Taking away the bounties may sound like a good thing, but in the end, the game will stay the same, whether we like it or not.