Gregg Williams: From Bountygate to Berea

AP Photo/Steven Senne

Saturday night, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported that the Cleveland Browns are firing defensive coordinator Ray Horton, and will hire the Los Angeles Rams’ defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, to the same position. La Canfora had reported back in November that the Browns were considering to move on from Ray Horton as defensive coordinator.

Williams spent the last three years as the Rams’ defensive coordinator, but he may be better known for his role as defensive coordinator for the 2010 Super Bowl champions, the New Orleans Saints. Williams led the Saints’ defense for three seasons from 2009-11 and is infamous for his role in the Bountygate scandal. The NFL suspended Williams and head coach Sean Payton one year for creating an environment where players were paid bounties for injuring players on opposing teams.

In fact, Williams was caught on recording telling his players to injure several members of the San Francisco 49ers ahead of a playoff loss as ESPN detailed following the release of an audio file from a director for their 30 for 30 series.

Williams, who is suspended indefinitely by the league and is not appealing the penalty, can be heard in the audio recording instructing his defensive players to injure quarterback Alex Smith, running back Frank Gore, tight end Vernon Davis and receivers Michael Crabtree and Kyle Williams.

According to Pamphilon, Gregg Williams pointed to his chin while telling his players to hit Smith “right there,” saying, “Remember me. I got the first one. I got the first one. Go get it. Go lay that m———– out.”

Williams uses one of his favorite slogans in the speech: “Kill the head and the body will die.”

The hiring of Gregg Williams, therefore, creates a problematic moral question.

Let me come right out and say it. I am not a fan of this hire. I understand that the first point that most people will make is that many teams in the NFL were supposedly utilizing a pay-for-injury money pool in the very same way that Gregg Williams was with the Saints. I don’t care. I’m not in favor of looking past something simply because other people were doing it. I’m willing to concede that other coaches were doing this, but we don’t have any proof. I’m not going to spend a second worrying about who else might be responsible for such a despicable thing. I’m going to focus on the one who had his hand caught in the cookie jar. Williams put players’ ability to provide for their family at risk. He created a situation where those players’ lives were potentially at risk. That isn’t a small matter to me.

I know that the NFL is a violent work environment, but there are rules to limit that violence. I work for a tech company and it is significantly less violent than the NFL. However, can you imagine if it was acceptable for other tech companies to have their employees attempt to break your hands to gain a competitive advantage? Or allowing people to hack into other companies to steal intellectual property, then giving them a slap on the wrist if caught? Why should we be OK with the same thing happening in the NFL?

It’s unfair and disgusting. We should be outraged and want to see that offender banned from the league to send a warning to any other coaches who might set up such a dangerous environment.

Hue Jackson understands what Gregg Williams did in the Bountygate scandal, and he is looking past it.

Williams has led defenses to different levels of success for the Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints, Washington Redskins, Buffalo Bills, and Tennessee Titans. He is someone whose former players show respect and admiration.

None of that matters to me. I know myself, and I’m not going to stop rooting for the Cleveland Browns simply because they hired someone who disgusts me. If I knew how to quit the Browns that easily, I certainly wouldn’t have watched the horror show that was this past season. Let alone the 17 abysmal seasons before it. But I can promise you that it’s going to really bug me having to root for a defense that is designed by Gregg Williams.

This is the primary coach who will be molding and shaping our young defensive players, and I don’t believe he possesses the right values for the job.